At a reunion of old Armadalians, held in the Subscription School (now the Town Hall), some years ago, a large number of those who had gone out into the world, either to develop the knowledge they had gained, or benefit themselves or others by it, were present.
After a sumptuous. dinner, presided over by the late Mr. Hugh White, reminiscent speeches were made by a number of the oldest of Armadale's earliest inhabitants, who gave evidence of having a warm place in their hearts for Armadale and its associations. One speaker - Mr. George Wallace - when recounting the many who had been brought up and schooled in Armadale, and had left it to fill important positions all over the world, mentioned the fact, with a sinking heart, that the only thing that Armadale had failed to produce was a historian. The history of Armadale, he said, would be sure to meet with hearty approval and would be read with great interest; not only by the younger generation, but by those who had spent their early happy days in the village, when it was a mere handful of houses, surrounded by beautiful woods, and abounding with grassy slopes, and who were now scattered far apart.
Being present on that auspicious occasion, not only in the interest of the Press, but as one who had a just claim to be there as one of the chosen few, having resided in the town all my days, and knowing its history intimately well, I took the statement to heart, and have since given the subject considerable study.
To write the history of Armadale, however, beginning at the beginning, and keeping every notable event before oneself, I have found a somewhat difficult task, and, to be most accurate and impartial, as history must be, I set to work by making certain investigations which were necessary for approximate dates, and have spared no trouble in verifying every detail by inquiry at the most reliable sources.
The most of my information, of considerable value, I am pleased to acknowledge, has been ungrudgingly supplied me by Mr. James Aitken, writer, Glasgow, the courteous factor for Barbauchlaw estate, on which Armadale is chiefly built, and the superior of the lands of Harestane, now called Bathville, which forms the southern boundary of the burgh.
The minute book of the original "Armadale Friendly Society," founded in 1810, and the books of the first colliery, 1819-54., have been lent me by ex-Provost Wm. Marshall, of Barbauchlaw Mill, and have been of incalculable assistance.
Mr. William Brown's book on the " Life and Christian Work of (his father), the late George Brown, Armadale," which was presented to me by the author, with the advice that I could make what use of it I saw fit, has proved very useful to me.
Mr. Alexander Mallace, J.P., manager of St. Cuthbert's Co-operative Association (Ltd.), Edinburgh, who spent his early life in Armadale, has shown a kindly and appreciative interest in the work, and has furnished me with many items of considerable value.
A few early and important items of interest were supplied me by the late Mr. Robert Gardner, Edinburgh, who was born at Easterton in the year 1817, and whose grandfather was the first feuar on the estate. Such other local celebrities as Mr. John Anderson, Woodhead; the late Mr. Andrew Graham, Northrigg; Mr. James Forsyth, Mr. James Gillespie, Mr. Robert Flemington. Mr. and Mrs. James Hailstone, and many others, and not the least the late saintly Thomas Harvie, of Barbauchlaw Mill, and the aforementioned Mr. George Wallace, Portobello, have aided me greatly in the work, in a manner which language can never repay. Nevertheless, I must express my indebtedness to them for their assistance.
With all its imperfections, and I am conscious that there may be a good many of them, from a literary point of view. I have no hesitation in placing "ARMADALE PAST AND PRESENT " before an indulgent public, and I hope it will interest them in reading it as much as it has interested me in writing it.
I am mindful always of Lord Beaconsfield's words, that it is much easier to be critical than be correct, but let me say with Oliver Goldsmith -
"Blame where you must,
Be candid where you can,
And be each critic
The good-natured man."
Armadale, October, 1906.