Until the mid-twentieth century the Water of Leith was an important industrial centre for Edinburgh, particularly in papermaking. The river was the site of the first papermill in Scotland when Dalry Mill began production in 1590, with 76 mills working along the river at its height industrial production. The SAPPHIRE initiative 'Papermaking on the Water of Leith' was the first sustained and focused attempt to record the social history of the Scottish papermaking industry. Among the outcomes following a reunion of those working in the industry in June 2002 were public reminiscence sessions, an archive of recorded interviews with formal mill workers, suppliers, contractors and customers and the retrieval of a substantial archive of related visual and ephemeral material. An exhibition on the subject, 'Bringing the Page to Life: Papermaking on the Water of Leith', was launched in Edinburgh in January 2004, and subsequently displayed in venues in Britain and continental Europe. A portion of the exhibition is now on permanent display at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre in Edinburgh.
In 2002 and 2003 SAPPHIRE was awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Pilgrim Trust towards its initiative 'Bringing the Page to Life: Papermaking on the Water of Leith.
On Thursday the 27th of June, 2002 SAPPHIRE held a reunion of former employees of the papermaking industry on the Water of Leith. This meeting was held at the The Water of Leith Visitor Centre and was attended by over twenty individuals who had worked in various capacities in the papermaking industry in Edinburgh.