Murder by shale

Horrible Murder in Addiewell - and the weapon? A lump of spent shale

In 1877, Addiewell was deeply shocked by a murder which took place in Campbell Street. The murder victim was a respectable Glasgow man who had fallen on hard times and had taken a job in the shale industry. The weapon, appropriately enough, was a sharp-edged piece of spent shale. 

Quiet and inoffensive 

The victim, James Pattison, was an educated man who was interested in botany and could read Latin.  He had formerly worked as a druggist - a sort of pharmacist. When his business failed, he found a job as a labourer in the gas refining department of Addiewell Oil Works and was said to be a quiet and inoffensive man. The attack took place while Pattison was going round the doors collecting money for the church.

A resident of Campbell Street named Kitchen came to the door of his house that evening 'to have a look at the night' before going to bed.  He noticed some sort of struggle going on further up the road, and heard the sound of blows being struck. When he went to investigate, he found Pattison lying in a pool of blood.  Kitchen ran to the policeman's house, then he and his son carried the victim back to his house. A doctor was sent for from West Calder, but Pattison was dead before medical assistance arrived. 

On intimate terms

Another oil worker, Hugh O'Neil, was arrested and charged with the murder. The only motive that could be found was jealousy. Pattison had called that evening at the door of a woman and had asked for a drink of water.  The woman was said to be on 'intimate terms' with O'Neil, and O'Neil may have attacked Pattison in a drunken jealous rage.

To read the detailed account of the murder that appeared in the West Lothian Courier, open the document at the foot of this page.

Photo:Sketch of Addiewell village in 1901

Sketch of Addiewell village in 1901

West Lothian Local History Library. All rights reserved.

Site of Campbell Street - it ran south at right angles to the Faraday Place houses.

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Murder by shale
Murder by shale (146k)
The full report that appeared in the West Lothian Courier, 24 November 1877.

This page was added by Sybil Cavanagh on 12/05/2012.