The pioneering industry that shaped West Lothian, and changed the world.

James "Paraffin" Young's Bathgate works were perhaps the first in the world to produce refined mineral oils on a commercial scale. From this pioneering enterprise extended an oil industry centred on the Lothians shale-field that successfully competed against cheaper imported petroleum for almost a century. This fierce competition bred innovation, resilience, and a body of Scots know-how that contributed greatly towards the development of oil industries throughout the world.

This website is being developed to celebrate, exchange knowledge, and encourage research into this special heritage. Many of these on-line resources are associated with on our museum collection, which is recognised as being of national importance to Scotland.


A guide to this website, the re-use of content, details of our museum, and links to further resources.


Biographies, employment records, and other useful resources family history research.


A gazetteer of works, mines, villages, and other locations associated with the shale oil industry.


Articles and discussions about the shale oil industry and associated local histories.


A directory of shale oil companies, and associated organisations.


An illustrated catalogue of our museum collection, archives, and associated resources.

Latest additions to the site.

New story

Beneath the Runway - the shale mines of Edinburgh Airport

New story

On the Bing, waiting for the Bomb - A Royal Observer Corps post in West Calder

New collection item

An interesting postcard showing the remote community of Cobbinshaw

New collection item

A postcard view across the rooftops of Bathgate