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Crime and Punishment

Crime pervaded the shale mines and villages of West Lothian and beyond. This page details a number of them, and more will be added in the coming months.


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up 1871

ASSAULT IN A SHALE PIT - A miner, named John M'Donald, residing here, was convicted, at the Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Monday, of assaulting John King, a bottomer, on the 5th November last, in a shale-pit near West Calder. After committing the assault the prisoner absconded, and was only apprehended last Thursday by the West Calder police. He was sentenced to be imprisoned for 60 days with hard labour.

Hamilton Advertiser, 11th March 1871


up 1872

MAN FOUND DEAD - On Monday forenoon some of the workmen upon the Edinburgh, Bathgate, and Glasgow Railway discovered the dead body of a man lying in a field near Bathville Oil Works. Notice was at once sent to the police at Armadale, who had the body removed to the Poorhouse in Bathgate. The body was identified as that of Michael M'Cannan, a teacher belonging to Durhamtown; but how the corpse should have been in the place where found dead is a mystery, and investigation is being made by the police. The hat, coat, and vest of deceased were found about a quarter of a mile off.

Falkirk Herald, 4th January 1872


THEFT OF SIX HUNDREDWEIGHT OF IRON - ENCOURAGING CHILDREN TO STEAL - At the Sheriff Summary Court yesterday, before Sheriff Davidson, Patrick Masterton, a hawker, was charged with having stolen 6 cwt. or iron. James Boyd, foreman at Young & Co.'s brickworks, Addiewell, West Calder, said that on Friday evening last he saw the prisoner standing at a cart, and two girls and a boy carrying iron out of the works to him. The cart was found to be loaded with iron beloging to the company. The prisoner was said to have enticed the children with a piece of candy to carry the iron from the works. The Sheriff found the charge proven, and sentenced the prisoner to thirty days' imprisonment.

The Scotsman, 28th May 1872


SERIOUS ASSAULT IN A SHALE PIT - At the Sheriff Summary Court on Saturday, before Sheriff Hallard, Donald M'Kay and Alexander M'Kenna were charged with assaulting John Demsie, signalman in No. 2 shale pit, Addiewell. From the evidence it appeared, that Demsie was responsible for the working of the cages sent up from the pit bottom. The prisoners, who are "drawers" and bound to obey Demsie, came to the pit bottom with some hutches filled with shale, and after having been forbidden to do so, shoved, the hutches on to the cage, notwithstanding that Demsie had signalled to the engineer at the top that the cage was coming up -with men. Demsie after a struggle, got the hutches out of the cage, when the prisoners attacked him with great ferocity knocking him down, and unmercifully beating him. The Sheriff said this was not an ordinary case of assault; it was also a breach of discipline where human life was endangered by the conduct of the accused; and as it was essential that an example should be made to prevent the recurrence of a similar offence, he sentenced each of the prisoners to thirty days' imprisonment.

The Scotsman, 24th June 1872


RATHER FOND OF HIS BEER - On Monday last, before Sheriff Home, the following case was disposed of - Arthur McCafferty or McCafferty, a retorman or labourer at Pumpherston Mains, was charged, along with one Joseph Ferguson, a cooper at Stankard Rows, parish of Uphall with the theft of 5 pint bottles of ale and 2 pint bottles of porter from off a bottle cart standing on the street in the village of Broxburn, the property of Alexander Syme, porter and ale merchant, Leith. He pled guilty, and was sentenced to three weeks' imprisonment.

Falkirk Herald, 12th October 1872


up 1873

THEFT - At the Edinburgh Sheriff Summary Court, on the 21st ult., before Sheriff Hamilton, Thomas Cooper pleaded guilty to having on the 20th or 21st. ult. stolen 67 lbs. weight of brass and copper the works of the Hermand Oil Company at West Calder. It appears that Cooper was at one time employed as an engineman at the works, but owing to the estate of the company being sequestrated thrown out of employment. A large quantity of brass and copper is lying about the works, and lately pieces have been going amissing. Early the other morning, while Constable Whitson was at West Calder Station the prisoner passed him carrying bag over his shoulder. Cooper got into a train proceeding to Edinburgh, and the constable, being suspicious to the contents of the bag, jumped into another carriage. When the train arrived at West Princes Street Station Whitson seized the bag, and on opening it found a large quantity of the missing material. He immediately took Cooper in charge, and brought him to the headquarters of the County Police, and there he was summarily handed over to the Sheriff for trial. Sheriff Hamilton sentenced Cooper to thirty days imprisonment.

Falkirk Herald, 1st March 1873


THEFT - At the Sheriff Summary Court, Edinburgh, on Thursday – Sheriff Hamilton on the bench – a travelling bricklayer named William Thomas pled guilty to stealing some bricklayers' tools from the Chemical Works at Addiewell last month. He had absconded after the theft, and was captured a few days ago in Lanarkshire. He was sentenced to twenty-one days' imprisonment.

