Mugiemoss Mill – A short history



This is a short history account of Mugiemoss Mill from the days it was founded in 1796 to the day it was closed in June 2005


Information has been extracted from previously published material and more recently from thoughts and personal experiences of those who have seen it through to the end.


It has to be said that it is with heavy heart that this final chapter is written of a long established, successful business.  The people of Mugiemoss have been the backbone to the company.  Without their dedication, pride, work ethos and humour, the success of the mill would undoubtedly have foundered many decades ago.


To have made it through the last 200 years is testament to the courage and hard work of all those involved, at whatever stage, safe in the knowledge that people have given their all, have made the company what it is and have raised many generations of people who have carried on the tradition with pride and expertise.


We owe it to these people, past and present, to walk away with heads held high, having achieved so much, made great friends and colleagues, and fulfilled in a lot of cases a lifetime’s work.



In the beginning..


The Davidson family came from the Tarland area of Aberdeenshire, where they farmed and factored and had interests in wood mills.  In the second half of the 18th century, John Davidson and his family moved to the ‘Buxburn’ area.  John was a dyer to trade and one of his four sons, Charles, was trained as a millwright at Grandholm Waulk Mill (opposite Stoneywood) and was very proficient in understanding mechanical engineering.  His friend Charles Smith, was the nephew of the founder of Stoneywood Mill, Alexander Smith, and on his death in 1796, the Stoneywood Mill was inherited by his grandson by marriage, Alexander Pirie. Charles Smith withdrew to found another paper mill nearby.   His partner was Charles Davidson, the founder of the firm which bore his name.   The partnership with Charles Smith lasted only a few years and by 1811 he had returned to Grandholm Mill. 


Charles Davidson set up in business on his own account in 1811 by leasing land at Mugiemoss for a period of 57 years for £18 per annum.  (The lease was subsequently extended several times).  The mills erected at Mugiemoss fulled woollen cloth, beat flax and ground fermented tobacco leaf into snuff.  Papermaking came later, probably beginning in 1821, and this quickly overtook the other activities.  By 1833, the lease at Mugiemoss described Charles Davidson simply as a papermaker. 


(There are some differing accounts of how the firm was started and when paper was actually first manufactured at Mugiemoss.  The extract above is from the book “Davidsons of Mugiemoss” written by historian J. N. Bartlett.  Other accounts relate to Charles Davidson actually starting on his own in 1796 following the brief partnership with Charles Smith.  It has been written that the choice between Mugiemoss and Stoneywood as a location was on the toss of a coin, but this seems doubtful when the Stoneywood mill was owned by the Smith family and subsequently passed to the Pirie family.

It could be argued that the 200-year celebrations in 1996 were somewhat premature, as technically C. Davidson & Sons did not start out on their own account until 1811, but what the heck, we all had a great time!  Whichever account is correct, the fact remains that a company was set up in 1796 by Charles Davidson.)


Charles worked hard and built the company up, and in 1830, he took his two sons, William and George into partnership.  Charles died in 1843. Around 1850 George sold his share to pursue other business interests, and William in due course, brought in his five sons, Charles, George, Alexander, John and David.  In June 1853 a large scale fire destroyed a 3-storey building used for the production of pulp.  Apart from the cost of £3,000, production was disrupted severely and it was several months before the Mugiemoss Works were again running at anything like full capacity.


Though trading was difficult the business was expanded with more production capacity, and in 1857 a London warehouse was opened.  It was around this time that young George’s inventive genius brought a new line of interest to the business.  He developed and patented an idea for making block bottom paper bags.  This development was seen as a tremendous step forward in the packaging field of those days and by 1875 Davidsons were the largest makers of paper bags in the world. Such was the success that the product was in such demand that no sales persons were necessary!  Every few months an advertisement would appear in The Times that one of the Davidsons would be staying in such and such a hotel in London, Birmingham or Glasgow and would be “graciously pleased to receive any potential customers who wished to place orders”!


Sadly, also in 1875, George died at the young age of 38, but his legacy continued on in the form of 18 bag machines churning out well over two million bags per week. Also in that year the firm was converted into a limited liability company, and further warehouses were opened in Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.


