Scottish shale Scottish shale

Benhar Coal Co. Ltd.

Company number:
Scottish Company No. 389
Share capital:
19th January 1872
13th April 1892
Registered office:

31 St Andrews Square, Edinburgh (George Simpson's Office) on 31st January 1872
21 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, on 29th May 1874
31 Princess Street, Edinburgh (Chamber of Patrick Turnbull C.A.) on 1st March 1879

Oil works:

A limited company establish to take forward George Simpson's coal mining interests in the Benhar coalfield, merging with the Niddie Coal Company in 1874. Through complex and often controversial arrangements the company was at various times, proprietor of a number of oil works.




The object for which this company has been enrolled is to acquire and work the valuable Benhar coal-field, comprising more than 2,000 acres, with the pits and mineral plant connected therewith, held on lease by Mr. George Simpson, coalmaster, Benhar, Lanarkshire and Linlithgowshire. This mineral field is nearly equidistant between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and enjoys great railway advantages. It is intersected by branches of the North British and of the Caledonian Railways, and is thus put in direct connection with the larger part of Scotland and the shipping ports served by those railways. To most of the large markets it has two competing railway routes. Mr. John Geddes, of Edinburgh, who was the Royal Commissioner who reported on the Scotch coal fields in the recent Government inquiry as to the mineral resources of the country, describes some of the principal features of this coal-field. Mr. William Armstrong, of Ferry-hill, has also made a more detailed report on the field to Messrs. Chadwicks and Co., which is of a very favourable character. The advantages of this coal-held seem to be the presence of a superior coal at very moderate depth; little water in the workings; favourable situation for railway accommodation; easy access to many markets; and a widely established reputation. The railway companies take delivery of the coal on the pit-sidings. The prospectus states;

"The duration of the leases ot nearly the whole area is over thirty years. A small area is held for twenty-five years; and there are small sections held for shorter periods, the coal in which, it is known, will be easily exhausted before their expiry. The quantity of coal of the No. 1 seam (depth twenty to thirty-five fathoms) is estimated by Mr. Geddes at upwards of 4,350,000 tons, and of the No. 2 seam (depth thirty to fifty fathoms) at upwards of 4,840,000 tons, and there appears no difficulty in providing an output from these two seams, averaging 300,000 tons a-year. Each 1s. per ton of profit on this output equals 7½ per cent. per annum on the capital of the company, without taking into account any increase in the rate per cent by the gradual redemption of capital, or by investment of the sinking fund that may be set apart for this purpose. The company assumes possession as from the 1st day of January last. The purchase-money for the entire property, leases, and plant is the sum of £170,000 (to be paid partly in shares and partly in cash in proportions to be arranged with the directors, but £50,000 thereof will be in deferred shares, taking no dividend in any one year unless the net profits be sufficient to pay 15 per cent. on the whole called-up capital of the ordinary shares. But when and as soon as the net profits amount to this for two consecutive years, or in any two such years together make an aggregate of 30 per cent. on the same, the distinction between ordinary and vendors' shares will cease".

The proposed capital is £200,000, in £20,000 shares of each. Subscriptions are now invited for 15,000 of these shares of £10 each, with a deposit of £1 per share on application, £2 10s. per share on allotment, and £3 10s. one month subsequently.

Railway News, 20th January 1872



We have seldom seen a more unsatisfactory conclusion of an investigation than that which was to he submitted to the shareholders of this company at the meeting in Edinburgh yesterday. The committee of investigation, appointed some weeks ago, would appear to have been divided into two nearly equal sides, while the manager, the secretary, the vendor, the accountants, the skilled persons employed by the committee of investigation, and the engineers of the company have each contributed to the curious medley of reports, counter-reports, rejoinders, explanations, rebutters, surrebutters' and we know not else what, that have been issued in the course of the last week. On one point there would appear to be substantial agreement, that the company is in a bad way, though opinions differ as to the extent of the badness. That the capital is gone seems also to be agreed, although on this point great differences of opinion may be entertained, as it depends in a great measure on .an algebraic "unknown quantity"— namely, the quantity of easily. won coal that may be available in the currency of the leases.

Whether the company has paid too dear for its whistle, whether it is best to stop now and encounter the first loss, or to go on and hope for better days, whether the profits and dividends have been inflated in the past, and whether the experts have rightly estimated their value for the future, whether affairs have not been badly managed in the manner of constructing the "crushed" pit, and expensively in the method of all-day working with a triple shift of men,—these are questions which, instead of elucidating, the committee of investigation seem to have darkened by division and wrangling amongst themselves. While we sympathise to some extent with that section of the committee who, taking the inspecting engineer's estimate of a reduced profit, allege that a colliery concern yielding any profit at present must be worth carrying on, it seems manifest that, without further light from some responsible body, the members of which can agree as to the facts and probabilities of the case, no proper understanding can be arrived at: It has been thought by many that the City of Glasgow Bank disclosures have proved that Scotland has lost some of its business honour. Is the contusion and wrangling over the Benhar failure to be similarly accepted as proof that Scotland and Scottish traders have lost, their business shrewdness and common sense?

Railway News, 28th December 1878

  • Associated references
    • Registration Records transcribed from dissolved company records held by the National Archives of Scotland.

    Share certificate, LVSAV2014.054