David Donald

(Assistant Technical Manager, formerly at Culter Mills)

2002/54, David Donald interviewed in his own home in Edinburgh by Sarah Bromage on 15/8/2002

David Donald began his working life in the lab at Culter Mills in Aberdeen in 1946. He worked in the mill until 1963 when he moved to John Galloways Mill in Balerno as Assistant Technical Manager. He remained at the mill until it closed in 1971.

000 Left school, headmaster wanted him to go on to Grammar School but he wanted to get a job. Relatives worked in the mill. The lab seemed interesting.
025 Waited for a few months for the job. Started at age 16 in 1946 and worked on the cutting machine until there was a vacancy in the lab.
044 Went to evening classes at Robert Gordons. 3 evenings a week to do an ONC with day release. 2 years HNC with day release one morning, afternoon and evening a week.
067 Lab trials, was assistant chemist. Setting up shift lab in quality control. Tested every reel of paper.
091 If operational problems would put in marker and pulp it later. When changing quality or colour would change when working.

112 A tonne of paper in an hour, some changes would take up to 45 minutes. Had to have uniformity of thickness and weight.

128 Coating applied to the paper when wet. Chief chemist trained them, jobs of chemist in the mill. Daily checks and sampling. Lab had to monitor coal and paper ratio. Generated own electricity.

166 3 people in the lab. Girl never went to nightschool, would do routine analysis. 4-500 people working in mill. 4 machine mill and off machine coating.

186 Overhauling in the salle, women's domain. Counting of sheets. Men on the guillotine. Men paid an hourly rate, girls paid by piecework. Overseer. Each girl had a number which went to the printers. Could track who had worked on a particular order.

215 Sample room, samples kept from each order. Samples kept for years. Standard practice.

227 Customers would send paper in and you would have to match that fibre analysis; find out what was in paper.

239 Each firm had its own standard of white which you had to match. Sometimes orders sent away were off shade.

258 Raw materials used; esparto, woodpulp and rags. These froze up during the war and used straw which needed a longer cooking time. Straw was controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture. Farmers would put anything on a lorry, manure was just turned back.

277 Saw mill produced bark in the grinder. Only 3 machines running during the war. Labour availability meant people would work 12 hour shifts. Women came in on the slitting machines. Not on papermaking machines, but the guillotines.

296 When men came back women went back to female roles. Section in engineer shop to make sections for tanks. Firewatching done by mill people. Blackout in the mill. Paper store taken over by government and used as a store for food and clothes. Wire netting cage so people could not get in.

329 Raw materials became plentiful after the war. 4th machine started up. People called up who didn't come back.

345 Changes in production and technology and things you could test for. Printing technology a lot faster than paper. Paper specifications changed to meet new printing machines. Unknown tests came in form the British Papermaking Federation. Research was shared through the technical section. Meetings of the technical section would have meetings about developments and brochures. Mills would help one another.

389 Recreation; putting green and tennis courts belonged to the mill. Provided film show for employees before annual trip. Culter Mill started production in 1751. On the Jubilee and Coronation took children to see a show in Aberdeen. Good to community.

413 Came to Balerno in 1963 as Assistant Technical Manager. Supervision of water treatment, caustic soda recovery plant, mill effluent disposal. Running mill stock levels. Mill trials. 4 people in the lab.

437 300 people in mill. Lab and shift lab. In lab worked 8.30am till 5pm, but when things happened would get called out.

454 Did not devise tests. Developed coating recipe. Mid 1960s Galloways knife blade coating. Machine would produce 12-15,000 feet of paper per minute. 1 chemist in the lab was full time on the coating machine. Coating mix on different speeds. Coated papers were biggest side of the business.

479 Works dance at the Charlotte Rooms. Allowed to take friends. Lots of drinking and fights. Lots of women at the mill. Chartered buses from the Calders. Mill bus collecting shift workers. Men lived locally.

506 No annual trips when he was at Galloways. Bowling club and tennis courts.

521 Nurse at Balerno. First aid boxes. Not sure what nurse did. Minor accidents at the mill. Papermaking machines are dangerous. Death at Woodhall. Health and Safety ; gloves and goggles. To protect you from the chemicals.

542 Health and Safety not at levels it was now. Culter Mills men would arrive in a suit for work whereas at Balerno they would turn up in their overalls.

555 Canteen would do breakfasts, lunches and coffee and tea. Would have break in the lab. Used beakers to drink out of. Canteen was well used.

556 Lab in Culter, corner where stretchers were kept. Person died in the mill and waiting for someone to pick the body up. Put it in the cloakroom so not to upset people.

583 Fire at Culter Mill; esparto shed caught fire and burned for two days. Smell of burning esparto grass. Fire in lab; fault in the drier. Fire and smoke damage. Culter and Stoneywood Mill had fire engine. Culter and Galloways had a sprinkler system.

623 Galloways had 2 or 3 lorries that would drop paper off down south and collect raw materials. Would also send paper for export from Leith Harbour. Everything went through Main Street until they built the bypass road in the 1960s. Latex for coating mix arrived by tanker

660 In union but not much trouble from the union. Works study system. Got so much tonnage each tonne. Union meetings held outside the mill.

704 Holidays at the mill. Not paid for overtime. Mill at Balerno worked every second weekend. Staff did not clock in and out.

725 Outside mill not really in social contact with others.

734 Works study man and a clerkess who worked out bonus of system. Paper trade was cyclical, sometimes would be on short time. Cash flow led to closure, a lot of money tied up in stock. Had to have stock to shift at a minutes notice. Wouldn't have supply from one mill. In weeks before shut the order book was full.

772 Liquidator would sanction orders and ordering. A lot of mills closing at this time. Culter mill closed before Galloways.

793 When he started Bernard Walton had just taken over as General Manager. 2 interviews for the job. 2nd time he was introduced to Mr Galloway. Quite old by that time. Bernard Walton left before the close. Galloways worked a lot with East Lancashire papermill. A lot of development, thought they would take over but they didn't.

822 Most people knew it was not looking good. Stayed on till end to get redundancy and stayed for a week after closure to collect and do an inventory of all the material. Finished up on Christmas Eve. John Jones technical manager kept on a were a number of workmen. Got rid of papermaking equipment and there was a sale.

857 Dickens took over the coating plant. Papermaking stopped in 1981. By time of closure a lot of the mills were going.

878 Approached to go to Cowans of Penicuik, went to local authority.

888 Willie Tait from Inverurie a character. Used to go round and everyone knew him. He would get ideas from other mills. Got killed by a vehicle in the North Eat.

912 In the village generations of the same family worked in the mill. In Culter 3 sisters working in the main office. Marriages within the mill. Had to be careful what you said. Collections round the mill for those who got married.

935 Benefit scheme run by employees through the lab

945 Union holiday home / convalescent home that you could apply to attend. Non contributory pension at Culter Mill. Pension at Galloways only latterly. Culter also did a Christmas box for pensioners.

968 Mill houses
973 End

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