Stanley Mill 1953 to 1959.


Stanley was the furthest north cotton mill in Scotland and was brought into use around 1787.

The manufacture of cotton thread is a long process and requires a great number of different machines to provide an end product.

Taking into account the number of departments and the machinery involved there was a requirement for a fairly large maintenance department.

In 1953 the maintenance department (see photographs) consisted of; Jock Scott (foreman engineer), Fitters, George Torbet, George Stewart, Stuart Wood, Jim Roger, Alex Ross, Ronnie Davidson, Jack Williamson, and Davie Dunbar.

Apprentices, Dave Harvey and Bob Brodie.

Black Smiths, Andrew Carswell and Ally Scott.

Labourers, Jock McIntosh, Kenny Scott and Jimmy Lawrence.

Painter, Jock Harrington.

Joiners, Bob Bryson Jock Marshall and Daniel Duncanson.

The electrical department consisted of Bob Mudie, Frank Smith and labourers Bob Allen and Jim Kettles and myself Jim Harvey as apprentice electrical engineer (the first ever-electrical apprentice employed by Jute Industries Ltd. at the mill)

 At this point I will mention a little of the process of cotton manufacture and the end products made in Stanley Mill.

Firstly the bell in the Bell Mill would be rung at Bob Mackay the night watchman by way of warning people in the village it would be starting time in the mill half an hour later at 7.30am. Again the bell would be rung at 7.30am and everybody had to be through the gate on time or they were in trouble. Anyone who was late would have their name taken and would be reported to the management The bell also rang at 12 noon for the lunch break this time and at 1pm to restart this time by the day watchman. The Electrical Department staff started work at 7am in order to bring the electrical load on to the switchboard; the large motors being started around 7.20am and the same procedure gone through again at lunchtime restart. Work finished at 5pm and everyone was ready to rush out from their workplace when the bell rang to signify time. Workers in the mill came from Perth, Dunkeld, Bankfoot, Blairgowrie and Coupar Angus as well as Stanley and buses were laid on to transport them to and from work from the different places mentioned. There must have been something like 200 to 250 people worked in the mill at a time, which was at its peak in terms of production.

Cotton Production

The start of the process is the introduction of heavy bales of raw cotton usually supplied from the U.S.A. although some cotton usually of poorer quality came from Paraguay.

The Blow Room is the first line in the chain of manufacture and the large bales were broken up and fed into the machines, which separated the good cotton from the flock. The cotton was then rolled on to what was called a lap, which had to be the correct weight to define quality.

The flock from the cotton would be separated by the machines bagged and sold on to manufacturers making mattresses and cushions the rest of the waste was blown outside into the river, not so environmentally friendly in those days.

The laps were taken up to the Carding Room and the process really was to tease the cotton out and decrease the diameter and increase the strength. To achieve this the cotton was passed through Draw Frames, Slabber or Twisting machines to Intermediate Twisting machines and to Roving Frames slowly reducing the diameter at each part of the process. Over time, new machines were installed in the Carding Room to reduce the number of processes to achieve the same end result. The Blow Room and the Carding Department were probably the dustiest places overall in the factory to work in with no such thing as air conditioning.

 Spinning is the next part of the process turning the cotton into thread, as we all know it.

Mechanical spinning machines were introduced from 1760 with Richard Arkwright’s invention and at the same time the “Spinning Jenny” was invented by James Hargreaves, (Jenny from the Scots dictionary means Spinner). The mechanical spinning machine or frame greatly increased the rate that cotton could be spun. Spinning frames started off being hand driven and progressed to being water driven, then to steam and eventually by electricity. As far as I am aware Stanley Mill was driven by water at first and then by electricity.

The final process before weaving was winding the thread on to bobbins or cheeses and then wound on to beams that were fitted to the rear of the weaving loom.

At that time the mill produced webbing, web drive belts, sailcloth up to 4 foot wide and hosepipes as used by fire departments. The largest loom was a machine called the Great Eastern manufactured by Robert Hall of Burnley which filled a room on it’s own and wove conveyor belts 3 foot wide by one inch thick. The bandroom produced endless belts or tapes used by the cigarette manufacturers. The looms used in the bandroom were a Stanley Mill invention. At that time car seat belts were being introduced and they were being manufactured at the mill with man made fibres such as nylon which were bought in. I’m not sure how successful this new product was.

I hope it’s understood from the summary detail of the cotton manufacturing process and the various machines and the number involved in that process, the requirement for a substantial maintenance and repair department. Most of the spare parts for the machines were made in the engineering department ‘s workshop and all the fitters were competent in doing just that.

In 1953 overhead shafting and pulleys were driven by large AC electric motors which in turn drove the machines through belts manufactured in the mill. About 75% of the machines in the mill were driven this way but that percentage was being reduced all the time due to the fitting of individual electrical motor drives. It was a bit like cutting your own throat as the new motors were fitted with v-belt drives and consequently reduced the need for cotton belts as was happening throughout the country.

The lighting was also being improved with the installation of fluorescent fittings and the complete rewiring of some departments at the same time.

Power Station

The electricity to the mill and part of the village was supplied by the power station built in 1921. An 800 yard tunnel was driven through the hill from the lade near to where the power station building is situated, to the “Back Mine” dam, on the river Tay, down stream from Campsie Linn. Sluice gates were fitted at the tunnel entrance to enable shutdowns for maintenance and repair.

The power station had two water driven turbo alternators, one, which ran 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. There was also a diesel driven alternator, supplying power at shutdowns and in times when the river Tay was in spate.

