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Scottish works


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Mysteries and unidentified references

Unidentified Redwood References

Redwood in his 1897 book " A Practical Treatice on Mineral Oils and their By-Products" lists a 117 Scottish oil works and refineries. A small handful of these have yet to be identified including:

Bankhall Oil Works

Redwood simply states that Bankhall was active between 1866 to 1870. No further clues exist as to the location of Bankhall

Caledonia Oil Works

Redwood lists the proprietor as "Geo. Simpson", the location as "Paisley" and the years of operation as 1864 to 1871. This might conceivably relate to the Caledonian Oil Company Works, associated with George Simpson whose crude oil works at Benhar supplied Mandal Oil Works. There is no known link to the Paisley area however.

Page & Company's Oil Works

Redwood lists the proprietors and Page & Company, and the period of activity from 1864 to 1871. (Might this relate to the partnership of Palmer and Page (James Palmer & Company), who briefly operated Drumcross Paraffin Oil Works?)

Struther's Oil Works

Redwood note the proprietors as "Struther", active between 1864 and 1869. This might relate to Stand Oil Works, listed in valuation rolls between 1866 and 1872 as owned by James Struthers & Co.

Capputhall Bog Oil Works ?

Redwood lists a "Capputhall Bog Oil Work"; proprietors Ferris, Fernie & Company;, located "near Cobbinshaw" and active between 1863 and 1878. This entry raises many problems:

Redwood's table of oil works is notorious for its geographical misspellings and substitution of place names, but entries usually prove to have some historical substance. It seems very unlikely however that an oil works near Cobbinshaw, or Drumcross, or anywhere else could have operated for fifteen years without leaving any other trace in the historical record. Until other evidence comes to light, it might be supposed that this entry was an error; a jumble of information relating to a number of other extinct oil works. Perhaps Redwood was distracted from his labours by the White Lady of Capputhall Bog?

References from The Edinburgh Gazette still to be resolved:

WALTER MACKENZIE, Accountant in Glasgow, Trustee on the sequestrated estates of THOMAS WALKER KING, Oil Manufacturer and Merchant in Glasgow, sole Partner of the Firm of ARCHIBALD LIDDELL & COMPANY, Oil Manufacturers and Merchants there, as such Partner, and as an Individual, herebyintimates that his accounts, brought down to the 19thcurrent, have been audited by the Commissioners, and that they have postponed the declaration of any further dividend until the recurrence of another statutory period. WALTER MACKENZIE, Trustee. 66, St Vincent Street,Glasgow, November 20, 1865.
Edinburgh Gazette 21st November 1865

NOTICE OF DISSOLUTION. THE Copartnership between the Subscribers, under the Firm of WALLACE & DUYCK, as Shale Oil Manufacturers, has this day been DISSOLVED by mutual consent. February 18, 1867. EBENEZER WALLACE. J. E. DUYCK. JOHN M'INNES, Witness. ALEXR. COCHRAN, Witness. The Edinburgh Gazette, 22nd February 1867

This notice of dissolution of shale oil manufactures Wallace and Duych has been a puzzle for some time, as it doesn't relate to any known oil works. Thanks to Mr J.E. Duych's unusual surname, something of his history can be traced through the on-line British Newspaper archive. We first encounter Jacque Edouard Duych of Old Kent Road London in 1841 when he patents improvements for manufacture of vinegar. Two years later, when working as a foreman at an oil refinery, he is declared insolvent. There's then a dissolved partnership in 1846 in a firm of oil purifiers and another in 1851 in a firm of sod oil manufacturers (?). Now known as James E Duych he pops up again in Kent in 1860 in charge of an oil seed mill. A newpaper accounts describes how the hand of a 14 year old boy employed at the mill was amputated by machinery, but reassures readers that "every care was taken of the poor fellow by direction of Mr Duych, the kind-hearted proprietor of the mill". Further patents for improving manufacture of seed cake and expressing oil from seeds were followed by a futher period of insolvency in 1860.

Some time after that, Duych seems to have travelled to Scotland seeking a fortune in the oil industry. He is listed amongst guests at the launch of a steamer in 1864, his address being given as "The distillery, Inverkeithing". 1867 sees the dissolution of his shale oil business, followed by further patents for James R. Duych of Glasgow concerned with utilising mineral oils and, in 1870 for improvements in treating mineral oils. Then all goes quiet.... except for an advertisement ten years later in the Glasgow Herald; "FRENCH – Madame Duych had resumed teaching, Private classes at her residence, 8 Park Street."

