(At the currant site of St Anthony’s Catholic Church)
Information from West Lothian Council Local History Library
West Lothian in the late 1890s and early 1900s was a place of industrial expansion. Large works were underway: roads, mines, minerals railways, foundries – all of these needed a large but temporary labour force. For those workers on the move, lodging-houses were a necessity.
Armadale Model was the largest in West Lothian, with accommodation for up to 200. It was set up in 1903 with money raised by 13 local men – shop-keepers and businessmen.
Everything in Armadale was on a large scale: fifty lodgers could cook at the hot plate at one time.
‘Throughout the various rooms and dormitories, inmates of the Model will find the fittings and furnishings to be of a superior order, and that they are provided with many means of comfort which not a few working men would think themselves fortunate in possessing. Indeed it might appropriately, and without exaggeration be called a tramp’s palace.
(Courier 9th January 1903, page 5)
The Armadale Model is remembered as a clean and orderly establishment, giving a permanent home to poor workers as well as temporary lodging to tramps and vagrants. It stood at 99 Station Road (now South Street) on the site of the present chapel, and it closed in 1946.
When it first opened, the Model provided accommodation for the navvies, who were doubling the railway line from Boghead to Woodend. When the A8 road was being built in the late 1920s, the Model was home to the navvies, many of them Irish.
Unfortunate Suicide at the Model
One Sunday in the late 1920s, Police Sergeant Smail happened to be at the Model when an explosion shattered the Sabbath peace. An Aberdonian lodger had tied three sticks of dynamite to his braces, then standing by the window, had bitten off the detonators. Children were kept from the street while the gory mess was cleaned up.’
Our enquirer thinks the accident may have been later – the early 1930s. At the library, we were able to check our sources and found that Sergeant Smail was based in Armadale from 1922 till he retired in 1936. A check of the index to local newspapers did not produce any mention of the accident. We could try trawling through 8-10 years of local papers, but it would be immensely time-consuming.
A check of the Scotland’s People website for all male deaths aged 20 – 75 between 1926 and 1934 in Armadale produced 137 possibilities – too many to check individually for the cause of death
Suicides in Scotland are not followed by an inquest as in England. It’s the job of the Procurator Fiscal to investigate sudden deaths, and he may order a post mortem or a Fatal Accident Enquiry. But in this case, there wouldn’t be much left to do a post mortem on – and suicides do not merit a FAE. And the National Archives of Scotland does not retain Procurator Fiscal records.
So we’re stuck. Can you possibly help? Do you remember hearing older people talking about the incident? If you can tell us the name of the man who died, or any information at all about it, we’d be very glad to hear from you.