Scottish shale Scottish shale

West Lothian Oil Co. Ltd.

Company number:
Registered in Scotland, No. 1285
Share capital:
5th October 1883
23rd November 1895
Registered office:

3 Hope Street, Edinburgh
196 St Vincent Street, Glasgow (14th June 1886)
12 St Vincent Street, Glasgow (20th June 1888)

Oil works:

A limited company established to purchase mineral rights and construct an oil works at Deans, and also take over a refinery at Benhar. Like many schemes promoted by George Simpson, the assets purchased by the new company were greatly overvalued. The initial board, led by the Provost of Bathgate, Donald Tulloch Sutherland, proved inexperienced and inept, and within two years had lost the confidence of shareholders. In the opinion of one shareholder, he had never encountered "a more loosely, a more slovenly, a more disgracefully managed concern than the West Lothian Oil Company"

A new board was elected, led by Robert Thompson Pattison, of the Dalmeny Oil Co. Ltd., who brought great practical experience of oil production and shale mining. Despite Provost Sutherland's efforts to disrupt the meetings of the new board, it was agreed to reduce the nominal capital of the company to £75,000 and invest funds in further development of the works and mines. Although successfully developing its mining interests, the company became increasingly indebted and failed in 1891. Many of the company's assets at Deans were subsequently purchased by the Pumpherston Oil Co. Ltd.


The directors of the company are listed below. Information is patchy:

  • Provost Donald Tulloch Sutherland - 1883-1886/87 (Chairman from 1883-before 1886/87)
  • A. Brownlee - 1883-1885/86
  • David Greig - 1883-before 1887
  • John Kolbe Milne - 1883-1885/86
  • Archibald Simpson - 1883-1885/86
  • William Holmes - after 1885/86-unknown
  • James Jones - after 1885/86-unknown
  • Peter Glendinning - 1886-around 1887
  • Robert Thompson Pattison - before 1887-after 1890(Chairman from1886/87-after 1890)
  • Bailie Henry Walker - before 1887-?
  • Gideon Brown - before 1887-?
  • J.D. Walker - before 1887-?
  • Hugh Mair - unknown-before 1892


  • George Andrew - unknown
  • D.G. Hoey - before 1887-


  • Benhar Oil Works,
  • Deans Oil Works
  • Mineral leases in the lands of Deans, Boghall, Caputhall, and Drumcross, with associated mines etc.

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

    Resouces from the BP Archive


    • 142811 - Report of the proceedings of the Special General Meeting of the members, held on 5th October 1887
    • 143043 - Director's report and balance sheet as at 31st March 1887
    • 143047 - Prospectus of the West Lothian Oil Company, dated September 1882

    Note - these large pdf files may take some time to download.

  • Newspaper references
    • ACTION AGAINST THE WEST LOTHIAN OIL COMPANY - Lord McLaren, in the Court of Session today, gave judgement in an action at the instance of Thomas Gibson, farmer, Barracks, near Livingstone, against the West Lothian Oil Company. Pursuer asked for declaratory that since 1884 the defenders had illegally carried on the manufacture of oil, and had formed a bing of spent shale on the lands of Dean, within 700 yards of his dwelling-house, creating gaseous effluvia and smoke of a nauseous and noxious character, injurious, not only to the health of pursuer and his family, but also to the stock on his farm. He asked for £800 for the damage which he had sustained, and interdict against the company continuing the process complained of, or for £2500, as damages. Pursuer stated that he held the farm on a lease for 21 years from Martinmas 1867, and alleged that a number of his cattle and sheep were poisoned by mineral oils and deposits, distributed over his lands and in the drainage. The crops had deteriorated, and could not now, he said, be sold owing to their being tainted with the defenders manufacture. The pasture was covered with soot and mineral oil deposits, and was unfit for food. The works were increasing every day, thus causing additional nuisance, but stated that, in order to avoid the expense of further litigation, without admitting the pursuer's claim, they were ready to offer £40 in full of all claims. His lordship, after adverting to the voluminous proof which had been taken and expense thereby incurred, "utterly disproportionate to the importance of the case,' said that it came out in evidence that the pursuer accepted £10 in full of his claims on the 16th March, 1885. He had, therefore, only to consider the damage subsequent to that date. Dealing with the question of damage to stock, Lord M'Laren said that although traces of oil were found in some of the carcases, paraffin oil was so generally used that he could not say it was impossible that it might have been introduced into the carcase through accident or carelessness, and the pursuer's refusal to give the defenders the opportunity of testing the evidence was an unfavourable feature of the case. Pursuer was shut up to the conclusion that the sheep died through eating grass contaminated by smoke, and that they should die by the score from that cause was to his apprehension extravagant. He therefore came to the conviction that the conclusions for damage to stock were unfounded. As to the damaged crops he could not lay aside the experience of experts. He did not doubt their statements, but he did not think that that cause of injury existed to any considerable extent, and he therefore granted absolvitor with expenses.

      Edinburgh Evening News, 23rd November 1886


      Stoppage of a Shale Oil Work.—The work of the West Lothian Oil Company at Deans, near Bathgate, the seat of the shale industry in Scotland, have been closed. Attempts have been made to work only that part of the seam which was most valuable. The failure to do this successfully, together with the present low prices of products and high rate of wages, accounts for the stoppage. About 500 men will be thrown idle, but they will probably be absorbed by the new work in process of erection by the Pumpherston Oil Company at Seafield.

      Dundee Courier 5th November 1891


      PROPOSED WINDING UP WEST LOTHIAN OIL COMPANY - In Court of to-day, the First Division ordered intimation of petition by Henry McGhie, cooper, Douglas Street, Glasgow, for the winding of the West Lothian Oil Company, Limited, 12 Vincent Place, Glasgow. The nominal capital of the company is £100,000, divided thousand shares of each. The company has for some years carried on business unsuccessfully and has incurred large amount of debt which it is unable to pay. Petitioner is a creditor for the sum £2895 17s 11d. He has made repeated applications for payment of bill for £495 17s 11d, but the company is insolvent, and unable pay its debts. Under the circumstances, the Company should wound up, and he suggests that the undertaking of the Company disposed of as a going concern.

      Edinburgh Evening News, 21st November 1891


      WEST LOTHIAN OIL COMPANY REVIVING. On behalf of the West Lothian Oil Company, which stopped working three months ago,a circular has been issued announcing the discovery of new shales, which are said equal to any possessed by any Company and to inexhaustible quantity. Arrangements are in progress to raise £35,000 or £40,000 to enable the Company to settle claims, put works in order, and give a margin of working capital. It proposed to raise these funds by the granting of debentures, which will form a first charge on the whole property of the Company. is also proposed issue preference capital to the amount of 10,000 shares of each, of which £2 10 to be credited as paid up, leaving a liability of 10s, which is stand as uncalled, and to form an additional security for the debentures.

      Edinburgh Evening News, 5th February 1892

  • Related file records
    • 142811 - The West Lothian Oil Co Ltd Report of the Proceeding at the Special general Meeting of the Members, held on Tuesday 5 October 1886 - The West Lothian Oil Co Ltd Report of the Proceeding at the Special general Meeting of the Members, held on Tuesday 5 October 1886 Includes an appendix on the last page with 'statement showing the output of shale per day, the capital paid up, the loans and debentures, the premium or discount on market price of shares, and the total resulting capital of the several oil companies in Scotland, bringing out the result of amount of such total capital per output in tons of shale per day.' Companies included in the statement are: Young's Oil Company Broxburn Burntisland Linlithgow Clippens Pumpherston West Lothian