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West Calder Oil Co.

Constitution Copartnership
Date of formation July 1862
Date of Dissolution c.1872 on formation of the West Calder Oil Co. Ltd.
Registered Office c/o Merrow & Fell, 9, Howard St. Glasgow
Oil works Gavieside oil works

One of the earliest shale oil companies.

In December 1861 Alexander Morrison Fell (in association with Robert Russel) acquired a lease to the minerals at Gavieside. In July 1862, A.M. Fell entered into partnership with his brother John Wilson Fell, Lewis Thorpe Merrow, and John Findlay to form the West Calder Oil Company.

L.T. Merrow and J.W. Fell were partners in the Merrow & Fell, Glasgow shipping agents and insurance brokers. John Findlay was a member of a prominent Glasgow merchant family involved with trade to the far east. A.M Fell (born c.1826) had followed a varied career and was listed in the 1861 census as a papermaker at Westfield mill, Torphichen.

A.M. Fell assigned the mineral lease to the partnership in lieu of capital and was appointed to a salaried position of works manager. The operation was often referred to as Fell's oil works and listed in directories under the name of A.F. Fell, although all of the financial affairs appear to have been handled through the offices of Merrow & Fell.

Concerns over the performance of the company led to action to remove A.M. Fell from his position, and in 1870 he accepted payment of £400 to leave the company. Shortly afterwards his brother James resigned from West Calder Oil Company, and also as a partner of Merrow & Fell, which continued as Lewis Thorpe Merrow & Co. Thereafter L.T. Merrow appear to have played a more active role in operation of the West Calder Oil Co., for instance, representing the company in face-to-face talks with miner's leaders. A new limited company, the West Calder Oil Co. Ltd was formed in 1872 to take forward the business.

Following the publication of the prospectus for the limited A.M. Fell sued the original partners claiming that they misrepresented the financial position of the company at the time when he accepted £400 to leave the partnership (see transcript). When this case failed he was declared bankrupt, an account of the hearing in 1873 (see transcript) telling of the string of misfortunes that befell him and his family of eight children. A.M. Fell and family were later to emigrate to Australia, where in 1876 he obtained a position as manager of an oil works at Wollongong, New South Wales. The Fell family went on to play a major role in the development of the oil industry in New South Wales, and the Scots emigree community associated with it.





NOTICE OF RETIREMENT. The Subscriber, Alexander Morrison Fell, retired from the Concern carrying on business as Shale Oil Manufacturers at Gavieside, under the Firm of The WEST CALDER OIL COMPANY. as at the 15th day of June 1870; since which date the business has continued and will in future continue to be carried on as formerly by the other Subscribers; Lewis Thorpe Merrow, John Wilson Fell, and John Findlay of Easterhill; the sole remaining partners. Glasgow, July 1, 1870.


The Edinburgh Gazette, 5th July 1870


THE Subscriber, John Wilson Fell, retired from the Concern carrying on business as Shale Oil Manufacturers at Gavieside, under the Firm of THE WEST CALDER OIL COMPANY, as at the 15th day of June 1870, since which date the business has continued, and will in future continue to be carried on as formerly by the other Subscribers, Lewis Thorpe Merrow and John Findlay of Easterhill, the sole remaining Partners. - Glasgow, July 27, 1870,

The Edinburgh Gazette, 5th August 1870


It is announced that arrangements are now being made in Glasgow for the formation of a Limited Liability Company, to take over the West Calder Oil Works, and carry them on with considerable extensions. The capital is fixed £160,000, of which about £80,000 are to be allotted for the purchase of the existing works, plant, £c. ; while the remainder will be applied to the extension the works, so far as nearly to double their limit of production.

The Falkirk Herald, 14th March, 1872


The Sequestrated Estates of LEWIS THORPE MERROW, an Individual Partner of LEWIS T. MERROW & COMPANY, of 65 Great Clyde Street, Glasgow, late Managers of the State Line Steam Ship Company, as such Partner, and as an Individual, and also as a Partner of the WEST CALDER OIL COMPANY, West Calder. BY virtue of an Order of the Sheriff-Substitute of Lanarkshire, Lewis T. Merrow hereby intimates that he has presented a Petition to the Sheriff of Lanarkshire at Glasgow, to be finally discharged of all debts contracted by him before the date of the Sequestration of his Estates, in terms of the Statutes. W., J. B., & J. KIDSTON, Agents. Glasgow, 22d December 1875.

The Edinburgh Gazette, 24th December 1875.


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