Scottish shale Scottish shale

Buckside Oil Works

Alternative names:
Pumpherston Shale Oil Works
Midcalder, Midlothian
Local authority:
West Lothian
Peter McLagen
Built c. 1863
Presumably dismantled c.1869
Current status of site:
See Uphall Oil Works


Redwood notes that Buckside Oil Works, operated by McLagan, was in production between 1861 and 1867.

Primrose in "Strathbrock - or the history and antiquities of Uphall Parish" (1898) states

"In 1860 Mr. Peter McLagan, afterwards M.P. for the county, erected a few retorts for distilling oil from the bituminous shale which cropped out on the surface of his estate of Pumpherston, and shortly after he disovered a valuable seam of the Broxburn shale on his farm of Stankards, about 25 fathoms from the surface. To turn this to account, he set up, near Uphall Railway Station, a bench of horizontal retorts, somewhat different in form from those he had previously erected. These became the nucleus of the Uphall Works."

Peter McLagan was the local landowner and MP, and one of the first directors of the Uphall Mineral Oil Company Ltd. Although the location of the works is uncertain, reference in the valuation roll to railways and worker's housing suggests a site close to Uphall station, most likely incorporated into the site of Uphall Oil Works.

The name "Buckside" does not appear on any local OS map, however Primrose states:

"On Drumshoreland Moor, within the grounds of Pumpherston Oil Company, there is a stone, popularly styled Bucksides - its correct designation being Backsides - from its position at the backside of Pumpherston. 'This stone, a huge whinstone boulder about 12 feet long and 8 feet broad, was blasted in 1888, to make room for the site of a bench of retorts; a few fragments of the stone, however, yet remain by the roadside."

Mapped by the Ordnance Survey of c.1862 , showing the general area.

  • Rateable value by year
    • Date Rateable Value Owner Occupier Notes
      1863 £150 Pumpherston Shale Oil Company Pumpherston Shale Oil Company Minerals at Pumpherston
      1864 £150 Pumpherston Shale Oil Company Pumpherston Shale Oil Company Per. Peter McLagan
      Workmen's House & Railways
      1865 £150 Pumpherston Shale Oil Company Pumpherston Shale Oil Company
      *1866 £300 Uphall Shale Oil Company Uphall Shale Oil Company Tenant: Mid Calder Oil Company
      £600 Uphall Shale Oil Company Uphall Shale Oil Company Minerals
      1867 £51 Uphall Shale Oil Company Uphall Shale Oil Company
      1868 £60 Uphall Shale Oil Company Uphall Shale Oil Company Partners: McLagan, Simpson
      & Meldrum
      1869 £300 Uphall Shale Oil Company Uphall Shale Oil Company
      Footnotes *1866: Name changed from Buckside to Pumpherston Shale Oil Works
  • Location map
  • Detailed maps
  • Newspaper references
    • In order to testify their respect for the young squire of Barnton on attaining his majority, the tenantry of the Barony of Calder and the inhabitants of Mid-Calder had, on Wednesday evening had a huge bonfire lighted on an eminence on the farm of Harry’s Muir, whence its blaze might be seen from the other bonfires on the Barnton estate. The immense pile consisted of hundreds of cartloads of brushwood, &c., saturated by a large quantity of crude paraffine, given by Mr. McLagan of Pumpherston, from his works there.

      Scotsman, 24th February 1865


      In the same parish of Uphall, there are extensive fields of shale on the estate of Mr M'Lagan, M.P. For the county of Linlithgow, to work which that gentleman erected retorts previous to the expiry of the coal oil patent in 1864. Shortly after the the dissolution of the co-partnery of E. Meldrum & Co. and E.W. Binney & Co., in 1864, at the expiry of the "Coal Oil Patent", Mr Meldrum became associated with Mr M'Lagan and Mr Simpson of Benhar, in the Uphall Mineral Oil Company, which purchased the works on Mr M'Lagan's estate and leased his shale.

      Scotsman, 8th February 1869