Tag Archives: Bobby Glover

How do you reform yourself if you have been a gangland enforcer in Glasgow?

William Lobban with his car and his book yesterday

William Lobban with car and book yesterday

William Lobban is selling his car tomorrow. A man is coming up to the Highlands from Glasgow to buy the car. That is quite a long way to travel to buy a car, but he thinks it is worth it. Then William will buy an even better one.

I blogged about William last November when his book The Glasgow Curse was published. It was a No 1 Amazon bestseller pre-publication.

That was last November. In June this year, The Glasgow Curse went back up to No 1 in Amazon’s ‘true crime’ sales chart. It is still hovering around the Top 20 in various lists of crime books. And it was his publisher’s second best-selling e-book (after Alexander McCall Smith).

None of this is normal.

So, as I am still in Edinburgh, I drove up to the Highlands yesterday to ask him why the book had gone back up to No 1 in the summer. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It seemed a shorter distance on the map.

He had no idea why the book had gone back up to No 1 in June, so I asked him: “Why did you move up here from Glasgow?”

It was a sunny day in the Highlands yesterday

It was a lovely sunny day to meet in the Highlands yesterday

“There’s a big pal of mine lives up here,” said William. “He’s about 79 now. One of the old school. Done a life sentence. Two of them got life back in the early 1960s for killing a butcher. Robbed him in his shop; killed him. They both got caught and got a lifer. It was just after they stopped hanging people, so he was quite lucky.

“He was a big man in his day. I came up to see him initially and quite liked the place. There was no really great connection. You know the cops are carrying guns up here now?”

“I read that in The Scotsman,” I said. “They’re carrying guns on regular call-outs. They were photographed just going into a McDonalds with guns for no reason.”

“You remember,” said William, “that Paul Ferris was (allegedly) threatening me online and on Twitter and stuff. Veiled threats like: Your time’s coming soon.”

Yesterday’s Daily Record report on Ferris (left) and Lobban

Daily Record reports on feud between Ferris (left) & Lobban

“He was allegedly posting your postcode online,” I said.

“That’s right,” said William. “Although that’s an open secret. People have known I’m here since I’ve been here. But I sought advice on what to do and I was advised I should report it to the cops, which I did – cos I want to be seen as a reformed character doing the right thing. Right after that, the local police started carrying guns up here. It does make you wonder if they decided to do that just in case they do get any trouble. It just makes you wonder. Who knows?”

William is usually referred-to in the press as “a notorious underworld enforcer”. He was once the ‘Most Wanted’ criminal in the UK.

“But I’m trying to create a different image for myself,” he told me yesterday. “I’m a different person. I want to be accepted for who I am and what I’m trying to do now, not for what I did 20-odd years ago. I’m on the e-fags now. I’ve not smoked a cigarette in about two months.”

“Much cheaper,” I said.

“A lot cheaper,” agreed William, “but it’s the health aspect. I was a smoker all my life. I’ve changed my ways, John. I take tablets to lower my cholesterol. I’m on 40 milligrams of simvastatin.”

“And I see you’re drinking orange juice,” I said.

William Lobban, aged 19

William when he was aged 19

“When I first came up here (he lives just outside a Highland town) back in 2006 or 2007, I had a bad problem with drink. It lasted for about a year. I went off the rails a bit. Now I have not touched a drink in over four years.

“I first got done in Stornoway for drink driving. I got a two-year ban there and then I got done just outside Perth. I was out of order. I really was. They gave me another four-year ban and that ran concurrent. So I ended up losing my licence for about five years in total. I got it back two years ago.

“It’s all behind me now, but it was at that time the police came and lifted me. I was in one of the local nightclubs here and I had a suit and a big coat and all that on. I was drunk and I must have been standing and swaying about and the bouncers have come up and they says: Can you take yer coat off, because people are starting to get a bit paranoid? Can you just take yer coat off and put it in the cloakroom? And I says: F off. I was out of order. So the next thing is they’ve all jumped on me and the police have come.

