Bathgate in old picture postcards

Bathgate in old picture postcards

Auteur
:   William F. Hendrie
Gemeente
:   Bathgate
Provincie
:   Lothian, West
Land
:   United Kingdom
ISBN13
:   978-90-288-3167-4
Pagina's
:   160
Prijs
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

Levertijd: 2 - 3 werkdagen (onder voorbehoud). Het getoonde omslag kan afwijken.

   


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Bathgate in old picture postcards

by William Fyfe Hendrie

Abaut the author:

After graduating from Edinburgh University, William Fyfe Hendrie, began his career as history master at Bathgate's Lindsay High School. He later became Headmaster of Torphichen Primary School and was then promoted to the position of Head of Murrayfield School, Blackburn near Bathgate. He is now Head of Lothian Region's largest primary school, Linlithgow Primary, but still has his horne in the village of Torphichen. As well as interesting his pupils in Iocal history , including starting his award winning junior guide scheme at Linlithgow Palace, he has done much to increase adult interest in the history of West Lothian District by lecturlng for the extra mural departments of both Edinburgh and Stirling universities and by writing many local history books and advising on several television programmes on the subject. This is his second book in the series 'in oid picture postcards', the first being about his home town, Bo'ness, on the River Forth, Most of the postcards and oid photographs for this new volume have been supplied by Mrs. Brady of West Lothian District Library and by Mr. James Nicol of Academy Street, whose lantern shows ab out oid Bathgate brighten many a winter evening for organisations in the town.

INTRODUCTION

Bathgate is situated midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, right in the middle of Central Scotland in what was formerly Linlithgowshire and what since local government re-organisation in the mid-1970's has become the West Lothian District of Lothian Region, for which the town is the administrative centre.

This rise in the importance of Bathgate since re-organisation is somewhat appropriate as local tradition has always maintained that in days gone by the surrounding area was ruled from Bathgate Castle. Highlight in the history of the castie came in the early 14th century when King Robert the Bruce granted it to his daughter Princess Marjory when she married Walter his Lord High Steward, which led, of course, to the founding of Scotland's famous royal house of Stewart. Sadly Bathgate Castie has long since disappeared from its site to the south of the town, where the golf course is now situated, but it is still faithfully remembered by the town's coat of arms and by the local school children who every June on Procession Day, dress up as the royal couple and the lords and ladies of their court, thus reminding inhabitants of their town's historie origins. Although later Scottish kings and queens and especially James IV and his young English bride Margaret Tudor are known to have hunted over Bathgate Moss, the town's royal connections, unlike those of its neighbour Linlithgow seven miles to the north, did nothing to help it grow and throughout the middle ages and for some time afterwards it remained a small village, whose only importanee was as a stopping place between Scotland's lowland cities.

During these centuries Bathgate was in fact mainly overshadowed by the nearby village of Torphichen, where the powerful Knights of St. J ohn built their Scottish headquarters and which was always the scene of much activity as the Order's tenants travelled from as near as Knightsridge in Livingston and from as far north as Elgin to pay their ground rents. After the Reforma-

tion, however, the Knights were forced to 1eave Torphichen and in the end while it sett1ed back to the slow pace of Scottish village life it was Bathgate which became a busy bustling burgh, for it was situated on top of a fortune in the shape of a rich coa1 deposit.

Un1ike a similar coa1 field ten mil es to the north at Bo'ness which was exploited as early as the 12th century, because it could be easily marketed by ships sailing in and out of the Firth of Forth, Bathgate's coal had to wait until the improvements in land transport during the late 18th century and the simu1taneous growth in Scottish industry suddenly made it worth developing. At the same time Bathgate became a centre for the young but fast growing Scottish textile industry, a fact still recaIled in the town by the retention of We avers' Court as alocal place name.

