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A Recognised Collection of National Importance

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Oral history recordings

family photo

Photograph of Mr and Mrs Dewar and family at 24 Main Street, Livingston Station circa 1930 with Mid Street in the background. (LVSAV1998.010.010)

The sharp increase in oil prices during the 1970's prompted a review of shale oil reserves in many parts of the world. In the USA, plans to exploit shale in Colorado prompted the US Department of Energy to commission a programme of research into the possible health consequences of the planned new industry.

The Institute of Occupational Medicine, based in Edinburgh, was commissioned to undertake a programme of research looking at parallels between the Scottish industry and that planned for the USA, and considering factors that might affect the health of the workforce and local population. The work included analysis of health records and a programme of interviews with retired shale workers and their families that aimed to identify any common factors in working or home life that might increase the risk of illness.

Dr. Sara Randall's paper "A socio-historical study of Scottish shale mining communities in Mid and West Lothian" was published in 1990 and concluded:

"Comparisons with contemporary studies show that, although the shale communities were poor with bad living conditions compared with today, there is no evidence that they were any worse off than contemporary working class communities, and thus no reason to expect that overall mortality levels should be raised."

Dr. Randall's paper, and all other reports in this study, are available on-line from the Institute of Occupational Medicine library. The original cassette recordings of these interviews, and their transcripts, were subsequently deposited in our museum.

The study, and Sara Randall's thorough and sensitively conducted interviews, provide a unique record of working and home life, and of the interests and attitudes of the day. The interviews are personal accounts and sometimes touch on sensitive and intimate issues. Except for a few interviewees marked as anonymous, all agreed at the time to be identified in subsequent publications; however in 1983, when most of the interview were conducted, few could have conceived that their words would be shared on-line throughout the world. We feel that there is great value in retaining the identity of those interviewed and those referred to in the interviews, however if any direct relative of an interviewee is concerned on this point, we ask that they contact us so we might consider measures to obscure identities.

In addition to those interviewed as part of the IOM study, our collection included various oral history recordings conducted in the late 1980's by the Livingston Oil Museum project.

List of transcripts:

creative commons

We are happy to licence use of many images, extracts, and other resources of this website under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial licence (Scotland). See full copyright statement. Such material should be attributed to Almond Valley Heritage Trust and, where practical, a hyperlink provided to www.scottishshale.co.uk.