“So they’ve got me in the back of the police car and I can’t remember doing this – that shows you how drunk I was – but apparently I head-butted one of the cops while I was cuffed. I can only remember waking up in the morning and I was sore everywhere and black-and-blue because the cops had beat the shit out of me. But they dropped the charge of me assaulting the police because I had such a list of injuries myself. I guess they must have thought Well, if we take this any further, then he is going to bring all that out. It ended up as a breach of the peace.”

Even before publication, a No 1 Amazon bestseller

Even before publication, a No 1 bestseller

William is currently writing a sequel to The Glasgow Curse. “Spain is going to be a big part of the second book.” he told me. “But not just Spain: all over Europe. France, Holland; I’ve got lots of great stories to tell.”

The Glasgow Curse included the killing outside the family home of the son of Glasgow’s godfather Arthur Thompson and the revenge killings of Bobby Glover and Joe ‘Bananas’ Hanlon, who were suspected of being involved.

Gangster Paul Ferris was arrested for the shooting of Thompson’s son and later found not guilty after a £4 million trial. He accused William Lobban of luring Glover and Hanlon to their deaths, which William denies. A 2013 film – The Wee Man – was made about Ferris’ life. There is a trailer on YouTube.

“You know that Ferris film The Wee Man?” William said to me yesterday.

“I was trying not to mention that,” I said. “I was reading recently that the producer felt it had been pirated out of existence. He appeared not to have seen the irony of being ripped-off by criminals. I have to say I thought it was a very good film. Bits of it might not be true, but it was a good film.”

“You enjoyed it?” asked William.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Did you?” William asked again.

The Wee Man movie

The Wee Man movie: not always correct

“Yeah,” I replied again. “You know what the real people in the movie were really like and what really happened, but I don’t. Once I’ve accepted the main actor as Paul Ferris, I can go along with it. Because you knew him, you never can.”

“I suppose so,” said William. “But the explosion in the Jaguar, for instance – when Arthur Thompson’s mother-in-law gets killed. Ferris was only two or three years old when that happened, so to put that in the film wasn’t right because it wasn’t part of his story.”

“I think,” I said, “if you know the truth about something, then you can’t watch films about it. I mean, Arthur Thompson, for some bizarre reason, seemed to be played by an actor with an Irish accent. What was that all about? But maybe someone will make a film of The Glasgow Curse. You seem to be successfully changing yourself from a ‘hard man’ gangster into an author.”

“Well,” said William, “turning the corner and living legitimately can be very difficult. It does throw up challenges all the time.

“A couple of months ago, I was in Tesco’s car park. I was coming out of the shop with the trolley and someone says to me: Oh, he’s just spat on your car.

“I’d just had it all polished.

“I said: Who?

That man there.

Time to set matters straight

Not a man to mess with in Tesco’s

“So I left the trolley and, sure as hell, on the driver’s window was – och – he’d brought all this up and I… I thought: How disgusting. So I ran after him and got hold of him. I never put my hands on him, but I says: You’ve just spat on my car there. He tried to deny it and, to cut a long story short, I ended up saying: Now, look, you’d better get back and clean that or I don’t know what I’m gonna do here. 

“And he did. He must have known by my… you know… by the way I was… And my reaction was – to me – it was a good thing, because normally I’d have just head-butted him… because I felt like doing that… But I managed to hold myself back – and that is a good thing.”

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Glasgow gangland enforcer William Lobban experienced The Glasgow Curse

Recent Daily Record revelations from the book

Recent revelations reported from William Lobban’s new book

Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper recently reported that William Lobban used to be “a notorious underworld enforcer”.

“I’ve got a pork pie leather hat on,” William Lobban told me yesterday, “and I’ve got a round pair of John Lennon glasses on and a fake moustache and I’m wearing a poncho. But you blend in with that in London, don’t you? That was part of my disguise: the sort of Mexican look.

