It was 1961 and a fresh faced young John F Kennedy had just been sworn in as President of the United States of America.

However a sensational bank robbery trial at the High Court in Glasgow threatened to knock even that story off the front pages.

The accused, Sammy "Dandy" McKay, was one of the most talked about criminal figures in the city.

READ MORE: The Glasgow crime story of notorious safebreaker Johnny Ramensky

Glasgow Times:

In the summer of 1959 he had robbed a branch of the Clydesdale Bank in Shettleston, and escaped with £40,000 - an incredible sum then and the equivalent of almost £800,000 in today's money.

While on remand at Barlinnie Prison he made a daring escape and went on the run for almost a year on the proceeds of his bank robbery living the high life in New York, Miami, London and Ireland.

The story fascinated the public as it emerged that McKay taken a luxury cruise to the USA as his getaway using false papers.

In fleeing Barlinnie he had sawed through the bars in his cell with a smuggled hacksaw blade.

He also used knotted bedsheets to climb down a wall before running off through a turnip field before ensuring his getaway in a waiting car.

That was just the start of a period on the run that seldom kept him out of the headlines.

He headed for London, then Southampton, where he booked himself into a luxury suite on the Queen Elizabeth, sailing first class to New York.

Before he went to the USA he went down to London where he had a plastic surgery job to alter his appearance paying almost £90 (£1750 today) for the treatment.

His wife Mary even opened a bank account in London and put in almost £10,000 to cover his daily living costs.

One day the City of Glasgow Police got an anonymous letter with a photograph from the Big Apple.

It appeared to show showed McKay in Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan.

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The scribbled note said: "I managed to get this in New York. I believe the man to be a Sammy McKay."

The police then extended their search to the city that never sleeps but their suspect was long gone by then.

They realised they had been duped by McKay who had sent the picture himself to thwart their investigation.

However while on the run he made a mistake common to criminals.

He was not prepared to leave is family behind and his beloved Mary didn't want to move to the USA.

While he had been on the run he got a record made of his voice and sent it to his wife and children because he was missing them so much.

He finally decided to accede to Mary's wishes and returned to the UK. Instead they decided to settle in Ireland.

He initially rented a house in Dublin and then had one built in Killiney, an upmarket resort near Dublin where he would be reunited with his wife and children.

But his worst fears were realised a few months later when police raided his home after he had been spotted in public.

After 11 months on the run, he was back behind bars and back at Barlinnie prison from where he had escaped.

At his trial in the High Court in Glasgow in early 1961, McKay was defended by Harald Leslie QC, the man who had previously represented mass murderer and housebreaker Peter Manuel.

Ironically McKay had helped police nail Manuel in 1957 after he tried to incriminate him in one of his seven murders.

The bank robbery jury heard how "Dandy" made around £300 a week (£6000 now) from two gambling clubs he owned.

Over five year period he had given Mary around £15,000 spending money to keep her in the style to which she had become accustomed.

Every year he bought a bigger and better car eventually driving about in a top of the range Jaguar.

He had two homes, a bungalow in posh Netherlee, Glasgow, and the one he built for his family outside Dublin.

McKay also wore the most expensive clothes earning him the Dandy nickname.

It was a far cry from his upbringing in the Gorbals where he was one of ten children raised in a room and kitchen.

Born in 1926 he quickly climbed up the criminal ladder and by the mid 1950s' was a major players in the city and beyond.

He went from working as a doorman of the Gordons Bridge Club and the Cuba Club o owning them.

Both were popular with notorious figures like safeblower Johnny Ramensky and crime godfather Arthur Thompson snr .

McKay also had connections with mobsters in London including the infamous Mad Frankie Frazer - a close ally of the Kray twins.

There two men became close friends with Fraser visiting his two clubs when he was a visiting Glasgow.

In his book 'Mad Frank's Underworld History of Britain' the hood spoke admiringly about McKay but said he should have stayed in America and never returned to Britain after his prison escape.

He said:"You have got to be ruthless about losing touch with your family.

"The wife and kids is always going to be the weak link."

During his 1961 trial McKay denied any involvement in the robbery and the jury were told had not been seen by any witnesses at the bank and there was no fingerprint evidence.

He said he had escaped from prison because of threats to his wife and concerns over the safety of his two daughters.

While any money he had was made after going straight.

It also emerged that former associates, who had also taken part in the bank raid, had tried to blow him up in his Barlinnie cell with gelignite because he had run off with all the proceeds.

At the end of the trial Leslie told the jury to ignore his clients reputation and seemingly glamorous lifestyle adding: "Suspicion is not enough. Samuel McKay is as innocent as you or I."

But the 15 members thought otherwise and found him guilty of the robbery in front of a packed court.

Before the verdict, McKay spoke to one newspaper about his escape from Barlinnie and subsequent life on the run McKay added: "The only bit that gave me any real bother was running through the turnip field in my bare feet and pyjamas.

"I had a passport and papers fixed up and just walked aboard the Queen Elizabeth and took over the first-class berth I had booked.

"My only disguise was a soft hat and spectacles with plain glass. It was a great trip.

"I played table tennis and bingo. It passed the time.

"When the ship docked I strolled off the same way as I went on.

"All you need on the run is money. Life was expensive but we could have afforded it.

"When Mary decided she didn't want to come over, I decided I must go back. I was missing her and the kids more than I could ever tell you."

McKay arranged for the family to move to London after his return from the USA.

But he said: "Mary never liked London. We talked it over and decided to go to Dublin. It was hard. Without the wife and kids."

McKay had nine previous convictions, the most recent from 1948, when he got four years for theft using explosives.

In the same interview Mary said: "Sammy had been going straight for a long time. We had more than enough to live on.

"It was all arranged that I would get fixed up with passports but I couldn't face the strain and bringing up my two wee girls on the run."

The cop who arrested the hood and brought him to justice was Det Supt Bob Kerr, the same man who captured Peter Manuel.

McKay was sentenced to started doing his 10-year sentence for his part in the bank robbery and subsequent escape.

Little was heard of him after his release and he died, aged 58, of heart disease in February 1984.

However it was his 65 year old mother Elizabeth who probably best summed up her maverick criminal son.

Speaking after his bank robbery conviction, she said: "Sammy has brought me a load of worry and heartbreak but was always my favourite "I never could bring myself to believe the things he was accused of because at times he could be so kind and good.

"His teacher warned me Sammy was going to be a problem."