Photographic collection of Sir David Russell

Scope and Content

Sir David Russell was a keen photographer. His personal photographs date from ca.1890-1955. Principal amongst these are images of family life, mostly centred around the family home of Silverburn House, as well as family holidays. During these family holidays, Russell also took a number of views. The family holiday holdings relate principally to holidays within Scotland, most especially Mull and Iona in the 1930s. There are also a number of images from Russell's early adult life (ca.1890-ca.1915). These include images of individuals and a quantity of views, principally Scottish.

As effective head of the family after his father's death in 1906, he also held a quantity of earlier family photographs, including many taken by his mother, Janet Russell (1839-1924) as well as a small number of earlier family photographs. These include a small number of significant Thomas Rodger (of St Andrews) portrait images (ca.1860) which bear an embossed mark styling Rodger as "calotypist of St Andrews" as well as an early image of the Rothes Mill / Bleachfield / Auchmuty Mill site (ca.1855-ca.1865).

Russell also photographed extensively during his visits to the Walker Trust archaeological excavations in Istanbul (Turkey) in the 1935-1938 period. These images have been augmented with the extensive and important Walker Trust photographic holdings relating to these excavations. Also included are photographic holdings relating to the later excavations of 1951-1954 in Istanbul and the Walker Trust-sponsored excavations in Trebizond (Turkey) in the 1950s and 1960s (see GB 227 ms38515 /12 for accompanying texts).

Administrative / Biographical History

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.


Sir David Russell's personal photographs were listed in detail by his son, Dr D F O Russell, prior to their deposit with St Andrews University Library Special Collections Department, ca.1991. This list, which is located within ms38515 /14 (Russell Collection paper lists) comprises: details of holdings; notes on holdings disposed of (mostly degraded negatives); details of cameras used by Sir David Russell. These include a Leica bought in 1929 and a Rolliflex bought in 1932.

Some holdings include technique notes by Sir David Russell on types of film used, exposure etc. Where these are present, they are detailed at box-level description entry.

Accompanying texts relating to Walker Trust Archaeological Excavation images may be found at ms38515 /12 (Walker Trust Excavations). The listing of these items is designed to allow the re-uniting of photographic images with their supporting documentation as required.

Access Information

The photographic collections are currently the subject of a major digitisation project. It is the intention to have the entire archive captured in electronic form, and available (with sophisticated searching facilities) on line via the web. A full version of the software can be accessed in the Library and researchers are welcome to visit the library to use it but it is important that appointments are made in advance. Access to original photographic material may be restricted.


Many images are becoming available in digital format. These are available on the Special Collections Department searchable on-line photographic database.

Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project, based on text supplied by Meic Pierce Owen, Russell Trust archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist is available at GB 227 ms38515/14.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies of images held in the photographic collection (with the exception of any photographs which are held either without copyright or under other restrictions imposed by the donor or photographer) can be ordered. Photographs thus provided for purely personal or research purposes are not subject to any fee beyond the photographic costs (for which a scale of charges is available). Prior written permission must be obtained before any further reproduction is undertaken of images supplied, for commercial or non-commercial purposes. Reproduction fees may be charged.

True photographic reprints of most images can be provided, or computer-generated prints of an increasing proportion of the collection at low, medium or high resolution. Given the fragility of the original material our preference is to provide computer prints where possible. We can also provide transparencies and a range of electronic formats.

Custodial History

The photographs, along with the main body of the collection, was deposited with St Andrews University Library Special Collections Department by the Russell family between 1985-1991 and was originally held as msdep81. A number of smaller subsequent deposits have followed, the most recent being in 2001. The collection is currently held on permanent deposit under detailed terms negotiated with the Keeper of Manuscripts and Muniments.

Related Material

Remainder of GB 227 ms38515; also GB 227 ms38516, papers of Major D.F.O. Russell.