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Mystery of Stanley images solved

16 September 2009

Mystery of Stanley images solved

An appeal for information about a set of photographs of Stanley Mills from nearly 90 years ago has been a success.  The glass plate negatives were gifted to Historic Scotland following the death of Phyllis Culbert whose family had a long association with the mill complex on the banks of the River Tay, near Perth.

While the chances of identifying any of the people in the pictures seemed small, Historic Scotland made an appeal through the media and also went through its own records to track down a cousin of Mrs Culbert’s who now lives in Dalkeith.  Derek Culbert, who had not known of the existence of the photographs, immediately recognised family members including his father, uncle and grandfather.  He also named the photographer as another relative, David Ness Culbert.

Derek said: “I didn’t know about these pictures so was delighted to see them.
“They would have been taken by Ness, who was a bit of a keen amateur photographer, perhaps on a visit up north from where he lived in Barrow-in-Furness.  My grandfather had lived there too, working for Vickers, making artillery ammunition during the First World War.”

Derek’s grandfather, William, lost a leg in a motorbike accident while living in Barrow-in-Furness and had to use a wheelchair.  He moved back to Stanley where he was again employed at the mills and lived at one of the houses on the site.

Hugh Morrison, Historic Scotland collections registrar, said: “The pictures are so interesting that we really wanted to find out more.  But after so much time had passed we thought the chances of success seemed very slim.  So it is quite extraordinary that Mr Culbert has been able to tell us so much.  What he has told us will be very useful as we continue to build up information about the mills and the people who worked there.”

Several of the pictures show an important moment in the development of the mill complex – the construction work for a new turbine in 1921.

About the photographs

  • Along with this release is the detail from one of the pictures. This shows Mr Culbert’s father William to the left, next may be Jack Culbert (son of the photographer), with granddad in the wheelchair. The man standing behind has been tentatively identified as David Sandeman who ran the mill complex beside the River Tay.

  • A full version of this picture and the others which Derek has been able to help with are available on request.

Notes for editors

  • Stanley Mills is 7.4 miles north of Perth, follow the signs to Stanley Mills. Telephone 01738 828268.

  • Tickets are £5 for adults, £3.75 concessions and £2.50 for children.

  • The visitor centre includes an education area which has been designed to allow schools and educational groups to carry out a wide variety of study projects linked to the Curriculum for Excellence.

  • The former water mill complex harnessed the power of the River Tay for cotton spinning. The first mill was built in 1786.

  • Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/places.

  • Historic Scotland’s Mission is to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

For further information


Rebecca Hamilton
Marketing and Media Manager
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8685 / 07788 923871
rebecca.hamilton@scotland.gsi.gov.uk