Other patents were also taken out on new methods of papermaking and paper products.  These included manufacture of Cedar Felt made as a Duplex type, and made famous throughout the world.  Cedar Felt was basically a grey paper but lined with a thin layer of a mixture of cedar dust and wood pulp.  “Its refreshing smell defeated moths and prevented dust from coming through floorboards when used under carpets”. This was being manufactured on one of the first twin wire machines in the UK.  This venture was so profitable that the company opened a branch in Australia, which during the latter part of the 19th century was in rapid development.  However, this was closed in later years as the paper industry became established in that country. A third wire was added to this paper machine in 1930 and some types of triplex paper were made with some success.


At the end of the 19th century a big change was happening in the manufacture of paper.  Wood pulp was being produced and was rapidly taking over from paper made from rags.  This superior quality paper was becoming the norm and No.2 machine was installed to meet demand and it was followed in 1908 with PM3 to make machine glazed papers.  The M.G. cylinder on this machine was the first large cylinder cast by Bertrams of Sciennes, Edinburgh and it is believed that it was never quite perfect, and was the subject of much debate between the two companies until it was finally replaced in 1956!


Of Williams’s five sons in the family, Charles died in 1870, with no family, and as mentioned George died in 1875.  John and David managed the Aberdeen operations, while Alexander continued the business in London until he died in 1920.  John died in 1897.  .  At the outbreak of the First World War it was David in Aberdeen and Alexander in London who headed up the business.  They were assisted by John’s son Charles who continued with the business line in London until he died in 1943, Alexander’s son William based in Aberdeen, and David’s son, Tom in Aberdeen.  At this time Tom was heavily involved in the Territorial Army, and he was called up immediately on the outbreak of war. David died in 1915, so it was William that was left on his own in Aberdeen through the remaining war years until ‘Colonel Tom’ returned in 1919.  (It was this William who wrote the 1899 diary that was found and summarised in the Aberdeen Leopard Magazine in 2001, and has been subject of fascinating discussions about the lifestyle at that time).  Mugiemoss was drained of its young men during the war years and sadly far too many of them did not return.  A commemorative Roll of Honour of those who served in this campaign can still be seen on the wall outside the personnel office at the mill.


The post war years were particularly difficult with raw materials in very short supply and prices liable to huge swings, usually downward as the 1920’s slump bit very hard.  The Legal Net Weight Act came into force and this forced the weight of paper bags down.  PM3 was able to cope with the changes but PM2 had to be rebuilt with a second-hand M.G. cylinder added to cope with the lightweight products.  Many paper mills in the UK closed down but the Davidson Mill fought on, sometimes with only one machine of the three running.  Costs were paired to the bone and many parts were left uninsured to save insurance premiums.  A fire would have been the last straw, so a smoking ban was strictly enforced (the current one was not the first one then!).  It is believed that anyone caught smoking would pay 2s 6d to the Red Cross on the first offence and instant dismissal on the second offence!


Alexander died in 1920 and William retired a few years later, leaving Colonel Tom to carry on in Aberdeen, and Charles took over the London end of the business, which was by this time quite substantial.  It was Tom’s dedication, understanding and compassion that brought the mill through the 1920’s and 1930’s.  His personality was such that he knew every employee and took it hard when he was forced to close down parts of the mill and lay people off.  He understood the strong family ties that many employees and their forebears had with the mill and his legacy has lived on through until more recent years, when the Mugiemoss Mill “family” was still very much in evidence.   


In the middle…


During the depression years in the 1930’s the mill limped along, utilising its diverse manufacturing capabilities to keep the company head above water, including the reliable Cedar base felt.  Major capital expansion was quite out of the question.  1935 was the worst year of the crisis, and it was only the faith in the word of Colonel Tom and the suppliers of raw materials that kept the company out of the bankruptcy court.  A major shareholder in the firm, Mr A.T. Dawson had joined the board in 1926, and both he and Colonel Tom dipped deep into their private reserves to keep the company solvent. 


This was also the year (1935) that was the last in legal netting of salmon on the lower reaches of the River Don.  A record catch of 896 salmon was taken on the first night of fishing from the Saughpot or pool.


