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
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
Black Smiths, Andrew Carswell and Ally Scott.
Labourers, Jock McIntosh, Kenny Scott and Jimmy Lawrence.
Painter, Jock Harrington.
Joiners, Bob Bryson Jock Marshall and
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 7am.by
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.
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
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 lighting was also being improved with the installation
of fluorescent fittings and the complete rewiring of some departments at the
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.
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
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
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
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
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