|Collection||Tullis Russell Paper Mills Collection |
|Admin history||EARLY YEARS (R. TULLIS & CO.)|
In 1809 Robert Tullis (1775-1831) bought the 99 year lease of Auchmuty Meal Mill off its bankrupt tenant James Stronach. He quickly converted the mill into a four-vat paper mill which produced its first ream of hand-made paper in 1810 under the name of R. Tullis & Co. After his death, the company was overseen by his sons William and Robert. They bought out the other partners and expanded the business further by buying Rothes Mill in 1836. Rothes Mill had bankrupted no fewer than three paper-makers between 1804 and 1836. Under the management of R. Tullis & Co., however, both mills faced an exciting future; these two mills would become the principle units of the later Tullis Russell & Co. Ltd.'s 237 acre development lining the banks of the River Leven between Markinch and Glenrothes. At its height, Tullis Russell & Co. Ltd. was the largest paper-making enterprise in the United Kingdom. In 1842, following the death of Robert, James Thrift Smith was made joint-partner alongside William and by 1846 the company had also bought Rothes Bleachfield. In 1857 the company, managed to secure an act for the making of a railway siding to Auchmuty Mills. The latter half of the nineteenth century saw depression in the paper trade owing to Gladstone's Free Trade Treaty. Indeed R. Tullis & Co. signed the Papermaker's Petition in protest against the remission of Duty on Foreign Paper. In addition, the company was suffering because the decline of local textile industries meant it was harder to source the waste rags needed for the paper-making process. In the 1860s, to solve this problem, the company innovatively began to import Esparto Grass from Northern Africa which acted as a substitute. The use of Esparto became somewhat a speciality of the company's and later from 1911 the company would also produce Esparto wax which could be used as a polish.
PARTNERSHIP WITH THE RUSSELLS
The next notable step in R. Tullis & Co.'s history was when the brothers David Russell (1831-1906), flax and cotton cake producer, and Arthur Russell, a banker in Cupar, became partners in the company in 1874. The Tullis and Russell families had a well-established personal and business relationship before this; Robert Tullis' son, William, had married Agnes Russell in 1846 for instance. The use of Esparto became somewhat of a speciality of the company and from 1911 the company also began to produce Esparto wax which could be used as a polish. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, in 1887, the company succeeded in buying both Auchmuty and Rothes Mills outright from the Trustees for the Countess of Rothes' Estate and in 1894 built a new beater house at Auchmuty.
RUSSELL FAMILY BUY-OUT
In 1906 the company changed its name to Tullis Russell and Company Ltd. and Sir David Russell (1872-1956) became Director following his father's death. From this point onwards Sir David became the driving force of the company and in 1925 he organised a buy-out of the Tullis family share. During these years, the company built an excellent employer / employee relationship. Indeed, as early as 1843, R. Tullis & Co. was praised for its working conditions in a report into the employment of young adults and children. It was Sir David Russell, however, with the reputation of being an enlightened employer, who fostered a "family" atmosphere contemporary with the Cadbury Bournville experience. He established a savings bank to help employees (1917), founded the Markinch Institute for their leisure and enjoyment (1929) and instituted the Long Service Awards (1951). He also ensured the company provided accommodation, medical care and an early pension scheme. In 1929 he also founded the company magazine, The Rothmill Quarterly, whose editorial reinforced the sentiments of its proprietor by pledging 'This is a works' magazine - for the workers and written almost entirely by the workers. "Who of us are not workers?"' The company proved itself always careful to listen to its employees; it held its first Employee Attitude Survey in the 1950s. That such efforts were appreciated is shown by the various petitions submitted by the mills' employees to Sir David Russell expressing confidence in and gratitude for his leadership these can be found in the archive. Following his death in 1956, Sir David's son, David Francis Oliphant Russell (1915-1993), continued to foster a family atmosphere within the company until his retirement in 1985. One way in which employee interests were considered was by the amendments D.F.O. Russell made to the Russell Trust in 1975 whereby he ensured that full voting control was given to the employees of Tullis Russell & Co. Ltd. rather than the Russell family. The Russell Trust had been set up in 1947 in memory of D.F.O Russell's brother, John Patrick Russell who died in Italy during World War II. The Trust was initially given 25% of the shares in Tullis Russell, the proportion John would have inherited, had he lived. The aim of D.F.O. Russell's 1975 amendment was that the Trust would act as custodian of the family philosophy of the company and would also be safeguarded from the feared selfish family interests of the next Russell family generation. The Trust was, and still is, a source of many benefactions to many Scottish charities, especially those serving children and education, patron of the University of St. Andrews in particular. After D.F.O. Russell's retirement in 1985, David Erdal, son of Sheila Felicity Oliphant Russell and Albert Edward Erdal (1904-1974) took over leadership of the company. Under his leadership the company established its first Employee Benefits Trust (1987) and ultimately became entirely employee owned, this being achieved by a buyout in 1994 with employees presently holding 70% of shares.