In the face of this hardship for the company it was an extremely brave decision to enter into another side of the trade, namely the manufacture of paperboard.  Through capital re-structure, fresh money was released and the dry end of a good second hand machine was purchased from Hendon mill near Sunderland.  A brand new wet end was purchased and an experienced board maker, Mr Frank Williamson, was hired, to bring about the birth of No.4 machine in 1936.  (Many of these are still the same drying cylinders, which operated right up to the mill closure in 2005, being over 80 years old.)


Also in 1936, David Peter Davidson, Colonel Tom’s son, joined the company, becoming a director in 1938, and he was heavily involved in the marketing and selling side of the business.  Mr J.C. Duffus, a lawyer from Aberdeen, also joined the board at this time and he was later to pioneer the future shape of the Davidson Mill.  By 1937 the Gyproc plant at Shieldhall near Glasgow was buying Plasterboard Liner from Mugiemoss. This was the start of a long relationship in the manufacture and development of this product, as a mainstay and ultimately the downfall to operations at Mugiemoss.


The No.1 machine was closed, having run for around 100 years, and unfortunately the Cedar Felt product died along with it.  However, a new paper development was brought on line in the 1930’s in the name of Ibeco Paper, which was a strong Kraft-based wrapping paper, waterproofed through the introduction of a bitumen emulsion into the beater.  This product was very special and was extremely successful for many years until the closure of No.2 machine late in the 1970’s.  It was used as an underlay for the concrete on the original East Lancashire road and the Wembley Ice Rink, before being widely used as black out material during the Second World War.


Mugiemoss was well placed at the onset of the Second World War, as their machines could manufacture many of the paper and board requirements that were considered essential to the war effort. Key personnel were retained to maintain the production through the war years, the lessons having been learned from the previous 1914-18 War.  However, raw materials were in extreme short supply during the war years and the board machine stood idle on many occasions waiting on the waste paper to arrive at the mill. Following on from the War in the late 1940’s the company made numerous acquisitions including box makers, later to become Landor Cartons, tube winders, later to become Radcliffe Paper Tubes, and the Northern Waste Paper Co., later to become Davidson Waste Paper.  A most important development took place in 1950 when Abertay Paper Sacks was launched in Dundee in partnership with two of the larger jute companies who had been customers of Davidsons for many years. These companies withdrew in 1953 and Abertay moved to Mugiemoss where there has been constant development in sack making ever since.


Colonel Tom had retired from Chairman of the Davidson Board in 1946, having held positions of Chairman and Managing Director for 26 years.  William Davidson had died in 1940, having ceased being a Director in 1926, and Charles Davidson died in 1943, but none of their collective four sons came into the business.  So it was that Peter Davidson, was the last remaining family member to hold a board position, and appointed Managing Director in 1949.  The other main board members of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s were J.C. Duffus, now becoming Chairman, Frank Williamson, the board maker, (who later left to manage a board mill in Southern Ireland), James Dawson (son of A.T. Dawson mentioned earlier, having stood down after 20 years on the Board), James Partington who became Company Secretary, William Mellis, MD of Mitchell & Muil, Henry Spence, MD of William Spence & Son, Bertram Tawse, Chairman of William Tawse, and Eric Warburton who had joined as Mill General Manager 


Colonel Tom Davidson died in 1951. Such was the respect and high regard held for Colonel Tom, only a few people stayed at the mill to keep machines running while everybody else attended his funeral, and many big, strong and tough papermakers openly wept.


No.4 machine dry end was completely rebuilt in 1951 – this can be seen on a series of photographs on the website.  A third tier of dryers was added to get more drying capacity, from 75 to 104 cylinders, but it has been said that the effect was not as good as expected due to the long draw between top and bottom cylinders where the sheet could cool down, and of course there were no modern drying fabrics installed.  It can clearly be seen from the sequence of photographs that the progress between pouring concrete and laying down cylinders was rapid, reflecting in the level of business at the time to keep shut time to a minimum – no change there then! It also highlights the problem that was uncovered almost three decades later when the machine was to be rebuilt again, in that the dryer section foundations were sinking slowly towards the river  - but more of that later.


