Glenrothes Heritage Centre given access to vast company archive

David Brown has spenct months pulling the ehibition together. (Pic George McLuskie).
David Brown has spenct months pulling the ehibition together. (Pic George McLuskie).

Mention the name Tullis Russell today and it’s still regarded as one of the finest paper manufacturers ever to produce such materials.

Locally it meant pride, a career spanning successive generations and a family of workers across the the local area. Globally Tullis Russell stood for craftsmanship and a quality second-to-none.

Tullis Russell maintenance workers circa 1898.

Tullis Russell maintenance workers circa 1898.

Now, almost two years to the day from when the famous company collapsed, effectively bringing to an end a rich 206 year-long history, a major new exhibition is about to open in Glenrothes.

It charts the facinating history of the Tullis Russell paper mill in Markinch and draws on the company archive that now resides with St Andrews University, as well as large amounts of company papers, documents, photographs and other items of historical importance, currently held by Glenrothes Heritage Centre.

For Heritage Centre trustee, David Brown – who has been the driving force behind the months of research that brought the exhibition together – now is the time to celebrate the Tullis Russell legacy.

“The exhibition has been a long time in the making, and with the sensitivity and depth of feeling regarding the great many whose livelihoods were affected when the company went bust, to have had the exhibition sooner will have been insensitive,” David explained.

Tullis Russell Christmas Party, Markinch circa mid 1950s.

Tullis Russell Christmas Party, Markinch circa mid 1950s.

“Now, lives have moved on, yet there is, and always will be, a deep sense of pride held locally regarding Tullis Russell.

“It was at the very centre of a great many lives of local people for many generations and it’s fitting that we have this exhibition that is a celebration of a truly global company.”

Robert Tullis of the Cupar Press purchased the lease of the Auchmuty paper mill (the first building in Scotland five years earlier in 1804), and formed the paper manufacurer R Tullis & Co in 1809

In 1874 brothers David and Arthur Russell became managing partners in the company, giving it the TR name which came synonymous with paper-making the world over. The company remained under the control of the Russell family until it was sold to its employees in 1994.

An early map of the papermill site dating from 1860.

An early map of the papermill site dating from 1860.

It’s a rich and fasinating company history that surprised even David. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the sheer size of the company and how it was at the heart of the community and played a part in just about everyone’s life,” he said.

The company were involved in every aspect of life, and many public buildings, schools, social and sports clubs in the Markinch and Glenrothes area were influenced by Tullis Russell.

“It was at the centre of people’s lives for generations.”

And with the exhibition open opening its doors to the public at the end of the month, Linda Ballingall, the centre’s chairman, said they are expecting a huge amount of interest.

She said: “The time is right to show off Tullis Russell history in all its glory, and we are honoured to have been allowed unprecedented access to the archives.

“The exhibition will appeal to young and old alike and will bring a great many artefacts together for the public to view for the very first time.

“There’s an inevitable tinge of sadness that comes with the demise of the company, but we hope the exhibition forms a celebration of the company, both locally,and on the world stage.”

The free exhibition opens at the Glenrothes & Area Heritage Centre, Lyon Way, Glenrothes on Saturday. April 29 and then runs weekly Tuesday - Saturday.