I will now draw this
history to a close with a few odds and ends.
In hunting up the history of West Calder, many things came to my
notice that I was not aware of when the first of these chapters was
penned, which may account for some discrepancies in these pages,
while some matters have not been sufficiently noticed for want of
exact information thereon. Amongst the latter, are the stone-cists,
or coffins, found at Chapelton, which place may, or may not, have
been a place of burial in the ordinary way or because of some
battle. In many other matters, I feel the imperfection of my
information, from being non-resident.
The town of West Calder, however, although now larger than many a
royal, municipal, or parliamentary burgh in Scotland, has never
aspired to Burghal rights, and is content with the ordinary county
and parochial machinery for all such matters, save street-cleaning
and water-supply, for which purposes, I am informed, they have
adopted some clauses of the Lindsay Act.
The police are under the control of the county authorities, while
the cemetery is the property of a company. Although there are no
less than sixteen publicans and licensed grocers in the parish, West
Calder is destitute of a fully licensed Hotel. There are, however
reading-rooms and a newspaper called the West Calder Reporter,
published every Saturday, which was started, 15th September, 1883;
and about 900 copies weekly were distributed gratis for the first
In September 1884, this journal came out as a one-halfpenny paper,
when the average issue fell to about 700 weekly, the bawbee being
directly accountable for the fall in numbers.
There is a Forester’s Lodge and a Curling Club, of which I have no
The Mutual Improvement Association is a somewhat lively institution
for the six winter months of the ye;<r, aiming, as it does, at the
veritable production of embryo M.P.s; so that West Calder may yet be
as celebrated for the native production of statesmen as it was for
parsons, and now is for the illuminating powers of parafUn in the
shape of oil and candles, not to speak of the ammonia of its
Speaking of politics—a subject which I only approach historically
reminds me that the political aspect of West Calder parish now
consists of three shades, or parties, though principally Liberal,
or, perhaps more correctly speaking, radical, nursed by their
respective clubs or associations, of which I subjoin the names and
presidents:—1, Liberal Association, Alex. Smith, Esq., Muirhouse; 2,
Conservative Association, Mr A. Mitchell, Chapelton; 3, Branch of
the Nationl League of Ireland, Mr Patrick Cosgrove, Addiewell.
Volunteers. In March 1878 a Volunteer Corps was formed, composed of
equal numbers from Addiewell and West Calder respectively, which for
the convenience of battalion drill was joined to the 1st
Linlithgowshire Rifle Volunteers. On Nov. 2nd, 1880 this corps was
divided into two companies viz. Addiewell or F. and West Calder or
G. Addiewell F. is composed of 1 Captain, 2 Lieuts., 5 Sergts., and
71 privates. In 1885 this company on inspection passed 8 proficients
earning the usual grant of £4 each; 71 efficients earning 30s each.
Captain M‘Cutchon. West Calder G. has 1 Capt., 2 Lieuts., 5 Sergts.,
and 66 privates, of whom in 1885, 8 were proficient and 65 efficient
earning the respective grants, while I waa non-efficient. Captain
The drill instructor for both companies is Sergt. Joseph Lawson who
served in the 42nd and 72nd Highland Regiments.
The uniform is invisible green with red facings, and busby cap with
The weapon is the Martini-Henry Rifle with the regulation bayonet,
and the Armoury is at West Calder.
The commander of the battalion, whose head quarters are at
Linlithgow, is Lieut-Col. Gillon of Wallhouse.
Bank. The Commercial Bank of Scotland has a branch here which
conducts the banking business of the town, and draws upon the London
and Westminster Bank, London. Agent, John Mungle.
Insurance agents. William Millar for Edinburgh Life and Fire; Thomas
Thomson for Royal; J. Mungle for Scottish Union and National;
Alexander Martin for General Assurance and Guardian Glass Plate Coy.
The old Farmers Society was recently revived in connection with the
Western District of Mid Lothian Agricultural Association, which held
a successful Show in West Calder on 10th July, 1885.
The following social and religious influences are at work in the
parish, and deserve to be mentioned by name although I have no
details, viz., Temperance Society; Band of Hope; Missionaries;
Hallelujah Army; and two Young Men’s Christian Associations, one at
Addiewell and one in West Calder.
Public Halls. Andrew’s Hall, Masons Hall, and the People’s Hall. The
latter belonging to Mr John Thomson, whose halls now play such an
important part in the social, religious and political affairs of
West Calder, is one of the wonders of the town, and must be seen to
be duly appreciated.
Valuation Roll.—The new valuation roll of the parish is more
elaborate than any former one, having been issued under the new
electoral law (1885), and will form a very valuable quarry for any
future historian, the names of occupiers being fully given, though
the valuation may be said to have reached a stationary height.
As railways and water-works are given in a separate roll, which I
have not yet seen, I will give the complete figures for 1884-5,
which are as follows :—
Land and heritages, £39,455 3s
Railways and water-works, £12,160 0s
Total, £51,615 3s
While the parish can boast of many shale pits, there are only two in
operation producing household coal, viz., one each at Woodmuir and
Old Meal Mills. At one time there were no less than five water-power
meal mills in West Calder parish, one on each of the following
estates: Badds, Breich, Limefield, Harburn and Torphin; but one and
all are now disused. Silent as the grave are those once busy hives
of industry, the theme of many a hope, many a law, many a tale, many
James Gray, author of ‘Gray’s Arithmetic’ once so celebrated in the
old parochial schools of Scotland, was born in a cottage on the farm
of Kipsyke in the parish of West Calder.
R. A. Smith, author of several sonnets in the once famous ‘Whistle
Blinkie' may be claimed as originating from West Calder, of which
his father was a native, who emigrated to England in 1773, “where he
married an English woman of respectable connections,” and settled at
Reading in Berkshire, where his poetic son was born in 1779.
I now thankfully draw my labours to a close by naming a few noted
visitors who have honoured West Calder by their presence.
Charles X. of France. On a small knoll near Harburn House, belonging
to Thomas Barr Esq., there stands a freestone monument, fourteen
feet high, bearing the following inscription:— “Charles X. of
France, during his exile, stood on this spot when last at Harburn,
3rd September, 1832.”
David Livingstone, African traveller and missionary, native of
Scotland, born at Blantyre, Lanarkshire, 1817. Visited West Calder
as the guest of his great friend Dr Young of Limefield, and laid the
foundation stone of Addiewell Works, 9th August, 1864.
Right Honourable William Ewart Gladstone. In November 1879, Mr
Gladstone appeared in West Calder and delivered a stirring
electioneering address in the now historical ‘Mid Lothian Campaign'.
For this occasion a large wooden tent was erected, which was filled
to overflowing by deputations from many parts of Scotland in
addition to the electors and non-electors of the district. Again in
March 1880, he addressed the electors in the U. P. Church.
Lord Iddesleigh, better known as Sir Stafford Northcote, visited
West Calder on the 5th November, 1885, when he addressed the
electors in the People’s Hall.
Mr Gladstone also addressed the electors in the People’s Hall on the
17th November, 1885. I need only add, that West Calder did its level
best to swell the triumphant majority by which Mr Gladstone was
elected for the second time to represent Midlothian in the British
House of Commons.