Peter Davidson continued fostering links through Plasterboard Liner development. British Plasterboard (now BPB) was developing in South Africa through amalgamation of various companies, and was looking to provide a complete plasterboard product in that region.  A sales office was set up in Salisbury, Rhodesia. A paper maker was also interested in setting up a small mill at Umtali, and it was thought that through the links made with Davidson Mill that this may be an opportunity for some form of joint venture.  The mill go ahead was given with BPB owning 45%, Davidson’s 40% and Gypsum Industries South Africa 15%.   BPB director R.S. Jukes and Davidson’s J.C. Duffus later had a meeting, while en route home from South Africa, during which they considered an amalgamation of the two companies and within weeks the formal negotiations began.  And so, in 1953, there ended 157 years of family owned and run operations at Mugiemoss. 


At the time of the take over Davidson’s had capital plans to expand the production on No.4 machine and the paper mill and converting departments.  Through capital release from BPB it was now possible to speed up these developments, and the 1950’s was a time for mill expansion and increased profits, despite trading difficulties brought on by world conditions after the Second World War and the Korean War.   There were over 1000 employees at the mill, working on three shifts on PM2, PM3 and PM4, Finishing Department, Bag Making, Landor Cartons and Abertay Paper Sacks.  In Aberdeen were local offices of the Northern Waste Paper Company and Davidsons Paper Sales.  Further waste paper offices were also in operation in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Newcastle-on-Tyne.  Outside Scotland were paperboard converting companies making cartons, solid fibreboard and rigid boxes, and a further six branches of Davidsons Paper Sales.  The mill in Umtali, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was making newsprint, carton board and plasterboard liner for the company’s gypsum plants in southern Africa.


No.4 coal fired boiler was installed in 1953, and a new Water Treatment Plant – the Paterson Plant - was installed in the mid 1950’s, while between 1959 and 1962 the Wet End of PM4 was replaced with 8 new vats, a new press section and a new drying hood.  At the start of the 1960’s there was a growing requirement for uncoated waste based carton board, with a bleached white liner layer, and at the same time the volume requirement for plasterboard liner was steadily rising in UK, France and Belgium. Plans to meet these growing requirements resulted in the installation of a state of the art Inverform machine – PM5.


This design was based on the prototype machine developed at St. Anne’s Board Mill by Walmsleys of Bury, while the second such design was installed in 1963/4 at Thames Board Mill, Purfleet.  The machine house was designed for the installation of a mirror image machine but this never materialised.  (In hindsight – the best of all vision – we should have installed a much wider machine at the time and we could possibly have survived in today’s climate!).  The machine cost of £850,000 brought the project total to £2.25 million including the machine house, stock prep (HP5 & 6), the Krofta plant, and one heavy fuel oil fired boiler and No.2 AEI 6MW Turbo alternator set.  Not a lot of money by today’s standards but none the less a very large and ambitious project, which was well publicised in national and industry press at the time.


The machine, as installed was rated at 40,000 tonnes per annum, raising the mill output to in excess of 100,000 tonnes per annum, a huge stride forward. Many of the contracting companies used in the original construction were local and along with well-known industry suppliers made the project a huge success.  A complete brochure entitled “Scotland’s 1st Inverform Machine in Full Production” and dated July 29th 1965 marked the high regard for this project in the industry.  At the time of start up of PM5 plasterboard liner was the equivalent of 390 gsm and 650 microns caliper. (0.026” thickness and 160 pounds double crown per 480 sheets in “old money”!). The design speed for the machine was up to 1000 ft/minute (305 m/min)


The demand for plasterboard liner was such that the “Bucksboard” white lined chipboard production lasted a relatively short time in the history of the mill, with a short introduction again in the late 1980’s.


Also in 1965 the Davison Radcliffe Group Ltd was formed – originally as DRG but later changed to DRL to avoid industry confusion with the Dickenson Robinson Group. 


In 1969 Mr Harold Pearson was appointed Managing Director and along with Peter Davidson these two provided stability for the company through the turbulent early 1970’s, with high energy prices and rising inflation following the Arab/Israeli War.   This lead to three-day week working for a spell, and rigorous cost saving measures were implemented.


