Celebrate Clydesdale villages built on “shale rush”

First official postal delivery at Auchengray Inn, about 1890, with the postman on the right,, Adam Letham in middle, and Walter Murray next to him .
First official postal delivery at Auchengray Inn, about 1890, with the postman on the right,, Adam Letham in middle, and Walter Murray next to him .

A now small Clydesdale community is about to remind everyone of the days when it was a giant of the British Empire’s economy.

Long before the Arabs discovered the bounty of oil under their desert sands, the world’s main source of such fuel was extracted from shale oil - and shale was in great abundance in the stretch of countryside around Tarbrax.

Although already an ancient community when the Industrial Revolution saw the demand for oil rocket, the ‘‘shale rush’’ was to see Tarbrax become home to a huge workforce with many of the public facilities large towns, even today, would envy.

Nowadays that part of our rural area bounded by the villages of Tarbrax, Woolfords and Auchengray has far tinier populations and many foolishly regard it as something of a forgotten backwater.

Well, although diminished in population, these villages are still VERY much living communities, something reflected in the formation of WAT IF, the Woolfords, Auchengray and Tarbrax Improvement Foundation.

While very much involved in developing a future for these villages, WAT IF is about to quite rightly celebrate their past in the form of a Heritage Festival to be held this autumn at the heart of which will be a major exhibition in Tarbrax Village Hall from September 3 to 10.

In the lead-up to that week, WAT IF will be busy collecting material for the celebration of the area’s rich history...and that is where YOU come into the story, if you currently live in the area or used to or have ancestors who did.

Explained WAT IF’s development officer Jemma Black: “We are hosting a few ‘Sharing Stories’ events in May and June, to gather photos, stories and memories – we will have scanners available at the events for anyone who wishes to share their photos with us.

“We really want to encourage people from all over to come and share any stories or memories they have of Woolfords Auchengray and Tarbrax.

“The villages of Woolfords, Auchengray, Tarbrax, Cobbinshaw and the surrounding area have a rich history stretching back hundreds of years, during which times the locals have lived through the heyday of the mining industry when the villages grew to capacity, celebrated many occasions at their two favourite inns, withstood the later closure of the mines, welcomed American airmen and women in World War Two and settled into a 21st century with a population of residents from all walks of life!

“We are asking folk for their stories at the three ‘Sharing’ sessions being held on Thursday, May 26, at 6.30pm , at Woolfords Village Hall on Wednesday, June 1, at 6.30pm and again at Tarbrax Village Hall on Saturday, June 11, at 1pm.

“Even if you don’t have anything to contribute yourself, come along anyway and just listen to these tales,” said Jemma.

Much of what is recorded at these sessions will be used to build the exhibition coming up in September.

WAT IF already has a large fund of photographs, showing what a bustling industrial base these now tranquil hamlets once were. It will be a display anyone interested in local history should go along to.

Although Tarbrax itself might have lost the large population, school, railway station and many, many of the other facilities it once boasted, nobody can take away from it and its sister villages its glorious and fascinating past.