Then during the 1850's Bathgate received an even greater boost when Scottish industrialist, the development of the American oil industry. In his search for oil to meet the needs of Britain's ever expanding Victorian industrial empire, Young was sent some samples of coal from Bathgate's Boghead Pit. With them came a note saying that local miners caIled this type of coal 'parrot or cannel' coal, because wh en it burned it sp1uttered like achattering parrot, while at the same time giving a light as bright as a candle. Y oung was intrigued and when he tested the samples proved they had a higher oil content than any other coal in Britain. Young then demonstrated his business acumen as weIl as his scientific skill by patenting the process and Bathgate's prosperity as the wor1d's first oil boom town was ensured. Soon Young discovered that it was also possible to produce oil from the other Iocal rock called shaie and Bathgate again benefitted from the production of a wide range of by-products. Still more industries including iron and steel works

flocked to the town to supply the needs of the collieries and shale mines, making Bathgate one of Scotland's best known industrial towns.

It is the prosperous, confident Bathgate of this period from around 1880 to 1931, which the postcards and pictures in this book recall, from the solid stone villas and long grey terraces, which the factory owners built, the first for themselves and their families, the latter for their workers, to the new churches where they worshipped together on Sabbath mornings and from the solid stone schools where their off-spring received an equally solid Scottish schooling to the 'shows' where they squandered their Saturday pennies at the end of each annual Procession Day.

Bathgate 'Bairns' still look back each Procession Day, but it takes a brave 'Bairn' to look forward at the present time, for the town has suffered a series of blows ranging from the failure of the giant Leyland Truck and Tractor Plant for which there were such high hopes when it was established in the 1960's to the shut down of the town's electronic industry and now in April 1985 the news of the closure of Polkernrnet, the last pit in the whole area.

But Bathgate does have advantages inc1uding excellent transport connections, first rate education facilities from nursery schools to the West Lothian College of Further Education and good sports and leisure provision, especially its beautiful hinterland of the Bathgate Hills, where the 1,000 foot high Knock HilI actually belongs to the townsfolk. Thus, although Bathgate may never recapture the richness of its Victorian oil boom days, it will continue to be a place where families will choose to raise their children, content in the knowledge that its civic fathers will always strive to make it a place which lives up to its motto: 'Commune Bonum Intra Muros,' for the good of all who live within its boundaries.

1. This early aerial view of Bathgate shows North Bridge Street and Hopetoun Street running across the centre of the picture with the tower of the High Church to the left and dark steeple of St. David's in George Street to the right. lust before the fields slope up to the edge of the Bathgate Hills can be seen the bulk of Torphichen Street School, or Balbardie Primary School as it is now known.

2. This picture of the oldest part of Bathgate was taken in 1884 shortly after the completion of the new High Church whose tower looms in the background. It shows Main Street and the house on the left hand side where Bathgate's most famous son, Sir J ames Young Simpson, pioneer of anaesthetic surgery, was bom in 1812. Simpson lived here until he became a medical student at Edinburgh University at the age of only fourteen. He successfully completed his studies when still only eighteen and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, but was considered toa young to be granted the degree of Doctor of Medicine, despite the fact that the year befare he had saved the life of a patient. Ta fill in time Simpson tried to find a ship in Leith Docks to spend a year as ship's surgeon, but na vessel would sign him on because of his youth and his application to become surgeon in the village of Inverkip proved equally unsuccessful. Disappointed and short of money, Simpson moved in with one of his brothers, who had opened a bakery in Edinburgh and earned his keep by delivering bread, just as he had done in the days of his youth delivering the rolls from the family bakery in Bathgate. In 1832 life began to forge ahead again for the brilliant young Simpson when he obtained his degree and the post of assistant to the Professor of Pathology at Edinburgh, but he never forgot his West Lothian home town and on one of his visits to it in 1861 presented a silver thimble to be competed for annually by the girls of Bathgate Academy, 'in memory of his only sister Mary', who, he told the assembied pupils, following the death of his mother, had always faithfully and ungrumblingly darned his stockings,

3. The old town of Bathgate lingered on even after the proud new tower of the High Church was erected in 1884. Today, a century later, it has all but disappeared, but soon the town's first museum will help local people reca1l what life was like in their horne town in days gone by. One feature of life even in those days was crime and the square building seen to the Ieft of the picture was the town jail. While grown-ups were regularly jailed for a few days after appearing on Monday mornings at the Burgh Court on charges ranging from being drunk and disorderly to committing a public nuisance and from wife assault to petty theft, juvenile delinquents were punished with fr om three to twelve strokes of the birch rod for offences ranging from playing truant from school, to stea1ing coal from the railway sidings.

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