“There was a man in the telephone box next to me and there wasn’t even a telephone card in the phone, so I knew immediately there was something not quite right. I got as far as the end of the street, not far from New Scotland Yard, and then all I heard was Stop! Armed police! and there must have been about 15 cops and at least half a dozen were carrying handguns. So there was this big scene in London.”

“And why,” I asked, “were you Britain’s Most Wanted man at that point?”

“It was because of the double shooting in Glasgow,” William replied.

In England, I guess the two most vividly-remembered crimes of the late 20th century were the Great Train Robbery in 1963 and the shooting of George Cornell by Ronnie Kray in the Blind Beggar pub in 1966.

In Scotland, arguably, the key crime was the killing of Bobby Glover and Joe ‘Bananas’ Hanlon in 1991 in revenge for the killing of Arthur Thompson’s son.

Arthur Thompson, ‘kind hearted' Glaswegian

Arthur Thompson, Glasgow’s godfather

Arthur Thompson was the longtime ‘godfather’ of crime in Glasgow and the central belt of Scotland. On 18th August 1991, his son ‘Fat Boy’ was shot three times – reportedly once in the face, once in the body and once up the anus. He was killed right outside the family home which was called ‘The Ponderosa’ (named after the home in TV Western series Bonanza).

Gangster Paul Ferris was arrested for the shooting and later found not guilty after a £4 million trial.

On the day of Fat Boy’s funeral, the bodies of Paul Ferris’ associates – Bobby Glover and Joe Hanlon – were found dead. They had been dumped in a car on the route of Fat Boy’s funeral procession, so that his hearse passed by their dead bodies. They had reportedly been shot in the head and up the anus. Welcome to Glasgow.

“They were both suspected of being involved in the murder of Arthur Thompson’s son.” explained William. “Their bodies were found in Hanlon’s car, parked just yards from their ‘gang hut’ – the Cottage Bar. It was a real insult.

William Lobban, now a published author

Lobban – once ‘Most Wanted’ man in the UK

“And that was why I became the Most Wanted man in Great Britain – because I was on record, I believe, as the last person to have seen those two alive (except for their killer or killers). People have suggested I set them up. I did meet them and I was in the car with them for five minutes at the very most but then I left them. Where they went after that, I don’t know.

“I had phoned Bobby Glover’s house the night he was killed, John, but there was nothing unusual in that. Me and Bobby would talk on the phone regularly. There was nothing untoward in me phoning that night. Certainly not.”

Even before publication, a No 1 Amazon bestseller

No 1 Amazon bestseller pre-publication

William Lobban’s autobiography The Glasgow Curse is published today and he goes into more detail there. Three chapters are free-to-read on the publisher’s website.

“You wrote the book yourself…” I prompted him yesterday.

“Yes, I got a book deal for 110,000 words,” he told me, “but I gave them 180,000 words, so I had to cut out about 30-40%. There was no ghost writing at all. I wrote the book myself.”

“I once discussed writing a criminal’s autobiography,” I said, “and we gave up because there were crimes which had not been solved, crimes which were not even known-about and you would have to disguise so many facts you would be throwing away the whole points of the stories.”

“Well,” said William, “with me, I think honesty is the best policy. To be totally up-front. To me, a book is a sort of sacred thing. You have to be true and genuine and that means not exaggerating things to make something sound better. Telling it how it is. The truth. I think that will shine through.

“I think that’s a big issue with a lot of these true crime books where you have ghost writers creating books for these ex-criminals or so-called ex-criminals.”

“Why write the book now?” I asked.

Time to set matters straight

It’s time to set matters straight…

“Because I’ve been mentioned in so many other true crime publications…

“In Scotland, Jimmy Boyle started this sort of true crime autobiography back in 1977 with A Sense of Freedom. Then there was mostly a silence in the 1980s. And then, in 1997, there was a book by Hugh Collins: Autobiography of a Murderer. So Jimmy Boyle and Hugh Collins were the only source of true crime books in Scotland – in Glasgow – until about 2001.