The larger of the two turbines, commissioned in 1922, was a Francis double runner, the alternator being of English Electric Manufacture and controlled by a Swedish Boving governor and supplied a maximum of 450 kilowatts. The smaller machine had a Kapling single runner turbine and the alternator was manufactured by the General Electric Company, controlled by the same make of governor and supplying 300 kilowatts. A Ruston Hornsby, horizontal, twin cylinder diesel engine, drove the standby machine of English Electric manufacture supplying at full load 75 kilowatts. The main switchboard was made by English Electric.

 The technical information is an abbreviated version of notes I made during my apprenticeship, of makes, serial numbers and outputs of all the power station equipment and more of this information is still in my notebook to this day.

The Mill was closed for the annual holiday fortnight and this period enabled essential maintenance and repairs to be carried out mainly to the power station and tunnel.

To assess the repairs required it was necessary to shut the power station down and drain the tunnel of water. This usually happened about two to three weeks before the holidays when a number of the senior engineering staff from the head office in Dundee would descend on us to carry out the inspection.

Bob Mudie and I had the task, and an enjoyable one at that I must add, of transporting ash taken from the boiler house to the back mine by means of boat from Campsie Linn. If I remember correctly we would hire a fishing boat from Bradley Thomas at the Linn and fit our own outboard motor to it. The ashes and anything required on the night would be loaded up after being transported to the Linn by way of the mill truck. Bob and I would set sail down stream to the tunnel entrance and deliver the goods. During the time we were at the “Back Mine” the telephone and electricity supply situated in the brick hut next to the tunnel entrance would be checked for operation and the ability to contact the power station. When the sluice was closed on the night the ash would be poured down in front of the closed gates as a seal to stop any water seeping into the tunnel.

After the mill closed on Friday at 5pm on the night of the tunnel inspection the diesel alternator would be started up bearing in mind that electricity still had to be supplied to parts of the village and other essential services. The diesel would be put on line and the turbo alternators shut down. The sluice gates would then be closed and the tunnel drained. This operation could take up to two hours.

Any repairs needed would be noted, usually cement works, and a schedule prepared for the required tasks during the main shutdown.

Once everyone was clear of the tunnel and all the stranded fish caught, the sluice gates would be opened and the power station returned to normal operation.

During the holiday shutdown period Bob, Frank Smith, who looked after the station on a daily basis, and I took turns in operating the diesel machine that ran from 7am to 11.30 at night. As previously mentioned parts of the village took electricity from the mill including street lighting and this service had to be maintained on a daily basis. At that time the village was slowly being changed over to Hydro-Electric supply, as it was much cheaper. With the changing life styles, and the need for more electrical appliances, the demand for electricity was becoming too much for the existing supply and wiring and consequently the price was inflated to try and reduce this demand. The price per unit of electricity was 3d (old money) and after so many units went up to 4d, this figure being set to prevent too much usage.

Electricity was supplied to Store Street, parts of King Street, street lighting at the back of Store Street and on the Mill Brae.

During the summer shutdown the turbine gates would require repair. The turbine is like a waterwheel, which revolves at high speed when the volume of water drops over the blades. The blades being in some way likened to a ship’s propeller lying horizontally within the water chamber and connected to a shaft. The shaft entered the power station wall through a watertight bearing and drove the alternator. In order to change the output of the alternator as the load demand changed the Boving governor with shafting also entering through the chamber wall, controlled the gates, opening and closing them as required, to allow more or less water into the turbine to control the speed and output. The gates opened or closed on steel pins about 1” in diameter and 10” long. The pins were removed examined and replaced if worn. Any new pins required were made in mechanical workshop.

Not much thought for health and safety in those days as the fitters would sit on a scaffolding plank whilst working on the turbines looking down into nothing but deep water.

Where the water leaves the Power Station is called the tailrace and flows back into the river along a channel separated from the river by a stone built wall. The idea of the wall is to allow the water to flow easily into the river without being dammed back by the fast flowing water of the river’s main stream.

At that time spates were common and river could rise 8 feet or more in as little as an hour. This could be the result of a rainstorm further upstream or melting snow or perhaps Loch Faskally releasing water or a combination of all three. The water in the main stream would be running above the wall of the tailrace in times of spate and effectively reduce the working head of the turbines thereby reducing output. In those situations the diesel machine was brought into use to assist in maintaining power to the mill.

All the young lads in the village who could ice skate will remember playing ice hockey on the curling pond in the field opposite Clarkie’s. I thought at that time it was a curling pond, when it fact it was an emergency water supply to the mill in the event of a fire. The water level was kept up by pumping water from the Tay to the pond usually on a weekly basis. The mill had installed throughout, a sprinkler system, which automatically triggered when heat from a fire was sensed thus dowsing the fire. When operated the pressure in the system would drop and a large pump would start up and draw water from the Tay into the sprinkler system. If the main pump failed water would be drawn from the curling pond. Cotton dust is very flammable and there was a lot of it flying around. Fires were very likely and everyone was aware of the need to be vigilant, as the consequences could be very serious, the Bell Mill being burned down once in it’s lifetime.

Stanley Mill had a fairly good cricket team and although they had no pitch of their own had all the gear and played away against teams in the area. Frank Smith who I mentioned earlier was their star bowler who also played for Murthly at that time. Frank with his slow left arm bowling, once took 100 wickets for Murthly in a season, no mean feat.

I have given mainly from an engineering perspective a brief account of my time working in Stanley Mill.

James Harvey - October 2006