Project nominated for adult learners award

The project reached younger generations to help them understand their heritage
The project reached younger generations to help them understand their heritage

A project in Bridgend which has helped the community come together and find out more about their heritage has now been nominated for an award.

The Shale History Project dug deep into the past and explored the history of the mining village, helping to connect younger and older generations in their quest to find out more about their roots.

Pupils from Bridgend Primary School and like-minded residents in the community shared experiences and widened their knowledge with a number of activities and events being spread over the last 12 months to raise awareness of its past.

During the year they found out how their forefathers lived and what the signs of life and work were in the 130 years since the Linlithgow Oil Company started shale mining, retorting and refining on what is now Bridgend golf course.

The project was given a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and was run in conjunction with the primary school and the Bridgend Bulletin Group to establish a lasting memento for the people of Bridgend.

A DVD called Bridgend Exists, a mural for the school hall and a tapestry in the community centre have been produced as part of the funding they received.

And all of the hard work has culminated in a book being published last month about life in Bridgend. Now they have been nominated for a Scottish Adult Group Learners Award.

Helen Mein, treasurer of the Bridgend Bulletin Group, said: “It’s great to get the recognition. The people have got involved and learned what life was like for the forefathers.

“It’s very important to learn about the village’s history. Shale mining played a central part in people’s lives in the early 1900s.

“For me, it was just about being part of a group that was interested in learning about the village. Three members of the community were brought up in the old mining housing rows, they could remember what life was like and shared stories about the past.

“The funding was great because it allowed us to learn in interesting ways with drama and events which made it more exciting for not just the children but the adults too.”

On the book of memories, which took six months to produce and was written by Catherine Stirling, Helen said: “I was delighted with the results. It exceeded all our expectations. A lot of hard work and effort has went into producing it, especially by Catherine, and it was just great to see it all come together.”

The book, which is suitable for all ages, delves deep into the village’s past and gives an overview of housing, education, social and health problems, and traditions during the village’s existence.

It also explains the process of shale mining. It says: “Shale rock was blasted underground by facemen and then loaded into Hutches by Drawers and brought to the surface and pulled into retorts. Retorts were huge and the rock was heated in them to high temperatures before the shale was melted into a very crude oil and refined before it could become fuel, lamp or lubricating oil.”

The aim is for shale history to become part of the syllabus at Bridgend Primary School so that future generations of the village can learn more about their ancestors and their past.