As well as the housing and schools, the mine companies had their provision stores in which the workmen could be supplied to the extent of the wages they had earned. However, the prices of the inferior items sold there were high.
The co-operative system of trading seemed like an appropriate alternative.
Joseph Syson, who had come from Airdrie had a two-storey tenement of houses with two shops on the ground floor, at the foot of Academy Street, accommodated the Co-operative society in one of his shops, and became its first secretary. The society started in a small way, with David Irvine, from Buttries Store, as salesman. Slowly the membership increased, until on the 27th January, 1863, the society was registered at Edinburgh by the Registrar of Friendly Societies as “The Armadale Co-operative Society,” No. 3, Linlithgowshire.
From the system of monthly payment of wages at the works, few were able to pay cash for their goods as they received them, and, as all the private merchants gave credit, the co-operative society had to adopt the same lines of trading. The consequences were that many got more credit than they were able to meet, and the workmen were made to feel that their trading elsewhere was displeasing to the employers. The Society was forced to close its doors in 1868.
However in 1873, when the miner’s wages were at their highest, and yet the merchants didn’t give out any dividend presents that year, the idea of a co-operative seemed like a good idea again. This was buoyed by the fact that a co-operative society had been established in Bathgate some time before, and a few of the Armadale folk had joined and were in the highest praise of the goods supplied and the profits accruing from their purchases.
MacDonalds Hall in West Main St became the new premises, and with its reputation for top quality produce at reasonable prices, it quickly grew.
Question to SWRI “How did you communicate before telephones?” Answer; “You went to the Co-op and you got all the gossip from the Co-op!”
Interesting piece of information – behind the blue ‘box on the wall’ at Scotmid in Armadale, there is an ornamental sculpture (honeybees), but it has been boarded up due to weathering and vandalism.
Read more in Armadale Past and Present here