Falkirk Herald, 13th March 1873


AN ADDIEWELL LODGING-HOUSE - At the Edinburgh Sheriff Summary Court on the 12th inst, before Sheriff Hamilton, Francis McGinlay was charged with assault. The evidence was to the effect that a man named Boyd, his wife, daughter aged fifteen, another girl aged fifteen, and two young men, of whom the prisoner was one, lived in a cottage of only one small apartment, and containing only two beds, in the mining district of Addiewell. On the preceding Saturday night, after Boyd, his daughter, and the other lodgers had retired to rest, Mrs Boyd entered the worse of drink. The daughter said her mother came in by the window, but the mother maintained she entered by the door. The latter dragged her daughter out of bed by the hair of the head. The accused got out of bed to protect the girl, and during a scuffle that ensued he struck Mrs Boyd a blow on the face, which blackened her eye. Boyd said he was asleep, and knew nothing of the row, while the other female lodger stated that the accused was severely wounded on the forehead by a blow of a poker, wielded by Mrs Boyd, and this statement was corroborated by a neighbour, who was attracted to the place by cries of murder. The latter tried to gain admittance, but found the door locked, and on going to the window she saw the accused standing with blood streaming down his face, and nearly choked by Ferguson, his fellow-lodger, who threw him into a corner. Boyd's daughter came to the window and ordered this witness away, as she said, "It was only a family quarrel, and they would settle it among themselves." The mother, thought, otherwise and handed the accused over to the police. The Sheriff said that no doubt an assault had been committed, but considering the very extraordinary way of living of these people, and that the evidence was not altogether satisfactory, he would only inflict a fine of £1, with the alternative of ten days' imprisonment. - John Kidd pleaded guilty of having committed and assault on Mrs Boyd on the following night, under circumstances somewhat similar, and was fined 10s, or four days' imprisonment.

Falkirk Herald, 20th March 1873


STEALING COALS - Marjory Coyle or Conway, and Margaret Howat or Duncan, miners' wives at Stankard Rows, near Uphall were each sentenced to ten day's imprisonment, or having stolen each about half a hundred-weight of coals from the Stankard Shale Pit, on 25th April last.

Falkirk Herald, 17th May 1873


WEST CALDER - CHARGE OF CULPABLE HOMICIDE - On Thursday at the Sheriff Criminal Court, Edinburgh – before Sheriff Davidson and a jury – William Knox, engine-man, residing at Mossend, West Calder, was charged with having on the 5th June, at No. 15 Shale Pit, Addiewell, culpably and carelessly, and in neglect of his duty, failed to stop his engine when a cage which was being drawn up the shaft had reached the landing, in consequence of which a sinker, named James Black, was thrown down the shaft, a depth of 15 fathoms, and killed. The prisoner, who was defended by Mr Dundas-Grant, advocate, pleaded not guilty, and the case went to trial. Twelve witnesses were examined, and in the course of the evidence it came out that the indicator referred to in the indictment was out of order on the occasion of the accident – that even when in order it did not indicate correctly the position of the load in the shaft; that it didn't move until after the load had been raised by the engine from two to six feet; and that it was repaired about a week after the accident occurred. It was also proved that the view of the engineman to the pit-mouth was obstructed by a fly-wheel and its railing, and that the scaffold or cage on which the man who was killed by falling to the bottom of the pit was coming up had been changed since the prisoner left in the morning, and returned in the evening to his work. Other changes had also been made which had not been intimated to him before he resumed work. After addresses from the Fiscal and Mr Grant, the Sheriff summed up against the prisoner. The jury, however, after a very brief absence, returned a verdict, by a majority, of not guilty. The trial lasted the entire day.

Falkirk Herald, 26th July 1873


up 1874


A man named James Sifton, who was captured on Monday night leaving the Paraffin Works of Messrs Young at Addiewell with 90lb of stolen lead in his possession, was brought before Sheriff Hallard at the Summary Court yesterday, and sent to jail for 30 days.

The Scotsman, 18th February 1874


THE VIRGINS AND THE LAMPS - The girl Margaret Ferguson was placed at the bar of the City Police Court charged with resetting paraffin lamps which had been stolen by her elder sister from Young's paraffin oil works, Lochrin. From the evidence it appeared that the manager of the works, happening to pass the shop of Mr Ross, West Port, saw a lamp which he identified as belonging to the firm. He knew that the lamp had not been sold, and as several of those in stock were going amissing, he thought that this one must have been stolen. He sent the foreman into the shop to inquire about it. Further investigations were made, and in the shop of Mr Adam, a tinsmith, 14 lamps and six glass shades were found. Other nine lamps and two shades were found in the shop of Duncan M'Laren, Bread Street, and at a shop in Main Point, occupied by Walter Stewart, three lamps and two shades.. From the statement of the West Port broker, it appeared the girl Maragert had sold him a lamp for 1s 6d, but, as he had been informed by detectives that some lamps were going amissing, he only paid 5d to the girl, and told her to come back for the balance some time after. She did not return, but her sister Rachael [Ferguson], the charge against whom was dropped yesterday, on account of her youth - came, and was taken into custody. Detectives Ferguson and Malone deponed that they found several of the articles in the house of the children's parents, who could not but have seen the articles. The girl Catherine [Ferguson], who is at present undergoing sentence for the theft, deponed that when she took the articles to the house she put them into her chest, and her parents were not aware of the thefts. Witness gave her sister the articles to sell, understanding that her sister knew where she got them. The Sheriff said he though the police should look after the books of Mr Ross, broker, West Bow, in order that when he applied for a renewal of his licence it might be seen whether he should get such renewal. There was no doubt about the guilt of the girl. As she was working along with her sister she must have known that the articles were stolen. He therefore ordered her to be imprisoned for 15 days, and thereafter be sent to a reformatory for five years.

