Fragmentary - The Introduction of a Resident Doctor - The Bank - The "Gothenburg " Public-House - Fever and Smallpox Hospitals - Model Lodging-House - Dean of Guild Court - The One Thing Lacking
Armadale, in days gone by, was badly off for want of a resident medical doctor to attend to the pressing needs of a large population, living in rather unhealthy circumstances, due to bad sanitary arrangements and an inadequate domestic water supply. The employees of each work, it is true, paid a small sum weekly for the attention of the medical man elected by their employers - a sum that, as at present, was stopped off their wages in the works pay office. But none of these medical gentlemen resided in the town.
Dr J. Balfour Kirk, whose attention was subscribed for by Bathville and Woodend workers, resided in Bathgate, and Dr Clark, who was retained by the employees of the Monkland Iron and Coal Company, resided at Whitburn, and later at Harthill. Dr Kirk paid a visit to the town daily, and Dr Clark every second day. Those who desired a visit from either doctor were required to send an intimation to that effect to an appointed place, or watch for the doctor passing the door.
On Young's Paraffin Light Company re-opening No. 9 and No. 2 Pits to work the coal, after they had been abandoned by the Monkland Iron Company, the employees subscribed for the services of Dr Longmuir, another Bathgate medical gentleman.
With the exception of the periodical visits of these gentlemen, the town was destitute of medical skill. Midwifery was practised by Mrs Alison Douglas, whose services alone were in demand in such cases until she had officiated at over four thousand births.
Dr Kirk died in the second month of 1882, at a time when the public were beginning to cry out for closer medical attention, and his death gave the public an opportunity to improve the state of affairs. Several meetings were held in the Subscription School, when it was resolved to appoint Dr Robert Kirk, who was in practice in Glasgow, to succeed his father, on the condition that he would appoint a qualified assistant to reside in Armadale. A deputation was elected to confer with Dr Robt. Kirk, who, on being offered the whole of Armadale practice, decided to accept it on the condition stated. Accordingly he succeeded his father, and placed Dr Felden in Armadale. Dr Felden, however, only held the appointment for about six months, and was succeeded by an able young man, fresh from the School of Medicine, in Dr Anderson. In the meantime the Shotts Coal and Iron Company provided a doctor for their own employees at Woodend by sending Dr Stevenson, so that Armadale was at once in possession of two resident doctors to attend to all their ills. Dr Stevenson, however, after a few years' experience of Armadale, sold his practice to Dr Jago, who ultimately sold out to Drs Kirk and Anderson. Dr Anderson became vastly popular, and at last came to terms with Dr Kirk, and obtained the practice for himself, and engaged a helper to assist him in the large practice he had built up. Gradually his medical advice grew in demand, until he found it necessary to appoint a second assistant to reside at Black-ridge, so that those who subscribe for Dr Anderson's medical advice have the skill of three highly qualified .gentlemen, easy of access.
Those who found it necessary to deal with banks were also dependent on Bathgate until the Commercial Bank of Scotland opened a sub-office in connection with the Whitburn branch in 1889, after receiving a guarantee of a large measure of support. The office was first opened in James Verrier's building, in the shop next to the Armadale Inn on the east side, but latterly removed across the road to the Hotel Buildings for a short time, until they obtained a lease of the present bank buildings in South Street, which they ultimately purchased from the trustees of the late Archibald Macdonald. The office has so prospered in Armadale as to have warranted the officials of the bank in creating it a branch by itself.
The " Gothenburg " system of dealing in excisable liquors was beginning to become popular in Fife in 1901, and its working so appealed to Provost, then Bailie, Smith, whose visits to the scene of operations in the course of his work as a Parliamentary election agent brought him in close contact with those able to enlighten him on the subject, that he resolved to make an effort to establish a society in Armadale. The society was duly formed through the efforts of Bailie Smith, who, though a well-known enthusiastic temperance advocate, believed that there was in the establishment of a public-house on the "Gothenburg" principle a shorter road to temperance reform. His efforts succeeded, and premises were leased in West Main Street, and a licence obtained from the Licensing Court in October, 1901. After one year's trading, the society bought the property and erected a building specially adapted for their business. The society is composed of shareholders with one or more shares of 5s each, and conducted by a board of management elected from the members, Mr. Malcolm Mallace being president and licence-holder, Provost Smith secretary, and Mr. William Love treasurer. Mr. William Aikman manages the business for the society, and on the balance-sheet being issued annually, the members meet to allocate the profits. A large sum is voted yearly to liquidate the cost of the property after paying the shareholders five per cent on their share capital, the remainder being spent on the town, such as in providing a sick nurse and easing the burdens of many institutions. In appointing a sick nurse the society has been most fortunate in securing the services of Miss Macafee, whose services are constantly in demand and highly appreciated by all classes. When the cost of the property of the society has been cleared off and the shareholders receive back their money, the whole of the profits is meant to be devoted to the improvement of the burgh by providing counter attractions to the public-house.
Great strides have been made since the dawn of the twentieth century in providing facilities for the treatment of infectious disease. The want of a fever hospital had been long felt until one was provided at Tippethill, fully a mile south of Armadale, on the Whitburn Road - a magnificently-appointed place, erected in 1901 by the Joint Hospital Board comprising Bathgate, Armadale, and Whitburn districts. A year or so later, on the great smallpox scare, the Joint Board resolved to erect a smallpox hospital of a wooden frame and corrugated iron. But since the eradication of smallpox, the pavilion, which is standing unoccupied, is about to be, on the advice of Dr Brock, the county medical inspector, used as a consumptive sanatorium for patients in the first stages of the disease.
The improved sanitary conditions of the town had the effect of doing away with private lodging-houses, and those labourers who move about from place to place, finding no quarters in Armadale, made it difficult for those who required labourers to get their wants supplied. Consequently a move was made to build a working man's home, generally termed a "model" lodging-house. The building was erected by a private company in South Street, a short distance to the south of the railway level crossing, and was opened on the 22nd February, 1903, at a time when the main railway line was being doubled between Boghead and Westcraigs, and the demand by the navvies engaged at the work for lodgings was great. The building is of four storeys, is well appointed, and can accommodate over 150 lodgers, but since the completion of the railway line and the extension of the station the demand for beds has been rather below the requisite number to make the venture a paying concern.
The watchful eye of the Town Council is ever on the outlook to keep the burgh in proper order according to powers given them by Act of Parliament. On Mr. A.P. Simpson, W.S., succeeding Mr. Thomson in 1901 as town clerk, a Dean of Guild Court was formed, to whom all applications must be made before new buildings can be erected or existing ones altered.
One thing that Armadale lacks, and one thing it requires very much, is the street sidewalks concreted or laid with some hard, unyielding substance. During the winter months some parts of the streets in soft weather become almost impassable. Within recent years West Main Street, through the enterprise of many proprietors, has been greatly improved by the laying of cement pavement, but many places could be greatly improved, where the bottom is soft, by the removal of the soft substance and the laying down a hard bottom of whinstone. By and bye the Town Council will doubtless find it necessary to compel this to be done where necessary after which Armadale will be an ideal inland health resort.