Sir David Russell (1872-1956) of Silverburn, Markinch, Fife. Born the third son of David Russell senior (1831-1906), a partner in Robert Tullis and Company Ltd., papermakers based in Markinch, Fife, Sir David Russell became the driving force behind the expansion and evolution of this company into the major business of Tullis Russell and Company Ltd by the mid-1920s.
He was educated at Clifton Bank School, St Andrews before entering the family paper business, working first at the company's merchant house in Edinburgh. While in Edinburgh he attended evening classes at Heriot Watt College, studying Engineering, Botany and Geology. From the mid-1890s, he worked in partnership with his elder brother Robert (1871-1939), in modernising the mills, developing new product lines and expanding the company's markets.
In 1899, Sir David Russell was made a partner in Robert Tullis and Company. In 1906, the business underwent some restructuring and was re-named Tullis Russell and Company. Also in this year, Sir David Russell became a director of this company upon the death of his father. From this time on, Sir David became more and more both head of the company and head of the family. His keen eye for business and for process innovation saw the company continue to grow in the good times, and ride out the bad times, in the decades which followed. In 1925, David Russell organised a buy-out of the Tullis family interest in the company. This saw him becoming effective sole head of the company for the next 30 years. The focus which this afforded the company, together with Sir David Russell's acute business acumen, saw Tullis Russell make further progress, even in the difficult period of the 1930s. Russell also gained the reputation as an enlightened employer throughout his career, fostering a "family' atmosphere contemporary with the Cadbury Bournville experience in and around the mills.
In 1912, he married Alison Blyth (1890-1958), daughter of the industrialist Francis Blyth of Belvedere, Kent. They had 5 children in total including Dr D F O Russell (1915-1993) and J P O Russell (1918-1944). From the mid-1900s, David Russell increasingly came to oversee family financial affairs, notably in connection with the increasingly complicated financial affairs of his brother, Robert Russell and the settlement of the estate of his other brother, Major George Russell (1869-1942). He also became increasingly the custodian of the family extensive written and photographic archives.
Outwith papermaking, his business interests extended to include tea production in Assam (India), sugar production in Queensland (Australia), land-reclamation in 1920s-1930s Italy and innumerable smaller ventures including an impressive international shares portfolio and land holdings in New Zealand.
The wealth that this brought to Sir David Russell and his family not only afforded a comfortable life-style but also allowed him to become a generous benefactor and patron of numerous institutions, schemes and individuals. Often this support was broader than purely financial, while his support of individuals often included financial backing for a variety of their ventures. Institutions and major schemes supported by Russell included: the University of St Andrews; the renovation of the former Cathedral Church and monastery of Iona together with the Iona Fellowship; the National Trust for Scotland; the Recording Scotland programme and major archaeological excavations of Byzantine sites in Turkey. Among the individuals supported by Russell in numerous ways were the Russian exile Alexis Aladin and the noted neo-Christian mystic Major Wellesley Tudor Pole, with whom Russell had a life-long friendship.
Much of the financial support provided by Russell, especially to institutions and schemes, was routed through the numerous trusts with which Russell was either involved or which he himself founded. These included the personal and family trusts: the Walker Trust; the Russell (Markinch) Trust; the (Sir David) Russell Trust; the Russell Trust; the Major George Russell Trust. Also prominent was The Pilgrim Trust (founded in 1930 by Edward Stephen Harkness of New York, United States).
Sir David Russell was a fellow of a number of learned societies. These included the Royal Society of Arts, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Society of Antiquaries, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, the Botanical Society of Edinburgh and the Linnean Society. His support for the University of St Andrews lead to him being awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University in 1922 and to his knighthood in 1946.
Sir David Russell died at Silverburn House, the same house in which he had been born, on 12th May 1956.