Edinburgh Evening News, 30th September 1874


CHARGE OF RESET OF THEFT BY A TINSMITH - Henry Adams, tinsmith, West Port, was charged at the City Police Court, to-day, with reset of theft. It was alleged that he bought fourteen lamps and six lamp shades, the property of Young's Paraffin Oil Company, Lochrin, knowing them to have been stolen. Mr Mair, advocate, instructed by Mr Wight, law agent, defended. Mr Davidson, manager at the works, identified the lamps as the property of the company. He saw the lamps in the window of the prisoner's shop, and on going in with Detective Ferguson they found twelve lamps and six shades. On being asked where he had got them, the prisoner said, with some hesitation, that he had bought them from a girl of about 16. He did not know how the girl had got them, and he had paid her from ls 4d to ls for them. The cost price was about 4s, and the retail 5s 6d or per lamp. The girl, he said, sometimes brought one, sometimes two, and sometimes three lamps at one time. Prisoner denied having any lamps at his house, but on witness and the detective visiting it, they found two lamps in use on the kitchen mantelpiece. The foreman at the company's works also identified the lamps. Catherine Ferguson (now under sentence of sixty days' imprisonment for the theft of the lamps) deponed that about four months ago she began to purloin lamps from the company's premises. These she gave to her little sister to sell. Rachael Ferguson stated that she took the lamps to prisoner's shop, and no questions whatever were asked as to how she came by them. She got the price she asked for them— viz , from ls 4d to ls 6d, never more. She had sold lamps at other places, and no questions had been asked. Detective Ferguson corroborated Mr Davidson's evidence. In defence, evidence as to former character of accused was led. The magistrate (Bailie Howden), said that though he had carefully attended to the case, it was surrounded by such considerable difficulties that he would take couple of days to consider his verdict. Decision will accordingly be given on Thursday.

Edinburgh Evening News, 13th October 1874


up 1875


THEFT OF COAL - At the Edinburgh Sheriff Summary Court yesterday, before Sheriff Hamilton, a man named Robert Neilson, a shoemaker, residing at West Calder, was charged with stealing a piece of coal weighing 14lbs. from a coal bing at No.10 Shale Pit, Mossend. The theft was committed on the 10th of July. The prisoner pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment.

Edinburgh Evening News, 23rd November 1875


up 1877


SHOCKING MURDER AT ADDIEWELL - One of those sad occurrences which ever now and then bring unpleasantly to light the irregular life of a portion of our mining population took place at Addiewell, near West Calder, late Saturday night. The scene of the murder - for there seems no doubt that the affair is of this melancholy nature - is a cluster of cottages that has been called into existence in immediate Young's chemical works - a concern so extensive to give employment to about a thousand persons. James Pattison, the person killed, has, according to the statements of those intimate with him, been resident in the village for eleven years. Prior to his settling in this quarter, he had, it is stated, occupied a respectable position in Glasgow, where he carried on the business of a druggist. On removing to Addiewell, he obtained employment at the chemical works in connection with the gas refining department, and in this position he has since continued. Content to quietly about the neighbourhood, giving any one such help he was often asked for - prescribing simple remedies for a child in one house, explaining the " hard bits of books" in another, translating, it is said, in one case, some Latin phrase which had completely puzzled a divinity student - he never indicated that he hoped for anything better, but replied to any suggestions as the desirability of exertion with the remark that he was too old to begin life a second time, and showed an active interest only in furthering work connected with the Free Church. the local congregation he had for some time been prominent member, and in its service he may be said to have spent the last hours of his life. On Saturday he passed the afternoon in his usual regular way, taking no drink, and at early hour in the evening he started on a round of calls for the purpose of collecting the monthly subscriptions due to the Sustentation Fund. This business he finished shortly after eight o'clock, after which he repaired to a house in Campbell Street to visit an intimate acquaintance. Here he spent nearly three hours, occupying the time with singing and music, of which he was extremely fond. At eleven o'clock he left his friend's cottage perfectly sober, but here all certainty regarding his movements ends. Whether or not he had been led by the pleasantness of the night to stroll short distance along the road, or whether he had spent the time company with some other friend, is not yet known; all that has been ascertained - and even about this there is an apparent want of reliableness - is that about midnight, while passing up Campbell Street, he stopped at the door next the house where he had passed the evening, and asked for a drink of water from woman with whom he said to have been pretty well acquainted. Within a short time after this occurrence - if such a thing really happened - a man named Kitchen, who lives in the middle of the street in question, on going to his door to " have a look at the night" before retiring to bed, had his attention attracted by the sight of a couple of men behaving in what seemed rather odd way at the north end of the row - the opposite end to that which the houses previously alluded to are situated. At first Kitchen thought the men were throwing stones the door of house occupied by his daughter, he heard the sound as if a blow falling upon some hard substance; but almost immediately afterwards he noticed that the men were struggling, and that the struggle was brought to a close by one of them being thrown to the ground. No sooner was the tussle over than the supposed assailant made off with all possible speed; and, induced by this circumstance to satisfy himself as to the real nature the occurrence, Kitchen cautiously made his way to the spot where the fallen man lay, still a little suspicious, it would seem, as to the whole affair, and taking care to guard against being himself led into any trap. On getting to the end of the street, however, he discovered that the man lay quite unconscious in the gutter, with his face to the ground, his head and clothes being saturated with blood, of which a pool had already gathered. Running back to his cottage, with his own hands besmeared with blood. Kitchen called his son; and, with the assistance thus gained, lifted the unfortunate sufferer from the ground, and, placing him a reclining posture against the wall of the house, left him charge of his son while he himself carried the alarm the local policeman, whose house was not far off. In the interval that elapsed before the arrival this officer, the wounded man remained almost motionless, never giving any indication of consciousness except once, when he feebly raised his hands towards his head. When examined by the light of the policeman's lamp, the face was seen to be that of Pattison; and accordingly the unfortunate man was removed to his lodgings in Graham Street, into which, however, only a lifeless body was carried. While this was being done, the quiet of Campbell Street was, it is alleged, disturbed, in the hearing of at least one woman, by repeated knock at a certain door, accompanied by cries of, " Let me in, Mary, let me in." Any clue that this circumstance might have afforded was not, however, followed up, and night passed without any apprehension being made. With as little delay as possible, medical advice was procured from West Calder - too late, of course, to of any avail - while the neighbouring police stations were also communicated with. On examination of Pattison's body, it was found that his face was a good deal bruised about the right eye - the effect, it thought, blow ; while the fatal wound was discovered to ugly, gash immediately above the right ear, evidently inflicted with a sharp piece of shale picked up close to the body in a tell-tale, bloody state. In the course yesterday afternoon, Mr Stuart, Procurator-Fiscal for the county Edinburgh, visited the village, in company with Littlejohn, and post-mortem examination of the body was made, disclosing, we believe, the fact that death bad been brought about as stated. Previous to this the police, following certain suspicions, had apprehended a man named, we believe, Hugh O'Neill a charge being concerned in the murder. O'Neill, stated, was, like Pattison, employed at the chemical works; but though they had thus some knowledge of one another, the men, so far as can he gathered, have had no quarrel. In the course of the evening they had, is asserted, been seen speaking to one another, but no high words any indications misunderstanding were then noticed. At the same time it should be mentioned that the woman n Campbell Street from whom the deceased is said to have got a drink of water is alleged to have been on intimate terms with O'Neill. It is further asserted that the latter was seen in the neighbourhood of the house in question shortly before twelve o'clock, and in these circumstances it has been suggested that some wild feeling of jealousy might have led to the fatal affair. The deceased, it may be added, supposed have been about thirty-six years of age. Whether he has any relations resident in Glasgow is not known, the only persons whom he was in the habit of speaking about as friends being the Rev. Dr. Bonar and Dr. McEwan, both resident the west.


