HE was once branded Scotland's most dangerous man after carrying out the two biggest bank robberies the country had ever seen.

The combined total of £154,000 netted was the equivalent today of more than £2 million.

James Crosbie was a career criminal at a time when the bank robber was king of the underworld.

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In the days before debit cards and contactless, most branches carried large sums of money.

That made them easy targets for organised crime gangs looking to get rich quick.

Crosbie was someone to whom easy money, as he would later admit, was a major temptation.

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Despite being brought up in a respectable law-abiding family and at one stage running his own legitimate business, the lure of crime and glamour of being a bank robber was always too much.

The son of a locomotive factory worker, Crosbie grew up in a tenement flat in Springburn with his parents and brother.

He later revealed that he was the only person in the family who turned to a life of crime.

Crosbie also boasted that he could make more money in a few hours robbing a bank than most people make in two years.

When he was a child growing up in the 1940s, Crosbie's mother often told him: "We may not have anything that we want but we have everything we need."

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It was a message Crosbie, whose nickname was Bing, did not take to heart.

He quickly discovered that he had a taste for stealing and making easy money, turning over factories, shops, warehouses and post offices.

In the 1950s - following his national service - he moved to London where he was into everything from armed robbery to smuggling cigarettes.

He said: "There was all sorts of things going on in London in those days and it was easy to get mixed up in it all."

While in the capital, Crosbie was jailed for three and a half years for conspiracy to rob.

During this period he worked in the print shop in Verne Prison in Dorset.

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There he was asked to do a job for the notorious Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie.

The feared gangsters wanted Crosbie to make fake driving licences and they were willing to pay big money.

Crosbie agreed to do it for £500 and completed the job, but was never paid.

When he was released he tried to go straight and found work in Ghana with a cocoa mill in the early 1960s.

Crosbie returned to Glasgow with enough money to start a successful business making railings, gates and door grills, a business which quickly developed into a furniture company.

He later said: "The business was a great success but, in truth, I was always up to things and the reason was simply that I found it so easy to do.

"I should have stopped while I had the business, but I just couldn't because it was just such easy cash."

Despite his business doing well in Glasgow, Crosbie kept his criminal contacts in London.

In August 1966 he was asked to take part in a bank robbery in the capital.

Crosbie refused and was glad that he did.

The invite had come from a Jack Whitney who recruited another Glaswegian, John Duddy to take his place, along with Londoner Harry Roberts.

On August 12 all three were involved in the murders of three police officers, who had stopped them in their car while parked in Shepherd's Bush.

Early in the inquiry armed officers raided Crosbie's Glasgow home believing he had been involved in the shootings, because of his connection to Whitney.

However, after Whitney was arrested he gave police the names of Duddy and Roberts and Crosbie was in the clear.

However, that lucky escape did not deter him.

In 1972 he was given inside information by a neighbour about cash deliveries to a branch of the Clydesdale Bank.

The neighbour was in financial difficulties and was hoping that Crosbie would cut him in for a share of any proceeds.

Not long afterwards he and one other man carried out an armed hold-up at the Clydesdale's Hillington branch, calmly driving away with £67,000.

Crosbie should have been happy with the considerable haul, but only two years later he couldn't resist robbing a second bank.

He targeted another Clydesdale, this time a branch in Whiteinch.

Crosbie and the same partner made off on bicycles with £87,000.

They went through the road block police had erected as they were looking for a getaway car not a bike. Crosbie later claimed that the unsuspecting cops even waved them through.

The two-wheeled getaway added to Crosbie's legendary status in the city's underworld.

But there had been one problem - his gun had gone off during the heist.

According to Crosbie, it was accidental and nobody was hurt, but in the eyes of the law the crime was not just armed robbery but also attempted murder.

It meant that any sentence imposed at the High Court would be far more severe.

Crosbie also had a further problem. How to dispose of such a huge sum of money.

He had passed £40,000 to an accountant for 'laundering' and took the remainder to a safe house.

However, a friend of the occupant discovered the stash and stole £27,000, taking it to her boyfriend - who immediately called the police.

Crosbie had been identified as the shooter in the bank and was now the most wanted man in Scotland.

His name and photograph were circulated to every police station in Scotland and beyond.

He was however without any money as the Whiteinch haul had been seized by the police from the safe house.

It meant Crosbie had no cash to support himself while on the run.

He then carried out a third robbery this time of a bank in Edinburgh where he got away with £20,000.

However while in the city the following day he was recognised by three Glasgow detectives, who were there on court duties.

They spotted him leaving a pharmacy, where he had bought aspirin, and locked him up.

Crosbie pleaded guilty to the three bank robberies at the High Court in Edinburgh, hoping for a shorter sentence.

However, the trial judge Lord Robertson was not in a lenient mood and gave him 20 years.

Before sentencing, he said: "James Crosbie, you are a cold, calculating scoundrel whom I consider to be the most dangerous man in Scotland and a threat to the very fabric of society."

Crosbie served 13 of the 20 years, most of it in Peterhead Prison.

It was a time of squalid conditions, slopping out, stabbings, scaldings with hot water and riots.

He served his time with some of the hardest men in Scotland - Jimmy Boyle and police killer Howard Wilson.

After being freed it seemed that Crosbie hadn't learned his lesson.

In 1996, he was caught trying to smuggle £250,000 worth of cannabis through Birmingham Airport and was sentenced to another four years behind bars.

Then in 2000, Crosbie was arrested while smuggling cannabis from Scotland to Iceland.

He was sentenced to another eight years and this time it seemed he had finally learned his lesson. While in prison he discovered he had a talent for writing and began putting his experiences down on paper.

He won an Arthur Koestler prize, an international scheme celebrating art by prisoners. After his release from jail he began churning out a series of bestsellers.

One was Ashanti Gold, set in Ghana, with Crosbie drawing on his experiences of working there in the 1960s. It followed the story of Glaswegian robber Colin Grant, who tries to flee the country in a plane full of gold.

A short story by Crosbie was made into a film called The Chain, and was shown at Cannes Film Festival.

He also wrote about his time in prison - full of humorous anecdotes - which was later published in a book called Peterhead Porridge. As well as this, he wrote his own version of the events behind the two Clydesdale bank robberies in Armed and Dangerous.

Crosbie died in Glasgow in 2015 at the age of 77 from cancer.

In an interview before his death, he said: "No-one can force you to rehabilitate.

"You've got to make up your own mind if you want to turn your back on crime.

"I don't regret anything I've done. It was the path I chose. And I also don't blame anyone for it either.

"But there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough."