Dismantling the retorts

How the oil works came down

By Billy Kane

The Shale Industry - the End Of An Era  

Closure of production and dismantling of retorts at Addiewell Works was July 1956. The work on the retorts started after the summer holidays in August 1956.

My father collapsed on site,and died a few hours later with a cerebral haemorrage.  His name was Michael Whelan, and the date was 6 August 1956.

A small team from Burngrange Pit who had mining experience took on the job of blasting some of the more difficult bases holding the steel.  Some of the team members I recall are Jim Barrons, Jim Kinsman, Wullie Whigam and Danny McLean.  I (James Whelan) was serving my apprenticeship as an electrician and helped Arthur King (electrical foreman) to wire up the shots, take readings on ohmetres, etc. to ensure all the circuits were healthy.

A very thorough operation was carried out to reclaim scrap metals, copper etc., especially digging up cables. Mark Hutchison from West Calder was the main dealer for all the scrap. 

Jimmy Whelan.

Photo:Dismantling of the Addiewell Oil Works, 1956

Dismantling of the Addiewell Oil Works, 1956

William Aitchison. All rights reserved. S1. 126.

This page was added by Billy Kane on 06/08/2012.
Comments about this page

Arthur King was my Uncle Arthur married to Aunty Alice Toynbee. They lived at 7 Faraday Place. Uncle Arthur was the Electrical Supervisor at Westwood. He must have been assigned to the demolition work at Addiewell. I'd never known he did that.

By David Toynbee
On 29/01/2015

Arthur King was my Great Uncle on my father's side of the family. I remember coming up to visit them back in the '50s. We stayed at there home at 7 Faraday Place. I was just a child at the time, but I remember the spoil heaps, the commercial railway line and the mainline railway. What I remember most was playing with a boy called Archie Prentis who had a red pedal car, if my memory is correct. My father and his siblings were evacuated to Addiewell from Birmingham during the war and stayed with my Great Uncle Arthur and his wife Alice. It amazes me how they all fitted into their home. If anyone remembers these people I'd love to hear from you, especially David Toynbee and Jimmy Whelan.

By Robert Worrall
On 06/03/2021

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