THE ADDIEWELL MURDER - Hugh O'Neil, who was apprehended on a charge of murdering James Pattison, gas refiner at Young's Chemical Works, Addiewell on the morning of the 18th inst, was by instructions of the Crown Counsel liberated from the Prison of Edinburgh yesterday, on the grounds that there was not sufficient evidence to bring the murder home to him.

Evening Telegraph, 19th November 1877 and Evening Telegraph, 1st December 1877


up 1886


BREACH OF THE MINING REGULATIONS - William Campbell, a mine overseer, from Straiton, parish of Lasswade, was fined £2, with the alternative of ten days' imprisonment, to-day before Sheriff Rutherford in the Summary Court, for having contravened the laws for the regulation of mines, by having, between March and April, failed to see that place No.13 of the pit over which he had charge, was properly fenced to prevent accident.

Southern Reporter, 19th August 1886


DESPERATE FIGHT AT BROXBURN - MAN KILLED - At an early hour on Tuesday morning a disgraceful fight took place at Broxburn, Linlithgowshire, which resulted in the death of one of the combatants. It appears that two men named respectively John Armstrong and Daniel MacAlenan, both retortmen in the employment of the Broxburn Oil Company, and residing at Stewartfield, had quarrelled, and agreed to fight the matter out at supper time. At the time agreed upon the two men, accompanied, it is said, by their seconds, adjourned to a field adjoining the work. After fighting for about half-an-hour, MacAlenan struck Armstrong under the chin, felling him to the ground. On being raised up Armstrong was unable to speak, and appeared to be in a semi-conscious condition. He was then carried to the works, and Dr Freeland, Broxburn, was soon in attendance, and ordered his immediate removal to his home, but while this was being done he expired on the way, never having regained consciousness. About an hour elapsed before information was given to the police, and it was not till night that MacAlenan was apprehended. The deceased was about twenty-four years of age, unmarried, and resided with his parents at Holygate, Broxburn. Very little is known of MacAlenan, who is twenty-seven years of age, and only recently came to Broxburn.

Southern Reporter, 19th August 1886


up 1888


THEFT OF WEARING APPAREL - At the Linlithgow Sheriff Court on Friday – before Sheriff-Substitute Melville - Peter Hynds, miner, with no fixed residence, was convicted of having, on 16th July, stolen a suit of clothes and a pair of socks from a dwelling house at Greendykes Rows, Broxburn. Two previous convictions were recorded against him, and the Sheriff sentenced him to 60 days' imprisonment with hard labour.

Falkirk Herald, 8th September 1888


up 1889


ASSAULT IN A SHALE MINE - John Murray, miners' drawer, residing at Winchburgh, was charged with having on 12th inst., assaulted a miners' drawer named Charles Anderson, in No.6 shale mine, Hopetoun, belonging to Young's Light and Mineral Oil Coy (Limited). He was fined 5s, with the alternative of 24 hours' imprisonment.

Falkirk Herald, 23rd February 1889


up 1890


NATIONALITY AN IMPEDIMENT TO FRIENDSHIP - Janet Goodall, Mary M'Donald, and Margaret Reevie, all hailing from Stankard Rows, Uphall, were charged with assaulting a woman named Helen Garrigan, residing there, and at the same time creating a disturbance by throwing stones at the door of the house, emptying a barrel of water on the floor, and otherwise behaving in an unseemly manner. It appeared that the disturbance had arisen through some child's quarrel, and the woman stated that she was obliged to fly for her life from the attacks of the other women. Mr Macdonald, solicitor, who appeared for the accused, mentioned that two of the women were Scotch and one Irish, and that the Irish residents objected to the Irish women associating with their Scotch neighbours. The police constable stated that he had great difficulty getting information about the case, as most of the inhabitants of the place were Irish, and would not say anything against one another. He characterised it as a most disgraceful row, and fined the accused 12s 6d each, or seven days' imprisonment.

Falkirk Herald, 7th May 1890


up 1891


ALLEGED CULPABLE HOMICIDE IN FIFESHIRE - In Cupar yesterday - before Sheriff Mackay and a jury – Hugh Lynch, a shale miner at Binnend, near Burntisland, was charged with having on 21st November last, in No.1 Shale Mine of the Burntisland Oil Company, while working in company with the deceased Patrick Kelly, a drawer or miner, also employed there, and being engaged in filling and lowering hutches of shale in an upset brae in said mine to Kelly, and it being his duty to see that the chain by which the hutches were lowered was properly hooked or attached to the hutches before pushing off or lowering them, he did, in breach of that duty, push over and lower down, said brae a hutch with loaded shale without hooking or attaching or seeing that it was properly done, in consequence of while the hutch ran violently the brae, at the foot of which Kelly was working, and, coming into contact with an empty hutch at the foot of the brae, compressed Patrick Kelly between the empty hutch and the stoop side or shale wall, causing internal injuries from which he shortly thereafter dies, On the charge being read, Lynch pleaded not guilty, and evidence was led, Mr Pagan, W.S, acting an agent for the accused, Patrick Monaghan, a miner, said accused and another man were engaged that evening in filling the hutches at the top of the brae. It was the duty of the deceased to remove the hutch when it came to the foot of the brae. That night witness was working at a little distance from Kelly, and he had an opportunity of seeing what he was doing. He heard Kelly give the signal, and the full tub came down without the chain attached. It came down like a shot, the empty one not being away. The deceased jumped behind the empty one, and the force of the full hutch against the empty one compressed Kelly against the wall. Witness ran and was helped by others to extricate the deceased, who only breathed and expired almost immediately. Mr Pagan cross-examined the witness at some length as to the methods of working. He considered it a very dangerous thing for Kelly to have gone behind the empty hutch. Supposing the chain had broken, he would have been killed. There was room for him standing at either side, where he might have escaped. Witness had seen hooks come out of the chains on a few occasions. In answer to the Sheriff, witness said that in an ordinary way there were no hooking of the hutches at the top. Something must have gone wrong with the chain if it was necessary to attach it to the hook. It was the duty of the man at the top to put it in if he saw it. In a general way the hutches were pushed off without being examined. Hugh McLeish, a miner, gave evidence. For the defence, James Corigan and James Simpson, miners, were examined, who gave instances in which they had known such hooks to get detached. The Fiscal and Mr Pagan having addressed the jury, the Sheriff summed up. While he thought it right in such cases that an inquiry should be properly made, he was distinctly of opinion that that case was one for injury only. He did not think that they could, as reasonable men, arrive at a conclusion which would attach a criminal responsibility to the prisoner. It was for the jury to consider whether on the whole evidence that there was gross negligence to entitle them to make a verdict that would compel him to pass a criminal sentence on accused. The jury having retired, returned, after an absence of five minutes, with a unanimous verdict of not guilty. His Lordship, in dismissing Lynch from the bar, said he trusted nothing that had occurred at the trial would at all relax the necessary vigilance which should be given by men to such works as they were employed and though there was no criminal responsibility attaching to him in this instance it did not at all follow that there was no moral responsibility, and he hoped that the trial would lead to increased carefulness in the future.

Dundee Courier, 20th January 1891


up 1893


ALLEGED ASSAULT WITH A PICK - William Easton, miner, Bathville, Bathgate was apprehended by the Armadale police yesterday charged with assaulting his wife with a miner's pick. She received a severe wound on the left arm three-quarters of an inch deep. Accused was today judicially examined before the sheriff at Linlithgow and committed to prison.

Edinburgh Evening News, 27th February 1893


ATTACK WITH A HUTCH "SNIBBLE" - John Park, miner, Kingscavil Rows, was, at the Sheriff Court on Wednesday - before Sheriff Melville - charged with assaulting a fellow workman named Walter Meikle, in No.2 shale mine, Ochiltree, belonging to the Linlithgow Oil Company. It was stated that he had dealt Meikle a blow on the forehead with the "snibble" by which complainer had been seriously injured, and had been under medical treatment since the date of the assault, 8th inst. Accused, who is a lad of about 19, pleaded guilty. Mt John Thom, solicitor, stated that two "snibbles" had been conveyed to the face of the mine, where they were discovered by one Nicol. The "snibble" that Park had been working with was too short, and in consequence was a source of annoyance. Park received the larger of the two from Nicol, and the small one of course was left. Another man had carried the "snibble" down the mine while accused was at his side. They were overtaken by Meikle, who claimed the "snibble," and the man who had it at the time handed it over. Park, however, stepped in, and would not hear tell of Meikle getting it, and a scuffle ensued for the ownership of it, in the course of which, it is said, Meikle struck accused on the face. Park succeeded in gaining possession of the piece of iron, and in the heat of the moment he dealt Meikle a blow on the forehead with the point of it. Accused had hitherto borne a good character, and on account of accused's youth Mr Thom asked his Lordship to be as lenient as possible. The Sheriff imposed a fine of £2, or three weeks' imprisonment.

Linlithgowshire Gazette, 25th March 1893


up 1895


MINERS ATTACK A WOMAN - At Linlithgow Sheriff Court to-day, John M'Leish, miner; Charles M'Leish, drawer; and John Brady, miner, all from Bathville, Bathgate, were each sent 30 days to jail for having committed a brutal assault upon woman residing at Northrigg. kicking her and knocking out one of her teeth.

Edinburgh Evening News, 12th July 1895


up 1896


A VIRAGO SENT TO JAIL - At Linlithgow Sheriff Court today, Mary Kennedy, wife of a labourer at Stankard Rows, Uphall was sent (sic) a month to jail for pulling the hair of another woman and beating her.

Edinburgh Evening News, 8th July 1896


up 1897


HITTING A MAN WITH A SHOVEL - In the Edinburgh Sheriff Summary Court today, Richard Johnstone was fined 10s, with the option of five days' imprisonment, for assaulting an engineman named Beck at No.8 shale mine, Straiton, by hitting him with a shovel to the effusion of blood.

