(Nearly) True Tales of the Scottish Mob

"To this day, William "Willie" Wallace, the one-time kingpin of Boston's notorious Scottish mob, is still at large. His exploits in the world of crime are legendary. And with each passing day, those legendary exploits become even more ... legendary ... as each passing day ... passes by."

- From the new book True Tales of Boston's Scottish Mob by J. Thom Deeshy.

William Wallace, Jr. was born on October 30, 1921 to parents William and Katherine, upstanding residents of the affluent Back Bay section of Boston. The Wallace family had "old money," as they say ... in fact, their money was so old that you could hardly read the dates on any of the coinage. The story of the acquisition of this old money goes something like this:

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Willie consolidated the remaining Boston Scottish mobsters under the banner the Hume Gang, named for 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume.

Back in Scotland, William's great-great-grandfather, an eccentric bloke who was affectionately called "Grumpy" Wallace by the local tax collector, had won huge tracts of land in a gambling bet that involved predicting a particular eclipse of the sun back in 1822. According to Deeshy, Grumpy Wallace was an amateur astronomer who often placed bets of a celestial nature, like wagering on when Mars would go retrograde, or when meteor showers would happen, or when a certain occultation of a planet would occur.

As a result of winning the bet (after the payment of a new and rather exorbitant "solar eclipse" tax), Grumpy Wallace came to own much of the land around Loch Clannare along the western coast of Scotland. After a time, foreign investors bought up all of Wallace's land to build a condominium complex with an 18-hole private golf course, and as a result, the Wallace family moved to America (in the years just prior to Scotland's great haggis famine of 1850).

The Wallace's quickly became a well-to-do Boston family, mixing well with the city's upper crust. And young Willie, born into this lifestyle, lived a life of privilege, which would later provide the impetus when he eventually turned to a life of crime.

Willie Wallace's first footfalls into this life of crime would begin at the tender age of eleven while attending the exclusive Fenwick School for Boys. Before classes one morning, Willie was caught red-handed tearing the erasers off all the pencils on his teacher's desk. This led to more violent criminal behavior, like breaking chalk in two and melting crayons over a Bunsen burner. Punishment, such as being forced to clap the blackboard erasers for two weeks straight, only served to harden his criminal intentions. By term end, when the world globe on the teacher's desk was defaced with the telltale words "Willie Wallace was here" written in poster paint, all fingers immediately pointed at Willie.

"He was a hooligan from the start. Instead of bringing his teachers an apple like all the other children, he used to bring in a stalk of celery or an ear of corn. Hooligan!"
        - Headmistress Spindle.

"He was a hooligan from the start," said the school's headmaster, Miss Spindle. "Instead of bringing his teachers an apple like all the other children, he used to bring in a stalk of celery or an ear of corn. Hooligan!"

In an act of utter defiance toward his parents, Willie turned down an opportunity to attend Harvard, where his father and grandfather were alumni, to attend Yale instead. Academically, he quickly rose to the top of his class. His parents were outraged and threatened to cut off his allowance. When Willie telegrammed home that he had earned a 4.0 grade point average for his spring semester, all hell broke loose.

 "Mr. Wallace immediately had a letter drafted by his attorneys to Willie stating that all his privileges at the yacht club that summer had been revoked, and that monthly stipends from his trust funds had been cut by a third," writes Deeshy. "This caused Willie much angst, as he and his college buddies had planned to rent a beach house out on Martha's Vineyard for the month of July. Now they would have to settle for a three-bedroom cottage a quarter mile from the water, as well as curtail their evening activities to five dinners out a week, forcing them to grill burgers and hot dogs on the other two nights."

The MacKracklen brothers shared the Vineyard cottage with Willie that summer. Oddly, the brothers were both called Angus. "Big" Angus was in Willie's class at Yale, while his older brother "Little" Angus was an upper classman. "Little" Angus was not only older than "Big" Angus, but also half a foot taller and ten stones heavier. This caused quite a bit of confusion, and Willie began calling them "Angus Major" and "Angus Minor," which only added further to the confusion. Willie then began referring to them as "Angus the Greater" and "Angus the Lesser," which finally caused "Little" Angus to change his name to Jackie.

