AS SHE sat in a quiet archive, looking at a photograph of her great-grandfather that had not been seen for a hundred years, Katie Carmichael says she knew she had “a secret worth sharing.”

Katie explains: “Until 2019, I believed that my father’s grandfather had been brutally murdered on New York’s docks for his wage packet on a fleeting visit to the city.

“What I discovered has changed our perspective entirely...”

Thomas Carmichael was born in Victorian Glasgow but died in Depression-era New York in mysterious circumstances.

Katie on the stoop of her great-grandfathers home in New York.

Katie on the stoop of her great-grandfather's home in New York.

Created from a ‘trail of breadcrumbs’ left in archive materials and photos, Katie – a designer and educator who lives in Alloa - has written a graphic novel all about her ancestor’s intriguing story.

My Great-Grandfather, the Alien was recently commemorated with a special event in New York’s Maple Grove cemetery, where Thomas is buried.

The Friends of Maple Grove held a concert featuring Scottish songs and sea shanties, and a reading of Katie’s book. It is now available on their YouTube channel.

Ship steward Thomas died in New York in 1939, and a family tale endured for 80 years that he had been brutally murdered on arrival at Manhattan’s docks.

Katie Carmichael

Katie Carmichael

After some detective work, Katie was inspired to tell his story.

She explains: “Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Friends of Maple Grove read about my book and backed the crowd funder.

“They were tickled to have a mention in the storybook and earlier this year asked if they could dedicate a special online Scottish concert to Thomas. I was thrilled.”

Thomas worked for David MacBrayne’s puffer boat company, then was involved in secret WWI experiments at Hawkcraig in Aberdour, where research into how to defeat the German U-boats was carried out.

Shortly after the war, he began a career with controversial US company United Fruit.

“His family at home in Scotland barely saw him again,” says Katie.

“Being involved in secret military work then disappearing across the Atlantic and working on international shipping routes, rarely coming home, it seems that Thomas had an out-of-the-ordinary life, not to mention death, worth writing a book about. “

Katie and her family were increasingly intrigued. Was Thomas involved in international espionage?”

Katie tracked down Thomas’s grave in New York.

Katies book, My Great-Grandfather, the Alien

Katie's book, My Great-Grandfather, the Alien

“It was unmarked, which seemed quite romantic, that this anti-hero type figure had a secret resting place but at the same time, it was a bit sad,” she says. “It became really important to me to place a headstone there for any future descendants to find.”

The Friends of Maple Grove cemetery saw Katie’s work and contacted her. President of the organisation Carl Ballenas, whose own books about USA history are sold worldwide said: “When we learned about the life of Thomas Carmichael from Katie, we were keen to help tell his story and support with her efforts to mark his grave.

“Thomas may not have touched millions or have been a prominent character in his day but he has a story worth sharing.”

READ MORE: When Glasgow revisited its rock'n'roll heyday in style

Maple Grove Cemetery in Queens, New York, which inspired Jack Kerouac’s poem ‘Strange Cemetery in Jamaica’, is home to a plethora of notable residents that include comedian Rodney Dangerfield; LaVern Baker, American rhythm-and-blues singer and film director Irving Rapper. “

Katie said: “It’s incredible that this man, the black sheep of the family who we knew next to nothing about, has been honoured with a book, gravestone and now a special concert.

“It goes to show the power of storytelling that across the other side of the Atlantic, a group of brilliant musicians with no connection to me or to Thomas are inspired to give their time and celebrate him, all in the name of keeping history alive. It’s humbling.”