A nyone who doesn't think that Scotland is a different country from England has never travelled there. It wasn't until our train had crossed into Scotland that I found out Scotland has their own Pound notes, issued by a number of commercial banks; they don't resemble UK currency a bit - or a note issued by a different Scottish bank - and are considerably smaller in size. While British pounds are accepted there, the reverse isn't true; you've got to spend them in Scotland.
When she first arrived in Germany, my mother remarked that the landscape was very similar to Scotland. Later, it was my turn to note the resemblance. It is a half-hour drive along a scenic two-lane roadway between the center of Edinburgh and Addiewell; most Americans drive farther to work each day. Thus, the local descendants of the old shale miners have ready access to metropolitan jobs and higher education, if desired.
The farther we travelled out of Edinburgh, the more it resembled the hilly farmlands of Germany, right down to the little villages identical in appearance to those of the Rheinland-Pfalz. The names were familiar to me: the Village of West Calder, direction signs for Livingston and Blackburn - I had heard these place names as a small child. (I still possess a worthless aluminum canister in which she kept her bulk tea all the years of my childhood; it is stamped commemorating the "West Calder Co-Operative Society Limited Jubilee, 1875-1925")
The "Co - Operative" (rather than "cooperative") was one of her planned stops; it had been the village store of her youth, and was located directly across the street from St. Pancras Catholic Church, where she was baptized and confirmed. Instead, I found a low brick footing, rubble, and charred timbers among the overgrown weeds where it had stood.
St. Pancras Church
It seemed curious to me that the large Public School (which resembled P.S. 65 or P.S. 9 in the Bronx, except in color of the bricks) was built in a row with the parochial school she attended; it was barely 100 feet away. Only a small fence separated the school yards, but the public one abutted the street with a brick containment wall three or more feet high elevating the school yard. She would walk past that wall every day on her way to school, and sometimes the kids would spit down at her, calling out "Cat-lick!", and "Hey, Arrrrrish!", even though she was born in the town.
Of course, it was a "much higher" wall when she was young...
In the School Yard
Facing the two schools (and adjacent to where the "Co - Operative" store had been) were a row of tiny, one-story houses, each with a disorderly vegetable garden taking up the deep but narrow front yard. She said that these had been some of the miner's homes in her day - a rough bunch that had been avoided. ( Evidently, the Catholics weren't at the very bottom of the old-time Addiewell pecking order... )
Our trip to Scotland at an end, we boarded the 125 mph Inverness-London Express train for the 500-mile trip back to London.
She pulled out a book and put on her reading glasses - but stared vacantly out the window at the Scottish farms flashing past. She was uncharacteristically silent, and I didn't interrupt her thoughts. It had been her last - and only - trip "home".
A sample of the official Burns Check (Tartan).
Click image for source
From the history section on the West Lothian Council Website, it seems that a local boy single-handedly started the British oil industry by discovering a way to extract crude from the oil shale that had been (and still may be) abundant in the area. However, deep-drilling and advances in geological science soon made the method uneconomical - and the mines that hadn't "played out" shut down. Of course, the bad times which descended upon the area when the mines closed (combined with the generosity of the British welfare state) may have set up a hopelessness cycle in the old "company town" section near Addiewell (Longlea) - apparently with many of the same problems found in America's inner cities: multi-generational unemployment, crime, and drugs. Fortunately, we didn't see anything like that which is described in the "Addie-Hell" website. The Addiewell I saw in 1977 was a very pleasant place. There weren't many local businesses, but I had assumed that people would commute to the nearby larger towns for work.
In fact, I'm glad that Addiewell hadn't changed drastically over the years Mom had been away from it. The streets had been paved over, and curbs erected; with directional signs and modern street lighting that seemed a little out of place - but it's location nearby Edinburgh and large expanses of pretty-but-vacant land would have been unrecognizeable suburban sprawl by then, were it located in the US. I can easily imagine miles of strip mall replacing those villages, surrounded by huge clusters of over-priced plywood-and-vinyl-sided housing developments. Perhaps such things are the future of the area - for even with all the drawbacks, it is probably preferable to being stuck in a post-Victorian Scottish time-warp.
Photographs and text © 1998,1999 John P. Tomany