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Scottish Oil Agency Ltd.

Constitution Limited company
Company number Registered in Scotland No.10059
Share capital not known
Date of Incorporation 16th May 1918
Date of Dissolution 6th December 1933
Registered Office 40 St Vincent Street, Glasgow (4th June 1918); 53 Bothwell Street, Glasgow (12th September 1921)
Oil Works none

A company formed under wartime conditions to combine the sales and marketing activity of the surviving Scottish shale oil companies. The following year, when these companies were amalgamated into Scottish Oils Ltd., the agreement with Scottish Oil Agency was amended, and Scottish Oil Agency became responsible for marketing and distribution of both home produced and imported oils produced by Scottish Oils and associated companies in the Anglo-Persian group.

The Scottish Oil Agency Ltd was wound-up in 1932, following the creation of Shell Mex & BP Ltd, a national marketing alliance between BP and Shell oil companies.



The directors of the company are listed below:









Scottish Oil Combine.—The Scottish Oil Agency Company (private company), capital £100,000 in £1 shares, has been registered in Edinburgh. The subscribers are:—Wm. Montgomerie, secretary, Broxburn Oil Company; Robert Miller, secretary, Oakbank Oil Company; S. W. Fraser, secretary, Pumpherston Oil Company, Glasgow; Robert Crichton, secretary. Philipstoun Oil Works, Linlithgow: A. Kerr, secretary, Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, Glasgow.

The Dundee Courier, 25th May 1918

Growth of Shale Oil Industry - WHAT THE SCOTTISH OIL AGENCY HAS DONE - A REVIVAL in the Scottish shale oil industry is one of the bright spots in these times of trade depression. The Scottish Oil Agency, Ltd., employs over 5000 men at its different centres in the Lothians. The story of the industry is a story of Scottish pluck and enterprise. Eighty years ago a Scotsman, Dr James Young, son of a Glasgow carpenter, and one of the foremost chemists in Britain, discovered an outcrop of natural crude oil in Derbyshire. He began the process of refining it, but in a few months the oil supply gave out. But this young man was undaunted. He was convinced he could find a new method of manufacturing oil, and he returned to his native country.

First Shale Pit.

At Bathgate he established plant for manufacturing oil from Boghead coal. But the coal seams at Bathgate soon gave out. One of the most amazing geological structures in the world, however, had not escaped his notice. Experimenting near Bathgate, he found that near Linlithgow, in a line running north and south, was a field of shale closely resembling, though entirely different from, the Boghead coal. He opened his first shale pit – the first in the world. It is interesting to note that it is upon the basic principles of Dr Young's Bathgate experiments that all the great oil industries of the world are founded. Then oil was unknown, except blubber oil and oil from the fats of animals and the natural oil wells, which, however, had not been put to commercial use, as the refining method was unknown. The extracting of oil from shale —a greyish heavy stone —was magic in those days. The world was revolutionised by the carpenter's son's discovery. But the Scottish shale oil industry had only been set on its feet and its inventor rewarded with wealth and fame when the battle began. Every oilfield in the world poured out the liquid oil. Dr Young's refining method was copied. America flooded the country with oil which, not having to be mined shale had, was cheaper.

War Time Prosperity.

The new Scottish industry, in spite of the fact that the one place in the world where shale found in such a condition that it allows chemical treatment is the Lothians, was soon struggling for existence. Places such as West Calder, Broxburn, Addiewell, and Tarbrax, where houses had sprung up in night to accommodate the shale oil workers, began to decline. In spite of the manufacture of oils for all domestic purposes, the industry fought a losing battle till the beginning of the war. With petrol and oils at such price and hard to obtain the Scottish shale oil industry saved Britain in a grave emergency. Grangemouth became one of the most important ports in the country. Destroyers continually guarded the oil-tankers leaving the port, and the industry had its biggest boom. Thousands of men were employed. The Lothians had never known such prosperity. But with the finish of the war American and other oils again ousted shale oil. Thousands of Lothian men, many of whose ancestors had been in the shale fields all their lives, were thrown idle.

The Revival.

Then came the Scottish Shale Oil Agency. Many smaller companies were merged, and with the application tariffs to foreign oils the industry is now prospering. Yet without the co-operation of men and employers the situation would still have been a precarious one for the Scottish oil industry. The company gave a splendid lead to the men. When four thousand men had been afforded employment and profits were for the first time being earned the company increased wages by 10 per cent, and a week or two later by 2½ per cent. To-day there are over 5000 men employed. A model housing scheme, with large gardens and commodious cottages, has been built at Middleton Hall, near Uphall, the technical headquarters of the company. The works offices are the converted Uphall Old Parish Church Manse. This manse must have been the largest manse in Scotland. When Dr Young was beginning shale mining a Scots minister driven from the Church because of debt went to Holland. If unsuccessful as a minister he made good as a diamond merchant. He came back to his charge at Uphall, and beside his church built a tremendous mansion house, which he gifted to the church as a manse after he had himself been restored to his old church as minister.

Great Organisation.

A tour of the works and pits impresses one with a sense of organising genius. At Westwood the pit has been installed throughout with endless haulage ropes right to the shale face so that working conditions for the men are ideal. The roads are about 9 to 12 feet in height, and the places about 10 feet broad, so that there plenty of working room. The only disadvantages a shale miner experiences compared with a coal miner is that he has to drill and blast, having no shale-cutter as miner has coal-cutting machines, and the shale has to be drilled and blasted in every case. The shale is also much heavier than coal, weighing cwt. to a cubic foot. From Westwood Pit, near West Calder, the shale is hauled by automatic windlass bogeys to Deans Crude Oil Works, three miles away. It there fed into the retorts, and after passing through a chemical process of retorting and condensing comes out crude oil. The oil is then led in pipes to Pumpherston Refineries, where it passes through a magic series of processes. It is refined to make motor spirit, wax, ammonia sulphate, which is largely in use now as a fertiliser, smokeless cokes, naphtha, lubricating oils, and a safety oil with a high ignition point for use in mines and other industries where ordinary oil would be useless. Many Tests. Pumpherston refineries lead the world scientific manufacture. Every product is tested again and again to eliminate impurities. At Grangemouth two large refineries have been established for treating Persian petroleum and crude oils. The import of these oils enables the industry to carry on the manufacture of many grades of motor spirits. Thus the work of refining which would have been done in another country employs Scots labour in the refineries. James Young builded better than he knew when he built the first early retorts at Bathgate. And in the Scottish Oil Agency he has successors who worthily apply his own humane maxims to the working of the industry he created.

The Dundee Courier, 12th April 1933


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