A massive 50 tonne granite roll measuring almost 10 metres long, with a circumference of 8 metres, an integral part of Paper Making history in Aberdeenshire, will make its final journey to the Garioch Heritage Centre in Inverurie on Saturday 5 September, 2020. The roll is being donated by the Tait family, former owners of Thomas Tait and Sons Ltd, the Inverurie Paper Mill which closed in 2009.
The granite roll was last moved in 1985 when it was installed in a new machine - PM4 - part of a £22.5 million investment by the Mill. The roll will come to rest on plinths outside the Garioch Heritage Centre, after a journey along closed roads, to mark the importance of the papermaking industry to the Garioch area.
The roll played a vital function at the Mill, squeezing water out of the paper at the early stages of production on a machine which, at the time, was the biggest of its type in the UK. The machine was originally destined for Iran, but the Iranian Revolution left the German manufacturer with a ‘redundant' machine. Thomas Tait bought it to bring to Inverurie to create business communication and fine copier papers. A building the size of two football pitches end to end was built to house the PM4.
At the height of its production, the roll played its part in producing 3000 feet of 272 inch wide paper every minute. This production rate required a lorry load of paper to be dispatched every 45 minutes from the Mill 24 hours a day.
In 24 hours, the machine produced enough paper to reach from Inverurie to beyond Paris.
Thomas Tait OBE, was Chairman and Managing Director of Thomas Tait and Sons Ltd started by his five times great grandfather in 1852. Thomas took over running the mill at the age of just 21 after the untimely death of his Father in an accident, and he says, "Papermaking was an important part of the working heritage of the Garioch area, and the Paper Mill played a key role as a significant employer. My family had the foresight in the 1850s to realise that as education became more widespread, that there was more need for the printed word. Other generations of the family ensured that there was constant investment in the newest technologies of their times and the PM4 machine was an example of this. In 1994 the Mill employed 510 people working 365 days a year for 24 hours a day across five crews. The granite roll on the PM4 was decommissioned in 2004 when it was replaced with a silicone coated steel roll and it has been lying waiting for a new purpose since then. It's our understanding that our PM4 is currently still producing paper in Russia.
"There are few industries which have been as affected by modern technology as the papermaking industry. The quality of modern HD computer screens and electronic communications means that copier and other office paper consumption has plunged, as people can comfortably read on-screen without printing. By adding to the Garioch Heritage Centre's collection I hope that the history of a proud industry won't be forgotten in this area."
The granite roll will travel from its current location at the Paper Mill along closed roads on Saturday morning 5 September. It will be craned into position by a 200 tonne lifting crane from the lorry at approximately 12.30 pm. The roll has been stored by at Kirkwood Commercial Park on the site of the former Mill and the supports at the Heritage Centre, on which the roll will sit, have been being provided by Malcolm Allan.
The Garioch Heritage Centre is home to an archive donated by Thomas and Sheila Tait, of the 157 years of papermaking history at Thomas Tait and Sons Ltd. Entry to The Garioch Heritage Centre is free, and it is open from Thursday to Saturday 11am to 3pm. Donations are welcomed.