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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer


71. The Chief Constable of Glasgow and Prostitution, 1881

Texte intégral

1The Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866 and 1869 allowed policemen to arrest prostitutes in ports and army towns and to force them to undergo medical examination. Those of the women who were found to be suffering from venereal diseases were placed in a hospital until cured. Some of the women who were forced to go to the police station were not prostitutes, which infuriated supporters of civil liberty.

2The Acts did not apply in Glasgow since the authorities of the town had adopted a satisfactory system, known under the name of Glasgow System (see introductions to texts 69 and 70). The parliamentary commission that was set up in 1879 to inquire into the Contagious Diseases Acts interviewed Alexander McCall, Chief Constable of Glasgow.

3Parliamentary Papers, 1881, Vol. VIII, xiv, Report from the Select Committee on the Contagious Diseases Acts, p. 384.

Examination of Mr M’Call (21st of July)

– Are you in favour of the total suppression of brothels?
– Most assuredly. I am in favour of the total suppression of all kinds of vice.
– What is to become of the prostitutes?
– Let them betake themselves to some honest occupation.
– If you do away with the prostitutes, what would you substitute for them considering the enormous number and the conditions of life under which a large proportion of the inhabitants of Glasgow live; do you not consider that prostitution of one sort or the other is absolutely necessary?
– No, I do not think so.
– Do you think that they could do altogether without prostitutes?
– I think so; I do not think it is a necessity by any means.
– Do you not think it is likely if prostitution were abolished, and if every prostitute were prosecuted for having committed the offence, that much worse things than prostitution might happen?
– Perhaps there would be fewer bachelors and more married men, if that were the case.
– Forgive my saying that it is a very material point in the matter; is it your opinion as a police officer, that on the whole, the number of prostitutes in Glasgow and its suburbs has been reduced?
– I have not the slightest doubt upon that in my own mind.
– Do you think that many of the prostitutes have gone out of the city and established themselves in the suburbs?
– I do not think there are many now. There were for a short time when the repressive measures were first commenced. There were a number of women who went out of the city to live in the suburbs, but the authorities there, in exercising the powers that they have, have cured that.
– Is there not a place called Hillside near Glasgow?
– There is a place called Hill-head.
– Are there any prostitutes who live there?
– I am not aware. It is outside of the city. I do not think that it is likely there are many living there.
– When a prostitute is suppressed and the prostitute element of that brothel is set free, those women must go somewhere?
– They must go somewhere.
– Where do you think they go to?
– Some of them, I understand from the Magdalene reports, have gone back to their parents, some to employment in domestic service and some to other kinds of occupations.
– Have you any grounds to give for your opinion that they leave prostitution?
– I give the opinion expressed in those reports of the Magdalene Institution, which has been established in Glasgow for the purpose of reforming those women. They make the statement.

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