Papers of Sir David Russell

Scope and Content

The business and personal papers of Sir David Russell cover his broad interests in matters spiritual, academic, artistic and photographic, as well as his wide-ranging business interests (primarily papermaking). This makes this huge collection of considerable interest for subjects as diverse as Byzantine archaeology and the foundation of the Iona Community. Primarily consisting of correspondence, there are also c.18,000 photographs, covering a broad range of subjects. The collection includes notebooks, diaries, account books, and estate and legal papers.

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 Russell (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 would organise a buy-out of the Tullis family interest in the company. This would see 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 Alsion Blyth (1890 - 1958), daughter of the industrialist Francis Blyth of Belvedere, Kent. They would have 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 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.


Both the main body of the collection and subsequent smaller deposits had been boxed and listed prior to their transfer to the St Andrews University Library Special Collections Department. (These lists are located at ms38515 /14). The main body of the collection is divided up into themed sections. Within each section, the collection is arranged alphabetically by a referencing system which uses an amalgamation of subjects, surnames and company names to identify material. Within a given section the items are divided chronologically.

This material is presented in titled folders. These folders are of a uniform early to mid 20th century format and their referencing is in a uniform hand. All of this points to this arrangement dating from Sir David Russell's era, and most probably therefore the work of Sir David Russell's long-time secretary, Ilse Bell. Within this system, holdings were grouped together in an instinctive manner which placed holdings in the section in which they were perceived to have the most relevance. However, due to the broad nature of Sir David Russell's interests, holdings relating to common themes or individuals could be found across the collection. Also, within broad sections, there were numerous distinct sub-sections of material distinct from the rest of the section.

The cataloguing of the collection has largely retained original arrangement, any changes of location being recorded.

The normal level of description across this large catalogue is at folder level within a particular box within a particular section. Using this formula, a typical reference would be ms38515/2/28/9. This is made-up of the following elements: collection manuscript number / collection section number / box number within the section / folder number within the box. The catalogue also carries occasional references to particular items within folders. Using the above format, page 4 of the above folder would be referenced ms38515/2/28/9 p4.

Subjects covered are:

  • ms38515 /1 Davidson and Syme and Dr Watt Papers;
  • ms38515 /2 Recording Scotland Papers;
  • ms38515 /3 Robert Tullis and Co. / Tullis Russell and Co Ltd Papers;
  • ms38515 /4 EAAN (Russell's esparto grass importing company) Papers;
  • ms38515 /5 General Files;
  • ms38515 /6 Major W Tudor Pole Papers;
  • ms38515 /7 Alexis Aladin Papers;
  • ms38515 /8 Family Papers;
  • ms38515 /9 Iona-related Papers;
  • ms38515 /10 The National Trust for Scotland Papers;
  • ms38515 /11 University of St Andrews-related Papers (including Walker Trust material not included in section 12 below);
  • ms38515 /12 Walker Trust Byzantine Archaeology Papers;
  • ms38515 /13 Sir David Russell Photography material;
  • ms38515 /14 Collection Paper Lists.

ms38534: Papers of Sir David Russell as Assessor on Court of the University of St Andrews, (1921-1959). The arrangement of these papers shows them to clearly form part of Russell's Personal Papers. However, these papers were deposited with University Special Collections independently of the main collection. Related papers within the main collection are located at ms38515/12.

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted. Special conditions apply to photographs.


Sponsorship from the Russell Trust is allowing digitisation of key areas of the photography within the collection The photography is described separately as GB 227 phSDR.

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

Other Finding Aids

A series of brief handlists are available. Fuller listing is proceeding with the generous sponsorship of the Russell Trust, and is due for completion on the Manuscripts Database at GB 227 in 2003.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Special conditions apply to photographs.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

The main body of the collection was deposited with St Andrews University Library Special Collections Department by the Russell family between 1985-1991and 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

At GB 227 there are numerous papers relating to various aspects of Russell's close connection with the University. Principal amongst these are papers located at:At GB 227 there are numerous papers relating to various aspects of Russell's close connection with the University. Principal amongst these are papers located at:ms38533: Papers of Lorne Mcintyre (biographer of Sir David Russell: please see below: Select Bibliography). These papers, which extend to 4 boxes, comprise a small amount of LM author drafts together with a significant quantity of Russell and Russell-related autograph and printed manuscript material.ms38533: Papers of Lorne Mcintyre (biographer of Sir David Russell: please see below: Select Bibliography). These papers, which extend to 4 boxes, comprise a small amount of LM author drafts together with a significant quantity of Russell and Russell-related autograph and printed manuscript material.UYUY875: Papers of Principal Sir James Colquhoun Irvine (University Principal: 1921-1952). Numerous papers which reflect the close relationship enjoyed by the two men and which complement holdings relating to Irvine within the Russell collection.

Holdings elsewhere:Holdings elsewhere:A search of the N.R.A. database does not reveal major holdings relating to Russell elsewhere. However, significant holdings relating to Russell and his connection with Alexis Aladin are to be found within the manuscript collections of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester (Lancashire). The Fife Council Archive in Glenrothes also hold some minor Russell holdings relating to the land tenure of the Auchmuty Mill, Rothes Mill and Bleachfield sites. These are included within the Countess of Rothes Papers.

GB 227 ms38516 Dr David Francis Oliphant Russell (1915-1993), son of Sir David Russell.


L. MacIntyre, Sir David Russell, (St Andrews, 1994) ; W.D. Doughty, The Tullis Press, Cupar, 1803-1849, (Abertay Historical Society, Dundee, 1967); 3: C.D.M. Ketelbey, Tullis Russell: the history of Robert Tullis and Co and Russell Tullis and Co Ltd; 1809-1959, (Markinch, 1967).