WEST LOTHIAN FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY
A BRIEF HISTORY OF WEST LOTHIAN
West Lothian, located at the heart of Central Scotland, sits astride the M8 and M9 motorways, halfway between the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
It is in many respects, a district of great diversity. The Bathgate Hills, which divide the North from the South, divide good low lying agricultural land from high moorland rich in minerals. Its population of around 140,000 is to be found in both small, rural villages and large industrial towns throughout the area.
In its entirety, however, West Lothian has over the centuries played a cruical role in Scotland's history with Linlithgow Palace being the home of Kings and the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and in the 19th century James Paraffin Young founded the world's oil industry in West Lothian. This historic past provides the basis for the district's tourism.
Coal has been mined on an industrial scale since early 18th century, initially where it occurred in association with ironstone around Benhar and Breich. Increased demand and technical innovation in the Victorian period greatly expanded the industry as deeper and thinner seams were exploited, and influx of population, especially from Ireland and England and other mining areas was the result.
A Number of modern settlements were established or expanded from pre existing hamlets and at its peak the industry employed around 8,000 people.
If you ever visit West Lothian why not retrace the footsteps of some of Scotland's most famous romantic characters and pioneers of innovations -
Mary, Queen of Scots' birthplace.
David Waldie, chemist, conducted experiments with anaesthetics above the Four Marys pub.
Burke and Hare, the notorious grave robbers.
General Tam Dalyell, persecutor of the Covenanters.
James 'Paraffin' Young opened the World's first oil refinery.
John Newlands, local boy turned wealthy West Indian sugar planter.
James Young Simpson, pioneered the use of chloroform.
William Wallace assembled a convention in 1298.
Sir James Sandilands, the last Preceptor and an important figure in the Reformation.
Henry Bell, builder of the first steam ship.