The view, westwards, from our village – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
This scene shows the start of West Lothian. In 1851 James Young patented a process to extract paraffin oil from the local oil-bearing shale which exists in this part of the world. His process was so successful it meant that Scotland became the major oil-producing nation of the world at that time. So much shale was extracted that some reckon parts of West Lothian have sunk by up to six feet. To the left of the picture, five “small humps” punctuate the horizon. (They are actually around 270 feet high). These are shale “bings”- bing is a “heap” or “pile” of something e.g. a “slag heap”. Locals have long referred to these bings as the “Five Sisters” parodying the “Five Sisters of Kintail” which is a mountain range in the west of the Scottish Highlands. These five bings have become so entrenched in the local scenery that they are now protected by Scottish Heritage – other bings, and there are many, are gradually being re-used as base material in the construction industry, or landscaped into the local environment. To the right is the start of the Bathgate hills which rise to around 1000 feet. The total length of this horizon is about 12 miles which I hope has conveyed some idea of the scale of this part of the Central Lowlands of Scotland.