Grandfather’s notes make for a fascinating history

Historical discoveries are amazing things, especially if there’s a family connection.

While canvassing for the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, MSP Neil Findlay made a discovery.

Visiting the home that used to be his grandparents’, he was shown a plywood panel where John Jock Findlay, his grandfather, had written his life’s tale.

Fascinated, Neil transcribed his grandfather’s memoirs, and has brought them together in Life in the Raws – Memoirs of a Shale Oil Village.

Jock grew up and grew old in the West Lothian village of Pumpherston a village dominated by one industry, shale oil mining.

Pumpherston village, built by Pumpherston Oil Company in 1884, was home to the brave workers who faced life threatening conditions.

This book, illustrated with fascinating images from the Almond Valley Heritage Trust, tell the story of ‘a proud, good, clever working class man’ from 1919 to 1994, effectively spanning a whole century of Scottish history.

It’s a fascinating insight to a way of life that’s long since been lost, as Jock describes the good times, and the hard times, of living and working in Pumpherston.

There’s interesting notes from Neil as he looks back at his grandfather, bringing together letters and other artefacts to tell his story.

It’s not just the story of one man – it’s an intriguing insight to a way of life which few of us can imagine today, as it examines a lost Scottish industry, charts the growth of a village that still stands today, and, most importantly of all, a community and how it came together in good times and bad.

Life in the Raws – Memories of a Shale Oil Village, by Jock Findlay, published by Luath Press, £8.99.

[review rating=”4″ align = “left”]