Livingston Lives by Emma Peattie sampler

On 17 April, 1962, Livingston was designated Scotland's fourth 'new town'. Now celebrating its 50th birthday, this book presents the lively and colourful history of Livingston through snapshots of moments in its planning, construction and industry. But, more importantly perhaps, the book highlights the sense of heritage and belonging felt by the population. This anniversary has offered both young and old the opportunity to reflect and to celebrate life in Livingston, which, over the last fifty years, has become a vibrant town at the heart of Scotland.

On 17 April, 1962, Livingston was designated Scotland's fourth 'new town'.

Now celebrating its 50th birthday, this book presents the lively and colourful history of Livingston through snapshots of moments in its planning, construction and industry. But, more importantly perhaps, the book highlights the sense of heritage and belonging felt by the population. This anniversary has offered both young and old the opportunity to reflect and to celebrate life in Livingston, which, over the last fifty years, has become a vibrant town at the heart of Scotland.


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emma peattie was born in Falkirk and grew up in Grangemouth. She<br />

studied Sociology at Glasgow University and has a Masters degree in<br />

Social History. She is currently an Archivist and Records Manager at<br />

West Lothian Council, working at the council’s Archive and Records<br />

Centre in <strong>Livingston</strong>. She also has teaching and museums qualifications<br />

and is close to completing a Masters degree in Archive Administration.<br />

As part of her duties, <strong>Emma</strong> looks after the records of the <strong>Livingston</strong><br />

Development Corporation.

<strong>Livingston</strong> <strong>Lives</strong><br />


Luath Press Limited<br />



First published 2012<br />

isbn: 978-1-908373-48-9<br />

West Lothian Council Heritage Services<br />

The paper used in this book is recyclable. It is made from<br />

low chlorine pulps produced in a low energy, low emissions manner<br />

from renewable forests.<br />

Printed and bound <strong>by</strong><br />

Typeset in 11 point Sabon<br />

<strong>by</strong> 3btype.com<br />

The author’s right to be identified as author of this book under the<br />

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 has been asserted.<br />

© West Lothian Council

Contents<br />

Acknowledgements 6<br />

Introduction <strong>by</strong> Councillor John McGinty 7<br />

Foreword <strong>by</strong> Frank Stewart 9<br />

Introduction 11<br />

From Plan to Construction: The Growth of a New Town 13<br />

A Year or Two <strong>by</strong> Trish Barry 23<br />

Work and Industry 43<br />

Green Shoots <strong>by</strong> Frank Stewart 64<br />

Providing for the Community 76<br />

Pioneers in Stripy T-Shirts <strong>by</strong> Elspeth Murray 89<br />

Art and Culture 110<br />

Happy Times, Sad Times <strong>by</strong> Ian Comrie 140<br />

Church and Community 142<br />

St Columba’s, Craigshill <strong>by</strong> Ellie Stewart 155<br />

<strong>Livingston</strong> Today 185<br />

Coming of Age <strong>by</strong> Alistair Findlay 234<br />

Bibliography 235<br />

Appendix: <strong>Livingston</strong> Timeline compiled <strong>by</strong> Sybil Cavanagh 237<br />


Acknowledgements<br />

i would like to give my thanks to everyone who has contributed to<br />

this publication, especially the local community who were so willing to<br />

share their memories of <strong>Livingston</strong>. In particular, I would like to thank<br />

Frank and Margaret Stewart for proof-reading the text, and Frank for<br />

writing the foreword; John Stewart for allowing the reproduction of<br />

extracts from his website, Sybil Cavanagh, West Lothian Council’s local<br />

history librarian, for contributing the timeline, and Stephen and Gary<br />

Thomas for giving up so many weekends to digitisation and photo<br />

manipulation.<br />

Thank you also to:<br />

Everyone who submitted a piece of creative writing<br />

<strong>Livingston</strong> Camera Club<br />

P6 at Williamston Primary School<br />

Staff and clients at Braid House<br />


Introduction<br />

<strong>by</strong> Councillor John McGinty, Leader of West Lothian Council<br />

on the 17th of april 2012 <strong>Livingston</strong> new town celebrated its 50th<br />

Birthday and I am delighted to introduce this book to mark this occasion.<br />

To celebrate the Anniversary a series of events, exhibitions and activities<br />

took place during 2012, involving a wide range of community groups,<br />

local businesses, individuals, along with <strong>Livingston</strong> schools and West<br />

Lothian College.<br />

The new generation of <strong>Livingston</strong> residents were also involved. The<br />

official ‘<strong>Livingston</strong>’s 50’ logo was designed <strong>by</strong> Lee McMaster (5) from<br />

Letham Primary School and Caitlynn Cameron (10) from St John Ogilvie<br />

Primary School. All <strong>Livingston</strong> schools took part in an art competition<br />

‘What <strong>Livingston</strong> means to me’ with the artwork displayed at the stunning<br />

Howden Park Centre, which was redeveloped in 2009.<br />

A special piece of music was commissioned to mark the anniversary<br />

in Music ‘<strong>Livingston</strong> Celebration’ which was performed <strong>by</strong> West Lothian<br />

Schools Bands and the Toccata Ladies Choir at West Lothian Civic<br />

Centre as part of the official celebrations.<br />

I hope that you enjoy reading this book, reminiscing about <strong>Livingston</strong>’s<br />

past, and looking forward to its future.<br />


Foreword<br />

‘new town,’ ‘garden city,’ ‘Post-war reconstruction,’ ‘Glasgow overspill,’<br />

‘Social engineering.’ Each of these phrases carries its own technical<br />

meaning and a variety of emotive overtones. There is a tale told about<br />

the planning of <strong>Livingston</strong> New Town that whenever the designers stopped<br />

for a cup of coffee, a round mark appeared on the road plan and a corres -<br />

ponding roundabout duly appeared on the ground.<br />

Visitors to <strong>Livingston</strong> in 2012 sometimes comment that they have no<br />

difficulty making their way into the town but they cannot find their way<br />

out again. We hope that readers will have no difficulty making their way<br />

into this book and that within it they will find an interesting perspective<br />

and possibly an evocation of personal memories.<br />

Like the town itself, <strong>Livingston</strong> <strong>Lives</strong> is the work of many people.<br />

The main text gives an outline of the history of the first half-century of<br />

the town of <strong>Livingston</strong>, in a number of short chapters which concentrate<br />

on different themes. This is supplemented in the appendix <strong>by</strong> the<br />

‘<strong>Livingston</strong> Timeline,’ a chronological catalogue of notable events which<br />

forms a useful point of reference. These are the meticulous work of <strong>Emma</strong><br />

<strong>Peattie</strong> the West Lothian Archivist and her colleagues.<br />

The living flesh on these bones is made up of the recollections, stories<br />

and poems written in the anniversary year of 2012 <strong>by</strong> many of the early<br />

inhabitants. Retrospection of this type carries the danger of imparting a<br />

rosy glow, a look back to a largely imagined golden age. Part of the satisfaction<br />

of looking back, however, comes also from remembering how the<br />

town has had to adapt to changing circumstances and from recalling some<br />

of the difficulties that were faced and overcome.<br />

Millions of trees and shrubs were planted as the town grew. Most of<br />

these have now matured, along with the thousands of people and families<br />

who have settled here. <strong>Livingston</strong> does not aspire to challenge the mighty<br />

city in the West for the title of ‘Dear green place,’ but it has developed<br />

an identity and this book is an interesting and useful contribution to<br />

awareness of its roots and history.<br />

Frank Stewart<br />


If the community is to be truly balanced, so long as social<br />

classes exist, all must be represented in it…It is most desirable<br />

that proprietors, directors, executives and other leading<br />

workers in the local authorities should live in the town, and<br />

take part in its life. All of these should live in the town, and<br />

take part in the development of the social, political, artistic,<br />

and recreational activities of the town.<br />

Lord Reith, Chairman,<br />

New Towns Committee 1946

Introduction<br />

as well as being the industrial heart of the British Empire, Glasgow<br />

was the most overcrowded city in Britain <strong>by</strong> the end of World War ii. By<br />

1962, 40 per cent of the city’s population was still living in overcrowded<br />

conditions. New towns like <strong>Livingston</strong> offered a potential solution to the<br />

problems of inner city slum housing. Glasgow families could be relocated<br />

to better quality housing and new employment opportunities.<br />

The New Town movement began after wwii, but its roots lay in the<br />

Garden Suburbs and Cities of the Edwardian period. Idealists and philanthropists<br />

like Ebenezer Howard and the Cadburys of Bournville proposed<br />

that ideal communities should be created to replace the slums and overcrowding<br />

of the Victorian cities. They thought that people should have<br />

good housing, open spaces, and that residential and industrial areas should<br />

be completely separate; all ideals which helped shape <strong>Livingston</strong>. New<br />

towns were seen as a practical and attractive solution to the problems left<br />

over from rapid industrialisation in Britain, but, as with many solutions,<br />

they often created problems as well as solving them.<br />

Over the years, new towns have often received bad press and the<br />

term ‘new town’ has unfortunate connotations of densely populated urban<br />

jungles. New towns have also attracted negative views amongst the<br />

Scottish population. The Scottish Opinion Survey revealed in 1989 that 43<br />

per cent of respondents saw <strong>Livingston</strong> as an unattractive place to live. Yet<br />

despite negativity from outwith <strong>Livingston</strong>, there is no need to sugar-coat<br />

the views and experiences of <strong>Livingston</strong>’s residents. In 1989, a System 3<br />

Resident’s Survey, conducted prior to the development of an advertising<br />

strategy for the town, revealed a local populace who enjoyed living in<br />

<strong>Livingston</strong>, strongly agreed that it was a good place to bring up children<br />

and, importantly, agreed that it was a town with a bright future. Twentythree<br />

years later, the <strong>Livingston</strong> New Town area is celebrating its 50th<br />

birthday; the local community has joined together both to celebrate this<br />

important anniversary and to reflect upon their memories of life in the<br />

town. Young people have been an important part of the town’s celebrations.<br />

Local children speak positively about their home town and envision<br />

a future life there.<br />


livingston lives<br />

This book is a celebration of the growth of a town and community over<br />

the last 50 years, through snapshots of moments in its history, planning,<br />

construction and industry and, even more importantly, of the people<br />

who have given life to the town.<br />

This publication is also a community history of the town told <strong>by</strong><br />

local people; the images of <strong>Livingston</strong> and its people have been enriched<br />

<strong>by</strong> memories and poetry kindly contributed <strong>by</strong> the local community. As<br />

its name aptly suggests, <strong>Livingston</strong> is a living town that not only has a<br />

past, but a present and a future. In recognition of this, images captured <strong>by</strong><br />

the <strong>Livingston</strong> Camera Club and contributions of artwork and writing<br />

from local schools also enhance the book’s celebration of life in<br />

<strong>Livingston</strong> today.<br />


From Plan to Construction:<br />

The Growth of a New Town<br />

It is the basis of New Town philosophy that what is to be created<br />

is not just a series of houses, important as they are, not just a<br />

group of factories, vital as they are, not just new shopping centres,<br />

attractive as they may be, but an environment in which men and<br />

women may bring up their families in new and happier surroundings<br />

than those in which they themselves were born and grew up.<br />

john silkin<br />

Minister of Planning and Local Government, 1975<br />

livingston was designated as Scotland’s fourth new town on the 17<br />

April 1962, with 6,692 acres in Midlothian and West Lothian set aside<br />

as the site of the town. On designation day, <strong>Livingston</strong> Develop ment<br />

Corporation (ldc) was also created. This government agency was<br />

assigned responsibility for planning within the designated area of the new<br />

town. They were to be in charge of the building and management of<br />

houses, shops and factories as well as the landscaping of the town. The<br />

announcement was made to the press at Howden House, the proposed<br />

Headquarters of ldc.<br />

The new town had two main aims: to tackle the housing problems<br />

of Glasgow and to create a new focus of industrial activity. This meant<br />

a departure from the planning agenda that had guided the development<br />

of Scotland’s first three new towns; the plan would be focused on an<br />

entire region rather than just the town itself.<br />

The location of <strong>Livingston</strong> had played a prime part in its designation<br />

as the fourth new town. <strong>Livingston</strong> was not only in a central location<br />

between Edinburgh and Glasgow but also within easy reach of Edinburgh<br />

Airport, the port at Grangemouth and a number of the Scottish universities.<br />

The development of <strong>Livingston</strong> was based on a Master Plan that set<br />

out clear objectives and guiding principles. It was first published in 1963,<br />

and remained a blueprint until 1996, although it was revised many times<br />

in between. The flexibility of the Master Plan meant that it could respond<br />

both to changes in the job market and to feed-back from residents during<br />


livingston lives<br />

the 20 to 30 years over which it would come to fruition. The Master Plan<br />

created a vision of a town divided into residential districts <strong>by</strong> a network<br />

of roads. Industrial areas were to be located on the outskirts of the town,<br />

although offices and service-based companies were to be located in the<br />

centre. This location of industry on the periphery was designed to prevent<br />

congestion in the centre of the town and also to allow easy commuter<br />

access from outlying regions.<br />

The plan created a clear vision of <strong>Livingston</strong> as the town of the car<br />

and it was assumed that <strong>by</strong> the 1980s every resident in <strong>Livingston</strong> would<br />

have access to a vehicle. At the same time, the layout of <strong>Livingston</strong> was<br />

based on the separation of people and roads. Child safety was at the heart<br />

of this idea and it was envisioned that no child would have to cross a<br />

main road to get either to school or to a bus stop. Instead a network of<br />

underpasses would allow pedestrian access across town. While underpasses<br />

were essentially designed to protect the safety of residents, their<br />

sloping sides unfortunately made them an appealing but dangerous play -<br />

ground for children. Although they were designed to take people away from<br />

the traffic, the network of underpasses caused inevitable confusion, and<br />

many residents found, and still find, shortcuts along road embankments.<br />

The provision of green spaces was another important element of ldc’s<br />

plan for <strong>Livingston</strong>. ldc was committed both to landscaping areas of<br />

development and to preserving the existing woodland. Reflecting this<br />

principle, 50 semi-mature oak trees have been planted in the grounds of<br />

local schools as part of <strong>Livingston</strong>’s 50th birthday celebrations. Despite<br />

years of development <strong>Livingston</strong> still has many green spaces and remains<br />

surrounded <strong>by</strong> countryside.<br />

<strong>Livingston</strong>’s Master Plan set ambitious targets for construction.<br />

1,000 acres were to be set aside for industrial development and ldc<br />

aimed to build 1,000 houses per year for the first two decades. The plans<br />

were based on a projected population of 70,000 <strong>by</strong> 1985 and 100,000<br />

<strong>by</strong> the millennium; a target more ambitious than those projected <strong>by</strong> any<br />

previous new town. The construction of <strong>Livingston</strong> was very carefully<br />

planned and the idea of phased development was also central. By building<br />

each area as a distinct part of the town, each new district could reflect<br />

new ideas and the changing needs of the local population.<br />

In 1966, the Lothians Regional Survey and Plan followed the Master<br />

Plan. The report focused on an area of 133 square miles and proposed<br />


from plan to construction: the growth of a new town<br />

the expansion of the established communities in the areas surrounding<br />

<strong>Livingston</strong>. It also proposed that the new town should develop more<br />

links with these communities <strong>by</strong> acting as a regional centre for shopping,<br />

leisure and service-based facilities.<br />

Taking inspiration from the regional plan, ldc developed bold plans<br />

for the centre of the town. <strong>Livingston</strong> was not to have a simple ‘shopping<br />

centre’ or ‘town centre’ like any other town. Instead the planners visualised<br />

the town’s shopping facilities as being located in a ‘regional centre’ suggesting<br />

that <strong>Livingston</strong> would not only attract shoppers from <strong>Livingston</strong><br />

but also from the surrounding region. It is no surprise that this was ldc’s<br />

largest development project to date, and in retrospect, effectively bigger<br />

than others that followed.<br />

The planning successes, and occasionally failures, of ldc did not<br />

always lie in their ambitious architectural vision, but often in the details<br />

which could have great impact on the experiences of new residents. For<br />

example, the naming of streets was central to ensuring that incomers<br />

would be able to find their way around the districts of their new town.<br />

To achieve this, the planners gave each district a unique series of names;<br />

in Craigshill West the streets were all given Australian names and were<br />

called ‘streets’ whilst in Howden East they were all ‘avenues’ with<br />

Canadian names.<br />

Likewise, there were some elements of the town that could have<br />

benefited from better planning. Despite this careful naming of streets,<br />

early signposting was sparse, with the result that new residents found it<br />

easy to get lost.<br />

The building of the new town was not without controversy. ldc had<br />

laid out a very ambitious house building programme which, to be fulfilled,<br />

would have to operate to a very tight and uninterrupted schedule.<br />

Construction problems began with the award of the first contract for<br />

the building of both 267 houses at <strong>Livingston</strong> Station and the ldc office<br />

block to a little known firm, Messrs. Pert and Sons of Montrose. Awarding<br />

the contracts to this firm can best be understood in the context of an<br />

agreement made <strong>by</strong> ldc, in 1963, to provide housing for workers at<br />

bmc in Bathgate. This resulted in clear pressure from the Secretary of<br />

State for the project to completed as quickly as possible, and limited the<br />

potential scope of the tendering process.<br />


livingston lives<br />

I suppose my first Corporation meeting in January 1963 <strong>by</strong> myself<br />

with no technical staff, must represent a peak of my career…My<br />

first proposal – enthusiastically endorsed, was that we should all<br />

visit new homes in Scandinavia…But at that same first meeting, the<br />

Scottish Development Department demanded an instant ‘crash’<br />

(their term!) programme of housing for the ill-fated car factory at<br />

Bathgate – in advance of any conceivable master plan for the town.<br />

Our expectations of an inspirational journey to the landscapes of<br />

Scandinavia were short-lived…we went instead on a dreary tour of<br />

the ‘old’ new towns around London.’<br />

peter daniel<br />

Chief Architect/Planner, ldc, 1962–1964<br />

The issue of contract awards quickly fell under the media spotlight. Newly<br />

elected West Lothian mp, Tam Dalyell, publicly started asking questions<br />

about the tendering process for the first houses, resulting in what the<br />

Daily Record referred to in 1963 as a ‘war of words.’ By this time Mr<br />

Dalyell was already wary of ldc who had failed to invite him to the<br />

official inauguration ceremony. In particular, Mr Dalyell was keen to<br />

find out both why the contract had been awarded to Perts and why the<br />

contract had not been awarded to a local firm. The situation worsened<br />

when Perts not only began to miss deadlines but also began to be criticised<br />

<strong>by</strong> the ldc for low quality workmanship. Problems came to a climax<br />

when the firm went into voluntary liquidation in 1965. The issue was<br />

eventually investigated <strong>by</strong> the House of Commons Public Accounts<br />

Committee in that same year; they found that ‘…this case illustrates the<br />

dangers of departing from sound methods of contracting’, and concluded<br />

that both ldc and the Scottish Development Department were at fault.<br />

Considering this, it is unsurprising that 1965 also brought a change in the<br />

chairmanship of ldc, and Sir David Lowe was replaced <strong>by</strong> William Taylor.<br />

In his questioning of ldc, the young Tam Dalyell set an early precedent,<br />

and the processes of planning and construction were never far<br />

from political comment. In 1972 decisions regarding the ldc chairmanship<br />

became the subject of controversy. When Taylor was replaced as<br />

Chairman <strong>by</strong> Desmond Misselbrook, local Labour mp’s Tam Dalyell and<br />

Alex Eadie sent multiple letters of protest to the Secretary of State for<br />

Scotland. After representation from the local Catholic community, they<br />


from plan to construction: the growth of a new town<br />

also asked the Scottish Secretary to find a place on the board for Mr<br />

Taylor. Their protests were, however, in vain.<br />

Largely as a result of ldc’s ambitious population targets, building<br />

methods were also the source of significant problems. The first housing<br />

contract in Craigshill was awarded to John Laing (Construction) Ltd for the<br />

development of almost 1,000 houses to be built using industrial methods<br />

with prefabricated concrete panels. This was considered to be a fast and<br />

cost-effective way to build thousands of houses quickly. Unfortunately,<br />

the system had not been tested and it proved unsuitable for the Scottish<br />

climate. Problems were compounded <strong>by</strong> contractors’ delays and poor<br />

workmanship. These Jesperson ‘piano blocks’ suffered from problems of<br />

water penetration. A particular source of weakness was the decision not<br />

to include a special joint on the balconies, which would have prevented<br />

water being blown in <strong>by</strong> strong winds such as those experienced in<br />

Craigshill in 1968. Although measures were taken to remedy the situation,<br />

residents continued to experience problems; it was not until 1994 that the<br />

difficulties associated with this type of housing were finally remedied.<br />

…<strong>by</strong> the early months of 1964 I was far too involved in the<br />

design and development of Craigshill which I had convinced the<br />

Board must partly be built using industrialised building methods<br />

– if the town was ever to reach its 1,000 house completion a year.<br />

With the active encouragement of the Ministry of Housing in<br />

London…I finally chose Laings because I thought they were one<br />

of the most progressive contractors in Britain and they had chosen<br />

to use a system designed <strong>by</strong> Danish engineers, which would be<br />

prefabricated from a factory to be sited in the town. It all sounded<br />

marvellous but alas the simple technologies demanded of it and<br />

that little bit of extra finance, just wasn’t there. We weren’t even<br />

allowed to build one small prototype. Construction on site started<br />

after I had been asked to resign in September 1964.<br />

peter daniel<br />

Chief Architect/Planner, ldc, 1962–1964<br />

Due to problems of damp housing and a realisation that the population was<br />

not growing as quickly as first anticipated, ldc returned to traditional<br />

building methods in the 1970s.<br />


livingston lives<br />

Unfortunately for ldc, contractor problems were not restricted to<br />

the first wave of housing. Work came to halt on a £600,000 housing<br />

contract at <strong>Livingston</strong> Station in 1971, when construction firm James<br />

White (Contractors) Ltd went into liquidation. Such problems were not<br />

unique to the new town, and were largely a product of economic downturn.<br />

However, the effects were felt more acutely in <strong>Livingston</strong> because<br />

of the scale and timing of the construction programme. It is to the credit of<br />

ldc that its staff were able to overcome such problems.<br />

The construction of factories was another central component of ldc’s<br />

building programme. The ready provision of industrial accommodation<br />

was seen as key to selling the town as a premier business location. ldc was<br />

able to build factories in anticipation of future demands, which meant that<br />

accommodation could be provided almost immediately to incoming<br />

businesses. Factories could also be built to company specifications and<br />

with room for expansion. Industrial expansion gradually continues<br />

although most of it is now developer led.<br />

Despite the Master Plan, there were certain aspects of <strong>Livingston</strong><br />

that were under-developed <strong>by</strong> the late 1970s. In 1978, ldc commissioned<br />

a study into the provision of social facilities in <strong>Livingston</strong>. It fell<br />

considerably short compared with both other new towns and other similar<br />

sized towns. It would seem, however, that the highlighting of this shortcoming<br />

was a trigger for action and the flexible Master Plan meant that in<br />

the years that followed, ldc was able to develop more social facilities; in<br />

2012 <strong>Livingston</strong> has no shortage of such facilities.<br />

The wind-up of ldc, completed in 1997, signalled the end for a<br />

Master Plan outlining the future of the area. Planning and construction<br />

have not, however, come to a dramatic halt. Since then, under West<br />

Lothian Council, there have been several new school buildings in<br />

<strong>Livingston</strong> including a new Deans Community High School and<br />

<strong>Livingston</strong> Village Primary School. West Lothian College opened its doors<br />

in 2001. The completion of the final phase of the Elements, formerly<br />

Almondvale Shopping Centre, has at last allowed full realisation of the<br />

Regional Centre in all but name.<br />


from plan to construction: the growth of a new town<br />

Cutting the first turf, Almondvale Regional Centre, 1972<br />

William Taylor, Chairman of LDC, can been here cutting the first turf at the Regional Centre,<br />

marking the beginning of construction at the site. Ceremonies like this became a familiar sight<br />

in the early years of the new town.<br />

I was born and brought up on Pumpherston Farm so I saw the very diggers, cranes<br />

and builders which made of the houses and factories here. Most fond memories of<br />

all was walking on Sundays past small-holdings, spending time, enjoying life, and<br />

watching so many people being given a new house with a new life. <strong>Livingston</strong> has<br />

it all.<br />


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Website: www.luath.co.uk<br />


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