TWENTIETH CENTURY RISE
Undeniably, much of the company's success can be attributed to this strong relationship between employer and employees. The first half of the twentieth century saw the company's dramatic growth and success. In 1938, the company was invited to take part in the famous Empire Exhibition held at Glasgow from the 3rd May to the 29th of October. There is an interesting record of the company's experience of this in the archive. During and after WW2, Tullis Russell's factories were recognised as being crucial to the UK's industry by their placement on the Military of Defence's Vital List of Factories. This demonstrates the company's rapidly increasing size and importance. In 1947 Tullis Russell joined the Employer's Federation of Paper and Board Makers and membership of a trade union became permitted for employees.
BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION
Much of the company's success was also based on its capacity for innovation, notably the installation of the world's first Twin-Wire Fourdrinnier Paper Machine and also the promotion for the first time of branded names for papers and boards such as "Ivorex", "Mellotex" and "Rothmill Board". In 1914 the company opened a small laboratory at Auchmuty Mill which represented the first chemical control of the paper industry. A few years before this, the company also began building its own Power Station at Markinch which was completed in 1914 and further enlarged in 1921. The second half of the twentieth century was marked by attempts to innovate with regards to energy sustainability. In 1979, D.F.O. Russell expressed concerns about energy shortages and devised a method of continuous working to avoid closing down at weekends - saving 70 tonnes of coal. Later, in 1997, one of the boilers of the Power Station was converted to gas. At the beginning of the twenty first century, the first recycled pulps were used at the mill and in March 2015, just months before the rest of the factory closed, a new biomass plant was officially opened at the Markinch site. This plant continues to run independently.
SUBSIDIARY & PARTNER COMPANIES
Throughout the twentieth century, Tullis Russell made a number of business partnerships and formed a number of subsidiary companies. One of the most notable partnerships was with Vulcanised Fibre Ltd. which was established by A. F. Jacobs in March 1917. Mr. Jacobs established his new business at Broadford, Shalford, Surrey. Vulcanized fibre is a type of laminated plastic composed of cellulose, lighter than aluminium yet stronger than most thermoplastics. On the 27 October 1927, Vulcanised Fibre Ltd. produced its first sheet that used paper supplied by Tullis Russell & Co. Ltd. This marked the beginning of a long working relationship between the two companies. During the 1940s, Vulcanised Fibre Ltd. contributed importantly to the war effort by manufacturing petrol tanks for military aircraft, in particular, the historic "Spitfire." Some years later, in 1963, Vulcanised Fibre became a wholly-owned subsidiary company of Tullis Russell. Consequently, D.F.O. Russell and J.B. Rae took seats on the Board of Directors of Vulcanised Fibre and there was even closer collaboration between the two companies' laboratories from this point.
In October 1967, a Memorandum of Agreement was made between Tullis Russell & Co. Ltd. and another manufacturer of vulcanised fibre, Spaulding Fibre Co. Inc. (USA). This memorandum created a new company - Spaulding Russell Ltd. D.F.O. Russell and J.B. Rae served as Directors on this new company too. This 'merger' linked four manufacturers of vulcanised fibre: Vulcanised Fibre Ltd., Spaulding Fibre Co. Inc., British Vulcanised Fibre Ltd. and Charles P. Moody (the latter two were subsidiaries to Spaulding Fibre). With these connections Spaulding Russell Ltd. was one of the largest and most advanced manufacturers of vulcanised fibre in Britain. In the early 1980s, however, Spaulding Russell was closed down after several years of recession and a worldwide decline in the fibre market due to the emergence of new competitive materials. Spaulding Fibre Co. Inc. at Tonawanda also closed, a decade later, in 1994.
Another subsidiary company, still existing today (2016), though under a different name, was Brittains Decalcomania Papers, Hanley which was purchased by Tullis Russell in 1980. This was part of the 'Omega project' by which the firm sought to expand into production of coated papers. In 1997, Brittains Decalcomania Paper's name was changed to Brittains (T.R.) Limited. Tullis Russell also acquired Coated Papers Ltd. of Bollington, Cheshire in 1989 and Revolutionary Adhesive Materials Ltd. of Gateshead in 1990. All three of these specialist coating companies continue in partnership today under the name of Tullis Russell Coaters Ltd.
In 2009 HRH The Princess Royal visited Tullis Russell to celebrate the company's 200th anniversary. Sadly, however, within just six years of this occasion, the administrators were called in to Tullis Russell Papermakers (April 2015) resulting in at least 325 employees losing their jobs. This happened because the firm was suffering from the falling value of the sterling in relation to the euro, rising raw material costs and because of a major customer's insolvency (PaperlinX). However, Tullis Russell Group's Cheshire-based coating business, their Kwang Duck Facility in Korea (est. in 1999) and Tullis Russell Asia (est. 2010) continue to operate.