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History of West Calder
Chapter XXVI. Odds and Ends


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 year.

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 particulars.

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 politics.

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 Mungle.

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 plume.

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 Loganlea.

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 a song.

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.

The End


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