“Then Paul Ferris brought out The Ferris Conspiracy and, since then, there’s been 12 or 13 books about the Glasgow underworld. It was Ferris who opened the floodgates – well, it was actually Reg McKay (a now dead Glasgow crime reporter) who wrote his book for him.

“And there have also been books by retired police officers like Gerard Gallacher who wrote Gangsters, Killers and Me and Joe Jackson who wrote Chasing Killers. They were both involved in investigating the triple murders.”

The Paul Ferris version of the Fat Boy and Glover/Hanlon killings appears in recent feature film The Wee Man which, though not exactly 100% factually accurate, I think gives a fair impression of the level of violence in Glasgow.

As William Lobban points out in the introduction to his Glasgow Curse book, Glasgow is Britain’s most violent city with 2.7 murders per 100,000 of population as opposed to 1.0 per 100,000 in the rest of the country.

“You were self-educated,” I said to him yesterday.

William Lobban, aged 19

Young eyes: Billy Lobban, aged 19

“Yes, I never went to school as such – well, I went now and again, but I was always a naughty wee boy. I was never really there apart from when I was placed into care by the authorities when you’re obligated to go to school.”

“And you were born in Exeter Prison,” I said, “to what the Daily Record calls a violent, schizophrenic mother.

“Yes,” said William. “My mother Sylvia was registered as a schizophrenic. She got sentenced to two years borstal in 1967 and I was born in February 1968. Exeter Prison back then was a women’s borstal.

“She came from a big family – the Manson family,” William told me. “She had four brothers and two sisters and she was with a couple of her brothers trying to steal some antiques down in England – the contents of a safe in some country mansion. My mother was very violent, especially with her teeth – I can vouch for that, as I was on the receiving end a couple of times. When she was arrested, a police sergeant got her in a neck hold, trying to restrain her, but she managed to nearly bite his thumb off and that’s what she received her two years borstal for.

“I suppose it was inevitable I was going to lead a criminal life, being born into one of the most notorious criminal families in Glasgow.

“I was born in prison and stayed in prison with my mother for six months and then my grandparents – William and Esther Manson – took me away back to Carntyne in Glasgow.

“When I grew up, there was a sort of solidarity in the neighbourhood; everyone detested the cops.”

“But you’re 45 now,” I said. “What are you going to do for a living? Your only experience is… Well, it’s not office work.”

“I’m writing the sequel to The Glasgow Curse,” he replied. “I’m partly using the chunks I had to cut out of the first manuscript. But I think that question about What am I going to do now? is a good one.

Experienced eyes: William Lobban

Older eyes: William Lobban looks forward

“In life, you’ve really got to know who you are and how others perceive you as a person. When a long-term prisoner comes out of prison… OK, I’ve been out of prison for a long, long time, but… Look, it’s all down to identity… It took me a long, long time to figure out what I was going to do and, in the last couple of years – since I started writing the book – it has created a whole new identity for me. Now I’ve got to use the identity to the best of my advantage, so people do perceive me as being an author.

Author is a title I actually like. I prefer that to Gangster. Believe me, it’s much better being called an author than a gangster. Folks like myself who’ve led a life of crime and have only ever known crime and have done a lot of bad things are all on a trial run.

“Now I’ve got a new lease of life, a new road to travel. I see loads of light at the end of the tunnel and I’m really going for it. But I am still on a trial run where people are going to be watching and maybe hoping that I will stumble, that I will fall over and they’ll be able to say He was never any good.

“It’s tough. You’ve really got to be on the ball. It takes a lot of hard graft and dedication and, for this to work, you’ve got to get support from other people – influential people, people that matter, people with respect.  Because, if they don’t get on your side, no-one else is going to believe you.

“Society have their part to play as well. They’ve got to give you a chance. They can’t keep on punishing you for things you’ve done in the past.

“I’m just hoping that, now I’ve got a book out, there will be a new life too.”

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