IN 1906, 19-year-old William Millar was one of more than 700 men in Glasgow who were employed as lamplighters.

They were responsible for the 19,000 plus gas powered streetlights which then illuminated the city at night.

On June 28 that year, William left home in Kelvinside in the West End at 1am to start his duties of extinguishing the hundreds of tenement stair lights on his regular beat in Yoker, four miles away.

As he passed the Kelvingrove Art Gallery on his way to work, he saw four men breaking into a Post Office in Argyle Street.

William alerted two local constables McLeod and MacDonald who asked him to take them to the scene of the break in.

They were heading there when the four robbers appeared in front of them, and they ran off in separate directions when they saw the two uniformed police officers.

William chased one into Overnewton Street in nearby Yorkhill where the man pulled out a revolver and shot him in the head.

Constable McLeod heard gunfire and found William lying in a pool of blood in the street.

Standing next to his body was fellow lamplighter, Samuel Davidson.

Samuel had been working in Overnewton Street and had spotted his colleague struggling with the shooter. He told the constable that he had seen the killer run into Argyle Street with a gun in his hand.

Constable MacDonald who had also arrived on the scene telephoned for an ambulance and a doctor. However, by the time help had arrived William was already dead.

Detectives from across the city, led by Glasgow CID boss Detective Superintendent John Ord, joined the hunt for the killer and his three fellow robbers.

They had escaped with postage stamps, a purse, a pocket watch and 25 packets of cigarettes. A paltry return for a man’s life.

Two members of the murder investigation team, Detective Inspector Powell and Detective Constable Fraser, traced a witness who had met an agitated young man in Union Street in the city centre that night.

He revealed he had committed a couple of burglaries and had then been chased by the police with shots being fired.

The witness thought that it had all been made up by the youth until he heard about the murder.

By this time, a suspect had also emerged, 24-year-old George Robinson who lived in lodgings in Bridgeton in the East End of the city.

Powell and Fraser were told by residents that he worked at Young’s restaurant in Argyle Street, near Oswald Street, and headed there.

Arriving around 8am, Detective Inspector Powell was told that Robinson was in the kitchen helping to prepare breakfasts.

The two officers made their way downstairs to the cooking area where several people were working.

They confronted Robinson who quickly denied any knowledge of the murder and claimed he had been in the eatery all night.

Knowing this to be untrue DI Powell then told Robinson he was being taken to the local police office for further questioning.

Robinson, unperturbed, asked if he could get his cap and jacket from a small cabinet on the kitchen floor.

The officers agreed not realising that Robinson had placed the revolver into the cabinet when he arrived for work.

He then took out the murder weapon and pointed it at Detective Constable Fraser.

Both he and DI Powell bravely lunged at Robinson and tried to grab his right arm which was holding the gun.

They were in no doubt Robinson intended to use the weapon for a second time – on them. As the three rolled about the floor a single shot rang out.

The two detectives got up leaving Robinson on the floor with blood pouring from a head wound.

During the struggle he had his finger on the trigger and had ended up shooting himself.

An ambulance took Robinson to Glasgow Royal Infirmary but there was nothing the doctors could do to save him and at 9.30am he was pronounced dead.

This still left the question as to whether Robinson was the man who shot and killed William.

Constables McLeod and MacDonald and his friend Davidson confirmed, after viewing the corpse in the hospital mortuary, that Robinson was the man who they had seen earlier and who had shot and murdered young William.

Davidson later told reporters: “I took particular notice of the assassin, brief as was my glimpse of him, I was able to identify him without difficulty. You see, it is a rule amongst us lamplighters to take special notice of men whom we meet in these quiet streets in the early hours of the morning, and we are accustomed to size them up at a glance.”

William was buried at Sighthill Cemetery in the north of the city four days later.

There was a massive turnout including 200 lamplighters and police officers.

The coffin was carried by McLeod, MacDonald, Davidson and a second lamplighter.

It emerged two years earlier William had been hailed a hero after going into a burning building, saving a young girl and suffering painful burns in the process.

Glasgow Corporation awarded his mother £200 (£30,000 today) for the loss of her son and in recognition of his bravery.

Robinson’s three accomplices, James Smith and John Morrison, both 17, and Bernard Tait, 20, had been arrested shortly after the murder.

Two of the three were from relatively respectable backgrounds.

Tait worked in a food store and Morrison was the manager of his brother’s tobacco shop.

Only Smith was known to the police having been previously convicted of theft and attempted housebreaking.

It emerged that during the post office robbery the four had been disturbed by the sleeping owners after knocking over a ladder.

They ran from the shop, and it was then the two police officers and William spotted them.

Morrison after hearing of the murder of the lamplighter surrendered to the police and told them everything.

It also transpired that he had been the same agitated youth who spoke to the witness on Union Street.

All three told the police they had no idea Robinson was carrying a gun and did not know where he got it from.

All four had become friends after meeting in a snooker hall in New City Road.

The three appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court on July 13, 1906, in front of sheriff Fyfe. The only charges brought against them was the post office robbery and two other break-ins. There was no murder charge.

Pleas for leniency were put forward by their legal teams with family members giving glowing character references.

Sheriff Fyfe sentenced Smith to four months imprisonment because of his criminal record.

Tait and Morrison were put on probation as first offenders and told they should avoid associating with criminals in the future.

It emerged that Robinson was also from a respectable family and his father was a local councillor in Greenock.

On leaving school Robinson served his time as a baker and then went on to be a steward on several private yachts, making trips to Russia and many other countries. It is possible that on one of these trips he obtained the revolver.

He was well known in athletic circles in the Greenock area and president of Morton Amateur Football Club.

As for the other three, some at the time thought the three youths should have been given a greater penalty given that their escapade had ended with the death of a man.

The last remaining gas streetlamp in Glasgow, on North Portland Street near Strathclyde University, was phased out in 1971.

George Barnsley, of the Lanarkshire Police Historical Society who researched the William Millar case, said his murder would have been keenly felt by the police.

He added: “The lamplighters had similar beats to the police at the time and were fantastic sources of information.

“They would have taken great pride in the area that they covered and local officers would have known men like William Millar very well.

“This was a very unusual case.

“Three of the four involved in the post office robbery had no history of criminality and appeared to have got in way above their heads.

“I can’t imagine why Robinson was carrying a gun except out of bravado.

“However, it had tragic case consequences for William Millar whose only crime was wanting to serve the public and do his job to the best of his ability.”