James Stirratt Topping Kennedy GC (Direct Recipient)

b. 11/09/1930 Carmunnock, Glasgow, Scotland. d. 21/12/1973 Glasgow, Scotland.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 21/12/1973 Glasgow, Scotland.

James Stirratt Topping Kennedy (1930-1973) was born on 11th September 1930 in Carmunnock, near Glasgow, Scotland, one of six children of John and Margaret Lincoln Craig Kennedy (nee Topping). They had married in December 1924. John Kennedy, James’ father was a postal worker at the time of his birth. Soon afterwards, John became a telephone engineer working away from Glasgow a lot. As a result, the Kennedy family spent large amounts of time of his childhood on the Isle of Arran. In 1938, the family returned to Glasgow, but the Second World War meant that the children were soon evacuated away from the city again, until it was deemed safe to return in 1944. Due to the constant moving around of his childhood, James’ schooling was largely undertaken by his grandfather who was also a headmaster. After completing his unconventional education, he worked for the Forestry Commission before being called up to do his National Service in the RAF.

James S T Kennedy GC

He then moved to London, where he was employed by Reeds of Croydon, but returned to Glasgow in 1959, where he had a number of different jobs, before finally settling on a career with British Rail Engineering Ltd. On 4th July 1964, he married Mary Ellen Stuart at Bearsden Parish Church, Glasgow and they had three daughters Shona, Elpseth and Leila. By the early 1970s, he had become a Security Officer based at the British Rail Engineering Works in Glasgow.

In the early hours of 21st December 1973, six armed men robbed a wages train. During the attack two security guards were slightly injured by shotgun fire, and the robbers then headed towards the main exit of the works. Kennedy, who was at duty at the main gate, heard the shots; despite knowlng that the criminals were armed, he stood in the gateway in an attempt to prevent their escape. He tackled the first man and prevented him leaving the yard. However, his companions then attacked Kennedy, hitting him about the head with the shotguns, inflicting two deep lacerations. At this point the raiders climbed into a van, which one of the gang had driven into position. Kennedy recovered consciousness and, undeterred, made another attempt to prevent them leaving by running towards the front passenger door of the van. He was killed by two shots fired from the front passenger seat.

Kennedy was awarded a posthumous GC on 15th August 1975 and was presented to his widow, Mary and daughters by the Queen in November 1975. The 7 men involved in the robbery were all caught and convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was also awarded the Glasgow Corporation Medal for Bravery, and this was presented to Mary by the Lord Provost, Sir William Gray, on 30th April 1974.

James was cremated at Clydebank Crematorium, and his ashes were interred at New Kilpatrick (Hillfoot) Cemetery in Bearsden, Glasgow. His medals are still proudly held by the Kennedy family. On 12th November 1981, at Glasgow Central Station, a British Rail electric locomotive no. 86242 was named “James Kennedy GC” in his honour. This locomotive has been subsequently withdrawn and sold overseas. On 21st December 2017 (the 44th anniversary) James Kennedy’s three daughters and the Lord Provost of Glasgow unveiled a plaque in his honour at the entrance to Knorr Bremse’s Springburn Works, the site of Kennedy’s murder.