Our modern world is dominated by oil. Many of the policies of national governments are based on the desire for its acquisition. Regimes have been overthrown in order to gain control of this valuable commodity. And it wasn't that much different one hundred years ago - oil was just as essential.
This is the story of the great shale oil industry which once flourished in the village of Broxburn, West Lothian, telling how Broxburn Oil Works extracted oil from the shale and created its many products. The volume of shale excavated from the mines by the Broxburn Oil Company and the fees paid both to Lord Cardross - the Earl of Buchan - and to local estates for transporting shale across their land is given in detail. Some personal background is added to those several individuals who appear otherwise to exist only as names associated with the early oil works, giving substance to these men. The book also charts the rise and fall of local oil companies, and lists the fatal accidents which occurred in the shale mines and in the Albyn and Broxburn oil works. Finally, it describes the sequence of events which led eventually - despite the continued importance of oil - to the closure of the shale mines and the demolition of Broxburn Oil Works.
As a former engineer who worked in the experimental department on the first Concorde aircraft, Peter Caldwell's personal encounter with the oil and petrochemicals industry came as a technical clerk with the engineering and construction company Foster Wheeler.
His family connection with the West Lothian shale industry is his grandfather, Peter Morton, who was brought up in an oil company house and went on to work for Young's Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, and then later Scottish Oils, in the first half of the 20th century - at Uphall, Hopetoun, and Broxburn.
As a boy, Peter Caldwell was fascinated by the tips, the great red shale bings which once dominated the local landscape. There were so many questions. When did it all start? Who was involved? How many shale mines? Where were they? And why did it all end? The answers to these questions, and many more, are to be found in this book.