Edinburgh Evening News, 27th February 1897


SMART SENTENCE ON NEGLIGENT PARENTS - At Linlithgow Sherriff Court to-day, Allan Brown, senior, miner, Bathville Rows, Bathgate, and Isabella Sayers or Brown, his wife, were charged with neglecting their five children, all under 16 years of age, by failing to supply them with clothing and sufficient food. They pleaded not guilty, but were convicted on evidence, and sentenced to 60 days' imprisonment each.

Edinburgh Evening News, 24th March 1897


up 1898


SERIOUS ASSAULT AT WEST CALDER - Before Sheriff Rutherfurd at a pleading diet of Edinburgh Sheriff Criminal Court to-day, Thomas Leitch, a miner, living at West Calder, was charged with having assaulted Alexander Wardrope, a shale inspector, to the danger of his life. He pleaded guilty only to striking the man once, and the procurator fiscal, Mr Stuart, accepted the plea. An agent on behalf of the accused explained that the day on which the assault took place was kept in West Calder as New Year's Day, and Leitch, who was usually a sober man, unfortunately got the worse for drink, and meeting some friends, including Wardrope, they got into an argument respecting retorts and shale mining, which ended in the accused striking Wardrope one blow on the side of the head. The agent read a letter from the injured man, stating that he thought the assault was quite unintentional, and they had all along been good friends and intended to continue so. The Prosecutor Fiscal stated that the injury was caused by Wardrope's head coming in contact with the ground, and he was unconscious for a time, but was now out of danger. The Sheriff said there were two previous convixtions against the accused for assault, on in 1873, when he received a sentence of three months' hard labour for assaulting two constables, and the other in 1892, when he was fined £1 for assaulting a woman. The blow on the present occasion must have been a very violent one, but he did not seem to have contemplated the consequence of the act, and in consideration of his having been already a fortnight in prison, he would limit the sentence to one of other 14 days' imprisonment.

Edinburgh Evening News, 27th January 1898


TAKING A COUNTRY WALK AND ITS SEQUEL - At Linlithgow Sheriff Court on Saturday - before Sheriff-Substitute Macleod - Andrew McCrorie, miner, Bathville, Armadale, was charged with stealing two brass bushes, weighing 23 lbs, or thereby, from Boghead Brickworks, Armadale. Accused pleaded guilty, stating in extenuation that he had been taking a walk, and had gone to this place to have a drink of water at a little well, but that had no intention of stealing the brass, because it would practically be of no use to him. It was pointed out that he had been twice previously convicted of dishonest appropriation of property. The Sheriff passed sentence of three weeks imprisonment, with hard labour.

Falkirk Herald, 13th July 1898


SUSPICIOUS AFFAIR NEAR UPHALL - The Broxburn police are investigating the circumstances connected with the death of a man named James Sweeney, 40 years of age, a miner residing a Pumpherston. It is stated that Sweeney was met by several people between Uphall and Uphall Station Rows on Friday evening last proceeding homewards, and that in reply to some remarks about his appearance, Sweeney said he had been kicked. He was found dead on Sarturday afternoon beneath a hedge not far from Pumpherston cycle track. The constable at Pumpherston reported the matter to Inspector Hodge, Broxburn, Sweeney having been found just within Linlithgow County. The body was conveyed to Uphall Police Station, where Dr Stewart mnade an examination of it. He, however, was unable to discover any marks of violence upon the body; but Dr Littlejohn, Edinburgh, made a post-mortem examination upon it yesterday, when he found that Sweeney had sustained a fracture of the skull, which, together with the exposure, had been the cause of death. It has been learned that Sweeney was to have attended the marriage of a brother at Uphall Station Rows on Friday night, but did not appear at the wedding. The Procurator-Fiscal of the county, Mr W.H. Henderson; Superintendent Robinson, and Detective Goodwin, along with the local police, have the case in hand, and are endeavouring to obtain information as to Sweeney's companions on Friday night. Up till last night, however, little information of value had been procured.

Glasgow Herald, 10th August 1898


up 1902


RAID ON "SOSH" MYSTERIOUS OUTRAGE AT WEST CALDER - Late on Saturday night or early on Sunday morning burglars forced entrance into Gavieside Co-Operative Store West Calder. The burglary was a daring one, as the store is situated close to the houses of the miners who compose the members, and had the burglars been discovered they would have been roughly handled. The idea does not seem have been to secure plunder so much as simply to work destruction. The goods in the shop were found strewn everywhere, and hams and provisions were found out on the moss in front of the premises. The manager's desk was forced, and the papers outside. The police authorities were at once informed of the burglary, and they are making close investigations into the affair.

Evening Telegraph, 24th February 1902


up 1903


ASSAULT ON AN ICE-CREAM VENDOR - At Linlithgow today, John Dempster, labourer, was charged with assaulting an assistant ice-cream vendor named Bratzani Guilo, at Greendykes Rows, Broxburn, by striking him on the head with a piece of spent shale. It was stated that accused, with some other lads, had been annoying the complainer while he was vending his ice-cream on the public road, and that his head was rather badly cut. Accused was fined 10s, or seven days' imprisonment.

Edinburgh Evening News, 18th August 1903


up 1906


ALLEGED EMBEZZLEMENT BY WEST CALDER MINER - A young man named Thomas Brown, who described himself as a shale miner, residing at Gavieside Row, West Calder, gave himself up to the police at Wishaw, stating" that he had been guilty of embezzling the funds of the Gavieside Reading Room, West, Calder for which he acted treasurer. The Mid-Lothian police were communicated with, and last night they took Brown in charge pending inquiries. It is understood that the alleged defalcations amount to over £20.