THE Subscriber, Peter Forbes, retired as on the 20th day of November last, from the Copartnery of PETER FORBES & COMPANY, carrying on Business as Paraffin Oil Makers and Manufacturing Chemists at Port-Dundas Oil Works, Port-Dundas, Glasgow; and the Business will in future be carried on by the other Subscribers, under the Firm of The PORT-DUNDAS OIL COMPANY, who will receive payment of the debts due to, and discharge the debts due by, the Firm of Peter Forbes & Company. PETER FORBES. JOSEPH TOWNSEND. JAMES BURGESS READMAN. The Edinburgh Gazette, 15th December 1871

Possible Oil Works and Refineries Awaiting Corroboration

During the course of research, several companies or sites have been identified that are not included by Redwood, but might be involved in the production or processing of Scottish shale or coal oils. To warrant inclusion in this gazetteer, evidence is required that coal or shale was retorted, or that crude oil from coal or shale was refined, at these sites. Businesses concerned with merely the blending, refining, or marketing of coal or shale oil products are not included, nor those involved exclusively in the refining of imported petroleum or other types of oils.

The following possible oil works sites are awaiting such corroborating evidence:

Avondale Oil Works, Causewayend, Falkirk District

Sale of the sequestered estate of Avondale Oil Works, advertised in The Scotsman of 18th June 1887, lists cast iron stills, cooling tins and filters, suggesting the company was involved in the processing of wax products rather than crude oils.


Ballingray Chemical Works, Fife

The following advert appeared in the Fife Herald on several occasions during 1863. Ballingry lies close to the site of Capeldrae Oil Works

CHEMICAL WORKS, BALLINGRAY. Subscriber is now disposing of an excellent Substitute for Rosin Oil, suitable for Trams and all Pit purposes, at 12s. per Cwt. Excellent FRICTION GREASE may also be obtained at 12s. per Cwt. All Orders received at the above Works will be carefully attended to. THOMAS LEITCH. Lochgelly, June 19, 1863


Croy Chemical Oil Works, North Lanarkshire

Listed in report on the sale of heritable property appearing in Glasgow Herald on 23rd March 1873 (upset price £1,000), realised price £1,450) and the following sale notice which suggests a trade restricted to the refining of waxes and greases.

At Two o'clock, on Tuesday 4th July, at Croy. Oil and Grease machinery, Hydraulic presses, steam pump, Horizontal engine, blowing and pumping engines, 20 foot steam boiler, Large retorts, stills with copper worms, Iron pans and boilers, Large cast iron water cisterns, Washing machine, old steam boilers, Crab winches, Iron steam and water pipes, Malleable and cast iron scrap, Wooden building with iron roofing. By auction (only a short time to use). J & R Edmiston are instructed by the proprietor to sell the above at oil works adjoining the station Croy, on Tuesday 4th July at Two o'clock on view morning of sale, catalogues on application. J & R Edmiston auctioneers. Glasgow Herald, 28th June 1876.


Dean Oil Works, Newtongrange, Midlothian

"The Dean Tavern; a Gothenberg Experiment", published by Dean Tavern Trust in 1986 and reproduced on the website www.prestoungrange.org, states "The Dean Oil Works was a firm belonging to Charles Handyside employed in the extraction of oil from coal for industrial purposes". Dean Oil Works was sited immediately north of Lady Victoria colliery (55.864259, -3.068277) and is marked on the 1907 and 1914 OS maps, although not that published in 1932.. The Scotsman of 16th May 1902 provides an account of a fire "at the extensive establishement of Messrs C.H. Handasyde & Company, Dean Oil Works, Newbattle". This describes "the contents of the refineries to be largely made up of wool oils, stearine, and other products", suggesting trade links with the borders textiles industry rather than the nearby collieries. The Scotsman account also mentions that considerable stocks were held at the company's other establishment - the Abercorn Oil Works in Paisley.


Merry and Cunninghame Ltd.

The Ayrshire coalmasters Merry & Cunninghame placed a number of advertisements in the Glasgow Herald offering crude oil for sale. The prospectus launching Merry and Cunninghame as a limited company (as printed in the Glasgow Herald on 21st August 1872) listed the companies property as:

No record has yet been located of oil works directly associated with the company's ironworks and collieries. However, a court case (Procurator Fiscal of Airdrie vs. Merry and Cunningham), reported in the Glasgow Herald dated 4th December 1868, mentions John Nish as "Manager of Merry and Cunninghame's pits ar Woodhall". Valuation rolls for Woodhall Oil Works list "Nish, Gibb & Co." as owner, suggesting a possible link between Merry & Cunninghame and oil production at Woodhall.