In the face of this pressure on the business another brave decision was made to expand PM5 in 1970, including and extension to the dryer part to 102 cylinders from 75, a totally enclosed high dew point hood, steam and condensate uplift, and production uplift to 10 tonnes per hour.  This brought the machine output to the highest production per foot width for any such machine, a record we held for a number of years to come.  Other work in this £1.6 million project included the pulp shed as an addition to the machine house, a new Black Clawson 16ft Pulper (HP7) with Flote Purge module, a Sunds Drum Thickener, extension to the Tar Dispersal Plant, a new compressor house with a Joy compressor, and most significantly the New Boiler House (now termed West Power Plant) incorporating the current No.5 boiler albeit operating solely on heavy fuel oil at the time) and the Allen Steam Turbine and Alternator set.  This was the introduction of 11kV for the site with the old distribution retained at 3.3kV. Also at this time the current Primary Effluent Treatment (PET) plant building was erected with the polydisc PD1.  This linked with the Krofta plant to provide a capacity of 220,000 gallons per hour (19,000 m3/day)!  The mill capacity was then put at 125,000 tonnes per annum.  You got a lot for your money in those days!


Peter Davidson retired from “active service” in the early 1974 spending his time at the family home at Caskiben near Blackburn until his untimely death in tragic circumstances in 1986.  Harold Pearson continued as DRL Group Chairman, with Eric Warburton as General Manager until his retirement in the early 1970’s.  Bert Scudder then took over the mill operations while Chris Bushell joined in 1976 to deputise for Harold Pearson.


PM5 again received an uplift in 1974, with another dryer section extension to 132 cylinders, an upgrade to the press section, a new Black Clawson winder located in the basement, an upgrade of the Inverform stations to short wedge configuration, which was quickly reverted to the old IVB’s, and a completely new 6th former added in the shape of the Tampella Arcu –Forma. This was added as the No.1 station as the bond ply for gypsum.  This former proved a very worthwhile addition to the development of PM5, and provided a building platform for the machine for the next 14 years until it was removed.  In its latter years it was proved to be unstable at higher line speeds, much like the Inverform units and its derivatives, for those that remember the runnability issues!


In 1978 Davidson mill again was at the forefront of technology when the Accuray process control system was firstly installed on PM5 along with two new Inverform headboxes, press section changes, complete new steam system and the installation of the modern control systems from Foxboro.  The industry was moving more towards the controllable science rather than the traditional craft! Orders were placed for similar equipment for PM4, which was scheduled to receive a major uplift that same year.  However, when detailed survey work was carried out on the dry end foundations it was found that the civil work carried out in the early 1950’s was resulting in the machine slowly sinking towards the river.  As a result the rebuild was postponed until further funding was made available to demolish the old “Paster Bay” (the laminator was relocated into the end of PM5 reel store in the intervening period) and construct a new machine house for PM4, and install all the new parts for the rebuilt machine.  This included a new wet end with BRDA formers and new style cylinder moulds, a brand new press section, new dryer framing for the existing cylinders in roller bearings (gone were the cylinder brasses!) a new machine drive and new vacuum system. In the end, the machine was closed for 3 months while the remaining parts were modified and transferred across.  The machine was started up on 8th May 1980.  All in this entire project along with the work on PM5 and Stock Prep (TD3 and HP9 Selected Waste System) cost £12.25 million.  The project was managed by John Goodall who was to later become Mill Manager and Managing Director.


In 1979 a new office block surrounding the original Davidson Mill House was opened to accommodate the growing requirements of the mill and DRL Group activities. This complex was opened by HRH Duke of Edinburgh, and heralded the end to the old green huts, which proliferated around the garden grounds of the house for many years.


At the end of the 1970’s the industry was going through a period of consolidation, and Mugiemoss was no exception.  This resulted in closure of less productive plant and the Ibeco production from PM2 was transferred to PM3, while No.2 machine was closed in 1978 and dismantled, to be later sold to Pakistan.  The requirements for a grade such as Ibeco was declining in favour of plastic alternatives, and the running of PM3 progressively became less tenable resulting in its closure in March 1981.  This was a significant step in mill history, bringing to an end the manufacture of paper at Mugiemoss after something like 185 years. PM3 was sold but later scrapped when the financial deal fell through.  


The focus was now therefore on paperboard manufacture. Through the early part of the 1980’s the mill consolidated the work achieved from the project carried out at PM4 and PM5. The boundaries were pushed in terms of production and quality.  New grades were sought and developed for both machines.  There was also growing demand for lighter weight plasterboard liners and this began to highlight the deficiencies with the Arcu Forma and Inverform stations on PM5.  An ambitious programme to replace the wet end in strategic stages was drawn up following trial work on multi-fourdrinier forming.  The first stage was to extend the bottom wire to accommodate a base ply fourdrinier and this was carried out in 1985.  At one stage there were in fact seven formers on the wet end! 


The next phase of PM5 wet end development was scheduled for the following year but this was put on hold pending another strategic Group decision that was the purchase of Purfleet Board Mill from the Thames Group.  The extended Group name was changed to Davidson Limited.  Much needed expenditure was directed at the Purfleet Mill, but this did not deter developments at Mugiemoss as in 1986 state of the art projects were commissioned at HP10 pulping system with a unique Soaking Drum, and a new Anaerobic and Aerobic Effluent Treatment Plant was installed to meet increasingly stringent environmental requirements.  


The 2nd phase of PM5 uplift was completed early in 1989 with the replacement of the Arcu Forma and two Inverform stations with the Voith DuoK former.  At the same time a new Duo Centri Press was installed to replace the old vacuum presses, a new Vacuum System in a shiny new building, a new Allen Bradley drive to replace the Harland drive.  The wet end roof was replaced with the machine running later that same year, and already the 3rd phase was in planning for the end of the year.  This phase included a new Size Press, a Liner fourdrinier station (No.4 former) and extensive improvements of the Middles and Liner stock prep systems. A 4th phase rebuild again added new dimensions to PM5.  The machine was shortened (yes shortened!) on the installation of a shoe press and complete dryer rebuild.  The drive speed was again uplifted, this time to a capacity of 750m/min (from the original design speed of 300 m/min in 1965) 


PM4 was not without improvements through the “boom” years of the 1980’s, with new Black Clawson Bristol formers and fan pumps installed in stages, a new Calender Stack new Reel Up, Refiner upgrade, Broke and Rejects system upgrade, 4th Stock system and a new Jagenberg winder and reel handling system in 1988. 


Product development and quality improvements were made possible through these strategic capital investments, and exports became a much larger part of the product portfolio.  A visit by HRH Duke of Kent in his capacity as vice-chairman of the British Overseas Trade board was further emphasised with the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement first in 1989 and again in 1992.  Also in 1989 the mill was the first UK board mill and first Scottish mill to achieve BS 5750 Part II (later changed to ISO 9001)


During the period through the late 1970’s to early 1990’s rapid change was taking place in all business aspects.  Management changes saw John Goodall heading up and pioneering the rapid development programme for the mill as mill Manager while a new General Manager was appointed in George Kellie.  George moved on after several years and John Goodall took over as Director and General Manager and later, Paperboard Managing Director.  At mill level Chris Blackford was appointed as Managing Director and a new Mill Manager, James Herbert was appointed late in 1980’s. Chris’ term as MD was short lived and John Kirby as Operations Director succeeded him. James’s successor after a few years was Bill Gordon who was promoted from Manufacturing Manager.  Anyone who knew Bill also knew his inimitable style and character, and it is very sad that Bill died in service early in 1996 just at the time of the 200-year celebrations.  In recognition of the tremendous achievements made by both PM4 and PM5, and by those who worked and managed them, at the 200-year celebrations in May 1996, commemorative plaques were presented by Chris Bushell, at PM5, naming it The Gordon Highlander, and by Harold Pearson to Donald Innes, at PM4, naming it Colonel Davidson.  


Bill Gordon’s successor as Mill Manager was Murdo Macdonald, for a short spell, ahead of his move to Radcliffe Mill.  On a subsequent Paperboard restructure, the director status at mill level was removed, and John Kirby became Mill Manager, reporting to Fred Lunn at Group level.  John was succeeded by Murray Shearer who had returned after some years at the Purfleet Mill.  Doug McConnachie succeeded him at Purfleet.  David Anderson later succeeded Fred at Group level.  Murray became Mill Manager in 1998 and is the last ever Mill Manager of the Mugiemoss Mill operations.   


The Davidson Limited group continued to grow through the 1980’s and so it was that in 1989 a decision was made to move the Group Head Office to Northwich in Cheshire.  Since the centre of gravity was moving away from the previous Davidson family the group name was again changed to BPB Paper & Packaging Ltd in 1989 and the mill became known as BPB Davidson to reflect its membership of BPB.  This was later changed to BPB Paperboard in 1996, with the mill at Mugiemoss changed to the current name of BPB Paperboard, Davidson Mill.


During the 1990’s and into the new millennium the mill capital investment was very much curtailed, although strategic projects were carried out at PM5 in the form of the final phase of the wet end rebuild in 1995 with a new underliner former which was to become the main liner station and later the backs former when reverse Ivory became the norm.  A new headbox was added to the DuoK former and the original headbox transferred No.1 former to give more capacity.  Three years later a new winder was installed along with a purpose built reel handling system and reel store.   At PM4 developments included a steam system rebuild, further enhancements of the Foxboro I.A. system and a vacuum system replacement to compliment changes to the making fabric run.  At Stock Prep T.D. system enhancements were installed with the Krima plant, while the Effluent Treatment plant received improvements with a new DAF and in year 2000 a new Anaerobic Reactor.



In the End….


Capital developments since the mid 1990’s were restricted primarily to essential maintenance and legislative requirements.  Changes in business strategy led to shrinkage of the BPB Paperboard Group with DeEendracht Mill being sold and Radcliffe Mill later closed, along with disposal or closure of many of the converting companies.  A new Technical Division headed up by Doug McConnachie was created in 2001 with hopes of a capital revival, but alas this was not to be. Sadly in December 2003, the Purfleet mill was closed, followed by sale of Abertay Paper Sacks to the Mondi Group and sale of BPB Recycling to Severnside Recycling. 


The announcement in March 2005 of possible closure of Mugiemoss Mill is now a reality and PM5 closed on 27th June, followed by PM4 on 29th June 2005.  What started out as the first manufacturing company within what was to become BPB Paperboard Ltd is now sadly closed, as the last manufacturing company in that Group.  In the end we were somewhat the victims of our own success.  Over the last 20 to 30 years we persevered with two paperboard machines, developed almost to the ultimate within their design capabilities. There was nowhere else to go except to a new much wider machine, but the capital required for that was never going to be  - not from BPB and not at Mugiemoss.  Everyone has mixed emotions at the final outcome for this fine establishment, but it was ultimately the width of our machines that beat us, not the technology, and certainly not the will to succeed.


The mill that has been the life-blood for generations of families in the Bucksburn and Aberdeen areas has now closed its doors, bringing to an end a remarkable story of courage growth, progress, recognition, pride, and finally sorrow.   There are many people who have spent most of their working life with just one company; Mugiemoss Mill.  The last person to complete 50 years service was Derek Robertson, PM4 machineman, in 2004, a tremendous achievement.  The last person to officially retire from the mill at 65 years was Brian Porter, Electrician, in June 2005 with 37 years service, and the longest serving person in the mill at closure date on 30th June was Ron Grant, Project Engineer, with 43 years 7 months service. The list of long service personnel is long, testament to the lure and variety of the place and the  “family feel” the mill has held for generations.


The Davidson slogan quoted in the previous history accounts was “Aye tae the fore”.  That “battle cry” loses relevance now that the progress has ceased but the memory can live on.  Whatever happens to the machines and ultimately the site of Mugiemoss is not of particular significance.  What is important is that those that have been involved in this success story can feel proud to have been a part of it.  The Davidson memories “Aye tae the fore”



Ian Booth

June 2005