HE was the Glasgow cop nicknamed the Hammer because of his hardline attitude towards criminals in the city.

David McNee went on to become the first ever Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police and was later Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for five years.

In an amazing career, he found himself in the headlines on both sides of the border whether it was arresting a triple police killer in Glasgow or the scandal of a burglar in the Queen’s bedroom in London.

Glasgow Times:

Born in Glasgow in 1925 David McNee was the only son of John McNee, a passionate trade unionist who worked on the railways and drove locomotives.

He was brought up in a two-room tenement in Woodside in the West End of the city.

Unusually for the time his home had an indoor rather than an outdoor toilet, with McNee later joking that this meant he was well off. Much of his childhood was spent at church and playing the trombone with the Boys’ Brigade, of which he was later honorary president.

He left Woodside Senior Secondary School in Glasgow at 15, finding work at Clydesdale Bank.

In 1943, he was called up by the Royal Navy and took part in the D-Day landings the following year.

Glasgow Times:

Demobbed in 1946, he joined the old Glasgow City Police as a constable, spending five years pounding the beat in the Gorbals.

Throughout his life, McNee remained a devout Christian and it was at a Sunday service he met his first wife Isabell Hopkins, a company secretary.

She was also an accomplished pianist and would accompany McNee when he sang at services and evangelical missions across Scotland.

They were married in 1952 and in his autobiography, McNee’s Law (1983), the police chief wrote: “During our marriage Isabel always put my needs as a police officer first. She has never failed me.”

McNee went from the beat into the CID and then the specialist Flying Squad. He also spent time in the Special Branch, which was responsible for counter-terrorism.

There he was quickly identified as a high achiever, destined for one of the top jobs.

It was around the time he became known as “The Hammer” after a newspaper carried the headline “McNee hammers the underworld” about how he had tackled violent enforcers working for money lenders.

He also received a bravery award for helping to arrest an armed triple police killer from a flat in Glasgow in 1966.

John Duddy had shot dead three police officers in Acton, London.

One of the suspects was arrested but two others including Duddy were still on the run.

He had been living in London for the past 10 years but it was assumed he would head back to Glasgow to hide out.

Glasgow Times:

A team of 40 detectives, including McNee, visited all his known haunts speaking to friends and relatives.

The murders had shocked Britain and it was the gunman’s worried brother Vincent who told detectives that he was hiding in a tenement in Stevenson Street on the Calton area of the city.

Armed police, including McNee, surrounded the building and Duddy gave himself up without a fight.

Following the amalgamation of the City of Glasgow Police in 1975, McNee became Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, then the second largest force in Britain with 7,000 officers.

The following year he faced his biggest challenge when two patients Robert Mone and Thomas McCulloch escaped from the State Hospital at Carstairs in Lanarkshire and murdered three people including a police officer.

Fearing they may kill again, McNee ordered detectives to be armed and use their weapons if necessary on the two escapees.

Then in 1977, he was appointed head of the Met in succession to Sir Robert Mark.

There he had to contend with a growing number of terrorist attacks by the IRA on the streets of London, the Iranian embassy siege, the Brixton race riots and the marriage of Charles and Diana.

Not long after his appointment, he alarmed human rights groups by asking for greater police powers, including the right to detain suspects for 72 hours without charge and extending “stop-and-search”.

A year later the Brixton riots erupted amid claims that the police were using the new laws against members of the Afro-Caribbean community.

The Scarman Report, set up after the riots, however, found evidence of indiscriminate use of stop-and-search against black people.

Meanwhile, McNee was putting more officers on the beat, increasing the size of the Met from 22,500 to 26,500, and attempting to root out corruption.

Another major crisis was the Iranian Embassy in 1980 when it was seized by exiles demanding the release of prisoners in Iran.

After a week-long stand-off, McNee handed over authority to the military and the siege ended when the SAS famously stormed the building, leaving five terrorists dead, but freeing 24 hostages.

His biggest challenge was the incident when the Queen was confronted by an intruder in her own bedroom at Buckingham Palace.

In July 1982, Michael Fagan had been able to scale the walls of Buckingham Palace and find his way into her quarters.

There were calls for McNee to quit, but he refused.

He accepted that the Met had failed, but insisted that the blame lay elsewhere. He also claimed that Palace staff and government officials had prevented him from introducing improved security measures.

Later in an interview, he recalled his feelings at the time: “Disbelief? Shock? Dismay? Yes, all of that. But much more: a sense of shame and a sense of anger.

“People wanted to know how someone could get so close to the Queen and remain undetected in her presence for 10 minutes. When the storm broke, the hysteria of certain pundits, politicians and papers was almost overwhelming.”

In a letter to the Queen after the Palace intrusion McNee vowed that everything would be done to ensure that nothing like it happened again.

Soon afterwards he was at a garden party when word came that the Queen wished to speak with him.

He recalled what happened next: “Her Majesty smiled. We spent the next few minutes discussing the Palace situation. The royal message could not have been clearer carry on with the job, McNee.”

However, his embarrassments at the Palace were not over.

Shortly afterwards the head of the Queen’s protection unit quit after a newspaper revealed the officer had been involved with a male sex worker.

The royal family were not alone in requiring improved security McNee had a house overlooking leafy Epsom Downs in Surrey.

However, he was advised by his own force to move to a more secure property in Belgravia in the centre of London in case of a terrorist attack.

McNee was also responsible for the successful policing of the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981 – which he later described as “a highlight of my career”.

Despite his reputation as a modern – if controversial – police reformer McNee’s views on women in the force belonged to another age.

He said in one interview in 1980: “They have an increasing role to play, but not in circumstances where muscle matters, as on picket lines. I like my ladies to be feminine, not looking like policemen in skirts.”

The comment may have been a reflection of his own macho attitude to policing.

One woman reporter described McNee as “so hard he can drive his steel grey eyes through a criminal like six-inch nails”, She also wrote that he did not drink, swear or smoke and would: “go round police stations tearing pin-up pictures off the walls and strips off young officers”.

The profile only added further to the legend of David McNee – now Sir David – as The Hammer.

Those who knew him better said the real McNee enjoyed a good joke, convivial company, a glass of wine and an occasional cigar. He was also a keen golfer and angler.

After retiring in 1982, McNee became a non-executive director at the Clydesdale Bank where he had worked as a teenager and joined the board of Rocco Forte Hotels and a national newspaper.

He also become an elder at St George’s Tron Church in the centre of Glasgow.

Glasgow Times:

After his first wife died in 1997, McNee married the widow of a close friend in 2002. He passed away in April 26, 2019, at the ripe old age of 94. McNee had been the last to reach the top job in the Met having graduated from the beat rather than university.

One tribute at the time said: “Sir David was a policeman’s policeman. He had worked his way up through the ranks, and because he understood the challenges from the bottom to the top, he was respected and admired.”