4 Faraday Place (Part One)

Addiewell

By David Toynbee

We moved back to Addiewell in 1952 into a cold old house. My Dad was still working at the Addiewell Oil Works though the Oil Works was slowly but surely fading to a standstill. Workers were being retired and re-assigned and BP was now the owner of the shale oil industry who could see that the modern oil works was based on crude oil, not shale. This meant that that most jobs within the company were in Grangemouth at the oil refinery. The slow shutdown took about 4 years. My Dad, as a tradesman bricklayer, felt that the job offer as a labourer at Grangemouth was a step backwards for him, so he kept on working to the end when he took a job in Armadale.

Addiewell was slowly being emptied of residents: Davy Street and Stephenson Street were empty; Watt Street was almost empty; and Livingstone Street had a few residents left among the empty houses. But in the meantime, I was still back in Addiewell. I remember some of the Faraday Place neighbours: The Prentices at No.1, the Moirs at No5, Aunt Alice and Uncle Arthur King at No7, Margaret Halliday lived in the last house in the row. The Low Road ran past the bottom of the garden with the Gala Bus running to Polbeth (known as The Red Bus). We overlooked the Catholic School and The Chapel. Beyond the last house was the Oil Works and the Burning Bing that bordered the Breich Water. But I still worked the milk route with Wullie from the Farm; my dog and I had new territory to explore.

 Going to West Calder High School now. Most of my activities became centred in West Calder - I'd joined the public library and the 18th Midlothian Scout Troop (we met in the High School gym). Arthur and I went to the West Calder Regal Cinema as often as we could afford, but the dog and I still found plenty of time to go down to the burn (this was the same Breich Water from Loganlea but further downstream). Walking the path from the east side of Faraday Place took my pals and I to the old spent shale bing which we called "The Burning Bing" because part of it was on fire. This older bing contained spent shale from the days when the process was not as efficient as the "modern" oil works and some of the oil had been left in the shale and continued to burn. The west end of the bing was safe and covered with ferns, but as we walked around to the east the ground became hotter and vegetation died until we could see the red glow from the fire underneath and smell the heavy sulphur laden smoke from the combustion. The open areas of burning were surrounded with a boundary of yellow sulphur crystals that had condensed on the cooler shale. The warning in the village was that the bing burned even under the cool ferny areas and we'd be walking on a fragile crust that would break and dump us into the fires of hell! Who could resist such a story? But it was so obviously dangerous that we mainly kept away from the burning east end.

The oldest bing in Addiewell was "The Red Bing" which was situated across the road from the Kirk, just west of the Farm. The process on this bing had left the spent shale a red colour, hence the name. The Red Bing stretched northwards along the works rail line from Addiewell to Bents ending at the rail bridge (viaduct) across the Breich Water. The bing was old and well weathered, covered with broom. Occasionally, we'd get into a stone throwing fight with the boys from Stoneyburn who'd dare to cross the bridge into our territory! The Breich Water, which was still "The Black Burn", ran in a fairly deep valley on it's south side and skirted The Burning Bing. We devised a set of stepping stones to get across the burn so we could reach the old watchtower which stood among the trees on the other side. It was in bad disrepair but was good enough to imagine as a castle. Back then nobody was interested in old Scottish relics and we had the old tower to ourselves most times. I see it's marked on maps as an historic site now.

Dave Toynbee

Photo: Illustrative image for the '4 Faraday Place (Part One)' page
This page was added by David Toynbee on 30/11/2014.

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