Messrs Merry & Cunninghame (Limited) were proprietors of a number of Renfrewshire pits that produced shale as well as coal and ironstone. Such shale was sold to local oil producers, but no evidence has yet come to light to suggest that they operated an oil works of their own in the Paisley area.

FOR SALE: Crude shale oil of very superior quality, Apply to James Mckinnon at Merry and Cunninghame. 127 St Vincent St. The Glasgow Herald 5th November 1866.


Unidentified Newspaper References

CRUDE OIL WORKS FOR SALE. The works consist of 50 retorts, with all the other necessary apparatus for carrying on the above trade. There are also 3 stills on the grounds, 2 of which are at present in operation, and very little extra expense would put the works into a position to refine all the Crude Oil made. They are conveniently situated for getting away oil either per rail or water. Further information can be had by applying by letter, addressed "Crude Oil Works," Herald Office, Glasgow. Glasgow Herald. Monday 9 April 1866

Manager wanted for a Crude Oil Works, where he would have to take charge of the Oil making, Shale Working, and Erection of Retorts and houses, - Apply to A. B., Post Office, West Calder. Glasgow Herald , Saturday 3 June 1871


Non-Shale or Coal Oil References

Information transcribed during research which are probably not relevant to the retorting or refining of shale or coal oils

Records of rateable values:

Slater's Royal National Trade Directory of 1867 lists,

To the men employed in one of the Larkhall Mineral Oil Company's Works notice of a reduction of 1s. per day wage been given.

The Hamilton Advertiser, 20th December 1873.


Oils manufactured from peat were advertised in Glasgow trade directories throughout the late 1860's

PEAT PARAFFIN MANUFACTORY IN STORNOWAY The Skye correspondent of the Inverness Courier writes as follows :- Having procured a note of introduction to Mr. Caunter, the constructor and manager of the Paraffin Works, I set out for them; but on my way there I was much taken with the improvement of the land about the town, so that within a radius of a mile or more it looks more like a low country district than as I saw it long ago, all bogs and gravel knowes, and but little of it cultivated, and still less of it enclosed. It is now all laid out in moderately-sized parks, in which I observed a long mound of manure, made out of the offal of the herring of the season, and of moss or earth, serving the double purpose of clearing the shore and town of that garbage, and contributing at the same time to the lands fertility. Arrived at Mr. Caunter's residence, I found him to be an Englishman, with the bluff, ready, off hand manner of his countrymen, very civil, attentive, and communicative. We set out to the works at a place called the Creed, where the first part of the process is carried on, and where an extraordinary number of peat-stacks are seen arranged on both sides of an iron tramway, on which waggons are placed and filled, and then hauled to the works by steam power. When the wind is favourable sails are set on the waggon's to hasten their progress. About four to five hundred pounds a year is paid to work people for cutting and securing these peats; there being about 800 irons of them cut at 11s, 6d, the iron. An iron of peat is what a peat-iron will cut in one day when kept going all day, and when it is expected here at least to cut 75 solid yards of peat-moss. Arrived at the works, the peats are turned into the furnaces where they are consumed, their bulk immensely reduced and the tar extracted. The smoke from the peat is all consumed in the process, and several furnaces are kept going by gas alone produced from the peats in the process. One little disc was pointed out to me which resolved at the rate of 1800 turns in the minute; these revolutions could not of course be counted, but they could easily be calculated from knowing the circumferences of several wheels by which it was moved. Glasgow Herald, 11th November 1865

The Lewis Chemical Works, where there is carried on a manufacture of paraffin oil from peat. The first process is carried on at a place called The Creed, where peats are cut, and by a process of distillation, a kind of tar is extracted from the smoke. The tar is then carried a distance of six or seven miles to Garrabost, where it undergoes another process, conducted by steam machinery, and ultimately paraffin oil and paraffin itself are produced There are also lubricating oil and grease manufactured, the latter is used for coating ships' bottoms, and termed " anti-fouling grease," and has proved itself far superior to anything yet used for this purpose. This great undertaking originated with Sir James Matheson, for the purpose, if possible, of converting the large tracts of moss in the Island to some useful purpose, and ultimately to cultivate the land when thus cleared. A great amount of money is embarked in this undertaking, and is a source of employment to a large number of people, there being at present about sixty men constantly employed, besides a larger number who get employment in summer in cutting and drying the peats. Slater's Royal National Commercial Directory of Scotland for 1878

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