Edinburgh Evening News, 11th January 1906


up 1913


HIGHWAY ROBBERY NEAR BROXBURN - A trade union collector named Andrew Muir, residing at Livingston Station, West Lothian, was on Wednesday evening the victim of a daring assault and robbery on the public highway. Mr Muir, who is a miner, and undertakes the collection of Shale Miner's Association contributions in his district, had completed his collection at the village of Dechmont, and, with £5 in his possession, which represented a month's drawings, he was proceeding to Livingston Station, where he was to meet the treasurer and his local committee. At a lonely part of the road, midway between Bathgate and Broxburn, he was accosted by two men, one of whom asked for a light. Mr Muir had scarcely replied stating that he and no matches when a hand was thrust over his mouth, and he was pinned to the ground. In the struggle that ensued he received two wounds in the face, his pockets were torn open, and the money was stolen. Beyond noting that the men spoke with a Glasgow accent, the collector could not describe the men, as it was dark. The police in the southern part of West Lothian made a thorough search of their district but could find no trace of the men.

The Scotsman, 26th December 1913


up 1921





The trial took place in the High Court, Edinburgh, yesterday, before Lord Anderson and a mixed jury, of three young miners belonging to Livingstone, near Bathgate, on charges of assault and robbery, the principal indictment being in connection with the sensational hold-up near Mid-Calder on 26th August last of a mine manager who was carrying in a motor car £2000 for the payment of miner's wages.

The names of the accused men are William Coleman, Thomas Ruddy and Patrick Dempsey.  Coleman and Ruddy were charged with having, on July 9, at the house at Mount Hooley Ecclesmachan, West Lothian, assaulted Mrs Mary Main, widow of James Main, ploughman, and seized hold of her by the arms, and threatened her with further violence by brandishing revolvers and pistols, and with having robbed her of a purse and £1, 5s.  All three were charged with having on the 25th August, on the public road at Letham Farm road end, Mid-Calder, assaulted James Balfour Sneddon, mine manager, Calderbank House, Mid-Calder, and William McQuiston, motor car driver, Bank Street, Mid-Calder, by striking them, and with having robbed them of a bag containing £2000,  Coleman was further charged with having fired two revolver shots at Sneddon and McQuiston with intent to murder them.
All the accused pleaded not guilty, and a special defence of alibi was intimated.
The Hon William Watson KC Advocate Depute conducted the case on behalf of the Crown, and Mr Archibald Crawford appeared for the accused.



Evidence was led at the outset with regard to the first charge.

Mrs Mary Main (70) entered the box and stated that on the evening of 9th July, about eight o'clock, she was in a wood adjoining her house gathering sticks, when two men on bicycles came to her house and asked for milk.  She replied that it was not a farm, and offered them a drink of water.  When she entered the house to get the water they followed her inside and asked for eggs.  She gave them half a dozen, and while she had her purse in her hand awaiting payment one of them, whom she identified as the accused Coleman, a small, thick-set, dark man, snatched it out of her hands.  The other, who was taller, with fair complexion, but whom she could not recognise as Ruddy, caught hold of her arm.  Both presented pistols and asked her to hold up her hands, but she “never did it”, Coleman searched the drawers of the house while the other man held the witness, but she managed to get away and ran to the adjoining house, occupied by people named Jamieson.  She knocked on the window and Miss Jamieson came out.  By this time the men were making off, and as they did so they brandished pistols.  She had identified Coleman at the Police Station in Edinburgh at the time the affair took place, she would say he must have two personalities (Laughter.)
The Miss Jamieson spoken to by previous witness stated that when she looked into Mrs Main's house she saw two men, one of whom was rummaging through the drawers of the house.  On one of the men threatening her with a revolver she turned and ran out of the house.  She identified Coleman and Ruddy as the men.
Other witnesses were heard, including the police, in regard to the identification of the prisoners.


The story of the hold-up of the motor car and the attempted robbery of the £2000 was then told by Mr Sneddon in the witness box.  He stated that it was part of his duty to convey money to pay miners' wages from the Clydesdale Bank, Mid-Calder to the office of the Scottish Oils Company (Limited), in Winchburgh.  He did so by means of a motor car driven by a chauffeur.  On the morning of 26th August he called at the bank about five minutes to nine, and was given a leather bag containing £2000 from the bank agent. Of this sum £200 was in silver and copper and the bag would weigh between 50 lb and 60 lb.  When about half a mile from Mid-Calder, and on approaching the road leading to the farm of Letham , he noticed some movement behind the hedge about 100 yard up the road.  One man came out on a cycle, and tumbled on the road on the side that the motor was travelling. The man appeared to have tumbled rather badly off the cycle, and lay full length on the road.  Just as witness's car was nearing the scene another man appeared, who began to handle the prostrate man as though he was an epileptic case.  The car was slowed down, and when stopped within a few yards of the man a third party appeared.  Witness stepped out of the car and by the time he had walked to the rear of it two of the men suddenly fell upon witness and the chauffeur, dealing them smashing blows with their fists.  Witness was dealt a heavy blow on the face, a sucession of blows being rained on his head and face, driving him gradually back until he was six or eight yards from the car, where he fell, partly on the road and partly on the grass.  The man then kicked him on the front of the body and on the right leg.  He could hear a scuffle going on between the chauffeur and one of the other men, but he was himself more that fully occupied to know what was happening in the drivers case.  He ultimately got on his feet and called to a man named Thomas Stark, who he knew was following up the road behind the car, for assistance.  The man who was attacking him went towards the front of the car.  The man then mounted his bicycle and rode off towards Pumpherston.