The MacKracklens would later play a large role in Willie's crime business, as "Little" Angus was a whiz at balancing their checking account and "Big" Angus had a knack for packing the car in order to get the most out of any heist.

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Willie had earlier been tipped off that a truck would be arriving at the Orkney Pub on Causeway Street around midnight.

Their first job involved a shipment of Scotch beef. Willie had earlier been tipped off that a truck would be arriving at the Orkney Pub on Causeway Street around midnight. Willie and the two Anguses, along with accomplices Jimmy MacClannough and Stewart Stewart, hijacked the shipment and virtually cornered the Scotch beef market throughout Boston. Later they hijacked a truckload of frozen Shepherd's pies and, in another memorable heist, a shipment of curly kale. Yet, it wasn't until they commandeered a truckload of prime rate haggis that Police Commissioner Longshanks finally took notice.

"Beef and kale are one thing," said commissioner Longshanks at a press conference on the following day. "Haggis is quite another."

In the wake of Willie's success, other Scottish mobsters emerged. Over time, Willie eliminated most of his competition by sending them faux direct mailings leading them to believe that they had won free Florida timeshares. Once they were out of town and off to the Sunshine State, Willie consolidated the remaining Boston Scottish mobsters under the banner the Hume Gang, named for 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume. Meanwhile, the Anguses, along with Johnny Mudbaker and Robert "Bobby" Bruce, broke away from Willie's group, forming their own crime family - the Hobbes Gang, named for 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

For a while, the two gangs operated without altercation, each reaping the profits of their own criminal operations. But eventually, their paths overlapped when the two groups both tried to hijack the same truck carrying a shipment of smoked haddock. In one memorable showdown, as Willie and "Arg" Argyle were leaving the Saint Ninian Tavern in Beacon Hill after wolfing down some cranachan and bannock, they were confronted by Mudbaker and the two Anguses. It had all the earmarks of a hit!

Immediately, Big Angus attacked, arguing in painstaking detail the key philosophical points of Hobbes, mainly the elements that contributed to an individual's sense of motivation, followed up with a treatise on the relationship between knowledge and faith. Willie countered with a convincing Hume argument, touching on such relevant points as causation, supreme moral good, and perceptions of the individual self.

Rebuttal followed rebuttal. Little Angus fell to the sidewalk. "Arg" Argyle collapsed behind a row of trash barrels. The volley continued. Soon, the police arrived and told the two factions that they could not hold their philosophical discussions out on the sidewalk. They were encouraged to go back inside the tavern to make their relevant arguments over a round or two of Scotch whiskey. The philosophical foray continued until closing time, when both groups finally went their own way to lick their wounds and to brush up on their debate tactics.

Willie went into hiding. Once, he was believed seen at a lecture series on Sartre that toured a number of state universities throughout Massachusetts.

In the years that followed, other smaller gangs emerged in some of the more affluent neighborhoods - mainly the Bentham Gang and the Mill Gang, named for 19th century philosophers Jeremy Bentham and James Mill - but they never carried the clout of the Hume and Hobbes gangs. Over time, these fringe gangs were eliminated through convincing debate and rebuttal, until eventually Willie's gang took over as the only operating philosophical crime organization in Boston.

Willie held sway at the top of the Scottish mob for a number of years, until philosophy professors in the Boston area formed an alliance with the Immanuel Kant Gang from New York City, which muscled Willie and his men from all the popular pubs and coffeehouses where much of the philosophical discussions and debate took place. Eventually, the Hume Gang dispersed, and Willie went into hiding. Once, he was believed seen at a lecture series on Sartre that toured a number of state universities throughout Massachusetts, but since then his whereabouts have remained unknown. 

The legend of the Hume Gang looms large in the annals of the one-time Boston Scottish mob. And each November 30th, as the streets of Boston are lined with cheering spectators at the annual Saint Andrew's Day Parade, and as the sound of bagpipes fills the chilly morning air, one cannot help but raise a pint of Scottish beer or a shot of Scotch whiskey to the "Bad Boy of the Back Bay," the legendary William "Willie" Wallace.

Jack Sheedy

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