West Calder Co-operative Society’s Ambulance Waggon

In 1874 some shale miners in West Calder, in the midst of a protracted strike, resolved to set up a new enterprise  – a Co-operative Society. And so the following year, with capital of only £70, the town’s store was opened.

west calder co-op
The West Calder Co-op Society’s first store LVSAV2006.001

Over the next few years the committee set about strengthening the venture, obtaining new properties, and expanding into surrounding towns. But the primary goal of the Society was to benefit its members by selling goods at an affordable price, and then using any profits to provide further advantages.

At the turn of the century the Co-operative Society bought an Ambulance Waggon for use by its members and others. Those using it would be charged a fee.

The use of the Waggon was overseen by the Society’s Educational Committee, as highlighted here in this lovely flyer we’ve just accessioned into the collection.

Flyer regarding the cost of West Calder’s Ambulance Waggon LVSAV2017.066

The flyer is signed by the Secretary of the Educational Committee, a man called William Barrons. So we decided to do a little digging and guess what … we came across a photograph of him.

educational committee
The Society’s Educational Committee (Barrons is in the middle of the back row) LVSAV2006.001

The Educational Committee very much sums up the ethos of the West Calder Co-operative Society, its primary aim to was to provide educational training for Society members and their families. To further this aim an Educational Department was created in 1890. Medals were awarded to schoolchildren who excelled, nursing classes were started in 1893, and dressmaking classes proved so popular that 250 members enrolled.

Over the years Ambulance Waggons served West Lothian’s shale communities well. Here’s one example:

Two shale miners – Robert Hendry, senior, and his son, Robert Hendry, jun. – residing at Port Buchan, Broxburn, were injured as the result of a shot going off unexpectedly while they were at work yesterday on Hayscraig Mine, belonging to the Broxburn Oil Company. Both men sustained numerous small puncture wounds in the body, and were removed home in an ambulance wagon.

Daily Record, 1st July 1914

Accidents in the Shale Industry

From almost the first day of the shale industry one thing was ever-present – accidents. The men who pulled the shale from the bowels of the earth, much like their counterparts in the collieries, were killed and maimed in huge numbers.

The staff and volunteers at the Museum of the Scottish Shale Oil Industry are listing all known deaths and injuries on its website. What became apparent as we were adding these to the site was that the vast majority fell into one of three categories – explosion, crushing and falling shale.

Vigil at Burngrange, 1947 (LVSAV2016.121)

Continue reading “Accidents in the Shale Industry”