On getting to the front of the car witness discovered that the chauffeur had been knocked about a bit, and the bag of money had disappeared, as well as the other two men.  He saw the second man mounting his cycle and making off down the farm road, while the third man, who was in possession of the bag, was wrestling with it, having a piece of rope tied on to the handle, and swung round his neck, with the bag dangling down his back.  He had failed to mount his bicycle, and witness and chauffeur followed him with the car.  When twenty or thirty yards up the road he dropped the bag on the side of the rad, and then tried to mount his bicycle, and witness and the chauffeur followed him with the car.  When twenty or thirty yards up the road he dropped the bag on the side of the road, and then tried to mount his cycle, but again failing to do so he left the machine and took to his heels along the road.  Witness stopped the car, and picked up the bag, which was intact.  They then continued the pursuit of the man at full speed, but when within thirty yards of overtaking him the man, turned round and fired two shots from a revolver at witness and the chauffeur.  Both shots missed them and the car.  Before the pursuit began the man Stark had joined the witness and chauffeur in the car, and they then decided to seek the assistance of the police, returning to Mid-Calder for this purpose.  Accompanied by Inspector Gerrie of the Midlothian police, they proceeded along the farm road again in an endeavour to overtake the man.  After having gone some distance they saw someone disappear behind the hedge on the side of the road.  Witness recognised him as the man who had stolen the bag and fired the shots.  With the witnesses' assistance Inspector Gerrie searched the man upon whom was found, in the lining of his jacket, a revolver.  On being taken to the police station another revolver was found inside the lining of his jacket, but nearer the back.  There was one live and two spent cartridges in it.  Witness identified Coleman as the man who had the bag and fired the shots, Ruddy as the man who came to the assistance of the man lying on the road, whom he recognised to be Dempsey.  The latter was the man who attacked witness.

Cross-examined - Had you any difficulty in recognising the three men? Witness – I wish I could forget them. (Laughter).
William McQuiston, the chauffeur, and Thomas Willis Stark generally corroborated.  The former identified Ruddy as the man who attacked him.

Miss Brand, Post Office assistant, Mid-Calder, spoke to witnessing the attack, but stated that she could not definitely identify any of the accused as the man who passed her riding a bicycle.  Dempsey bore a slight resemblance to him.#
Inspector Gerrie also generally corroborated, and stated that at the Police Station, when charged, the accused Coleman admitted that he took part in the affair along with other two men.
Another police officer stated that when he arrested the accused Dempsey he said quite voluntarily, “I have an idea what you want me for.  I was expecting this”.

Evidence was then led for the defence.

On behalf of Ruddy's alibi in regard to the first charge. Dominic Hope, Deans, Bathgate, spoke to being in the company of James Brady, Patrick Coleman and the accused, Thomas Ruddy, on the evening of July 9 between 7 and 9.30 pm in Bathgate,  They spent most of the time in a public-house.
Cross-examined - He fixed the date July 9 because it was the night of the Orange Walk in Broxburn.  They intended going to Broxburn, but did not do so because of the Orange Walk.
James Brady and Patrick Coleman corroborated. 
Ambrose Kennay, Deans and Thomas McDonald, Essex Street, Musselburgh, spoke to being in company with Coleman and Dempsey in Edinburgh when the attack at Mount Hooley was stated to have taken place.
Mrs Wilkin, Deans, spoke to Ruddy and Dempsey having lodged with her.  The former left the house on a bicycle on the morning of 26th August about 7 o'clock going towards Uphall, on the Edinburgh road.  He returned about 9 15 am.
Another lodger generally corroborated.
Thomas Blair farm labourer, Ryans Farm, Bathgate stated that he saw the accused, Ruddy, on a bicycle on the road between Livingstone Station and the farm a few minutes past nine.
A boy farm worker named Duffy corroborated.
The last witness, Philip Callan, insurance agent spoke to having met the accused, Dempsey, three quarters of a mile from Uphall riding a bicycle about 9 15 am on August 26th and having spent the forenoon with him up to twelve o'clock.

After counsel had addressed the jury, his Lordship, in summing up, said the main charge revealed a state of affairs which was almost incredible in this law-abiding country of ours.  The incident so graphically narrated by Mr Sneddon resembled more the creation of the sensational novelist or the production of an American picture film than actual happenings within a dozen miles of the capital of Scotland.  But if the jury did their duty in this case they would make it quite clear that the organised and deliberate attempt upon the rights of society and against law and order would never succeed, but that society was always able in this country to protect itself from these outrages.  Dealing with the second charge, he said there was no doubt that this was no casual encounter between the three men and Mr Sneddon and the motorman.  The whole evidence led to the conclusion that the whole affair was a most deliberately planned outrage of the most sensational and determined character.
The jury were only absent five minutes, and returned a unanimous verdict of guilty in connection with each charge – viz. Coleman and Ruddy guilty of first charge all three guilty of second charge; and Coleman guilty of third charge.
In passing sentence of seven years' penal servitude on Coleman, his Lordship said it was a very painful task which he had to perform to sentence a young man like him for grave and serious crimes of this character.  He did not know why he was so mad as to indulge in them.  Those who endeavoured to get the better of organised society, protected by law and order, always go the worst of it at the end of the day.  He was, in his opinion, the worst of the three accused, and probably the ringleader in the main enterprise, and he could not pronounce any less sentence.
Ruddy was sentenced to five year's penal servitude and Dempsey to three years.

The Scotsman, 2nd November 1921

up 1926


A third case dealt with the theft of 17 trees from Dalmahoy estate by two Broxburn shale miners who were out of work. It was stated by the Fiscal that the wood had been conveyed to Broxburn by a carrier's lorry. The trees had been growing and were valued at £5. Sheriff Jameson fined the men £2 each, with the alternatiove of 14 days' imprisonment.

The Scotsman, 11th November 1926



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