There are no windows in a hanging shed. Only a sadistic architect would provide a last glimpse of the fair green hills. The same goes for paintings or potted plants. You’re unlikely to divert the condemned man from the business in hand with a nice framed ‘Monarch of the Glen’ or a genteel aspidistra. Besides, he’ll only visit once. Wearing a hood...
The Hanging Shed's opening chapter continues ...
"...Before the war I was taken to the hanging shed of His Majesty’s Prison Barlinnie. Years after, I can close my eyes and recite every dismal detail and dimension as though they were tattooed on my eyelids.
Think of a clutch of grey monoliths scarring the countryside on the outskirts of Glasgow. Each solid rectangle studded with tiny barred windows, the roofs festooned with Victorian chimneys. Like houses drawn by an obsessive child. The whole ugly mass surrounded by a tall grey wall. Focus in on the central courtyard and the building known as D Hall. Inside is a standard prison set up: a high vaulted chamber with galleries facing each other across a gulf. Cells stud the walls on each level. Metal decks bridge the galleries. Metal staircases connect the levels.
There is one special cell on the third floor. Its occupant has nowhere to go except across the short bridge and through the plain wooden door on the other side. Take the walk. Go through the door. Eyes open.
Inside, the air is inert and the white walls press inwards. In the centre, set in the floor, is a trapdoor. Alongside, and surely connected, stands a lever. There are three square holes in the ceiling directly above the trap door. You can see the long retaining beam in the room above. A noosed rope dangles from the beam through the central hole. The two other holes gape invitingly, ready for rush hour in the hanging shed, three at once. Jostling for position on the trap door.
Today a lone figure stands on a chalked T in the centre of the trap. A broad leather strap binds the upper body. A hood covers the head. The noose is draped over the hood and round the neck. Soft leather coats the noose. No abrasions here for a tender neck. The noose is held in place by a brass slip to make sure it tightens quickly and efficiently. To snap rather than throttle. The mark of a civilised society.
A man in a blue uniform walks across the echoing floorboards. He grips the lever and grins. There is a shocking clang and thud and the trapdoor falls open. The joist in the room above gives out a tortured creak as it takes the weight. The figure plunges into the void of the floor below where a slab waits. The rope hardens and trembles like a plucked guitar string. The guard sneers at the white faces of the four new constables being shown round for their edification. He signals to the guard below to take down the dummy.