One of the National Trust for Scotland’s more unusual properties is Robert Smail's Printing Works in Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders. A visit to the works was a prize in a raffle at the SAFHS Conference last May. The prize was won by our then Chairman Murray Nicoll, who has sent in a report on his visit.

This is a working printing works, owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

The firm started life in the mid 1800s, and continued for 120 years, through 3 generations of the same family.  The last owner never married, and therefore had no heirs, so the firm was offered for sale on his retirement.

The National Trust of Scotland bought the premises and contents, which included the complete machines and equipment for the ongoing use of the works.  A lot of the machinery was the original equipment installed at the setting up of the business.

Smails never threw out any printed material pertaining to the business, making this a considerable boost to archive material of the area.Part of their business was the printing of shipping tickets, as well as acting as the local representative for the shipping firms.  Persons wanting to travel abroad did not have to go to London, Liverpool, or other ports of embarkation to purchase their ticket, but drop in to Smails and book their voyage there and then.

Books of tickets, some partly used, are still stored there.

The partly used ticket books show details of the shipping routes for the journeys around the world, along with passenger’s details.

This material has now been incorporated into the National Trust for Scotland archive area and can be reached via

Images of contract tickets can be downloaded at A ticket shows passenger’s name, departure date, the shipping line, the ship’s name, departure and destination ports and fare. It also gives the statutory water and provision amounts to be supplied by the ship’s master for each passenger. There is also the daily Bill of Fare. Even if you cannot find a relative, it is worth downloading a ticket to see the statutory provision requirements.

If you live in or are visiting the Borders, you may be interested in events taking place at Smail’s Printing Works -

An event taking place in the Tay Valley area next month is the 2013 conference of the Scottish Records Association (SRA), held in conjunction with the Archives and Records Association (ARA).
The conference is entitled Et in Archiva Ego, artists and archives.

It will take place in the Norrie-Miller Studio, Perth Concert Hall on Friday, 8th November, 2013, with registration between 09.30 and 10.30 am. The provisional programme, which includes a booking form, is on the notice board in the TVFHS Research Centre. Alternatively, the programme and booking form can be downloaded from Booking form and fees have to be submitted before 1st November.

The morning session (10.30 to 12.30) will discuss information sources for researching the life and works of artists. The afternoon session (13.45 to 16.50) will explore how archives and historical research can be the inspiration for the creative arts.

To celebrate the launch of their “fantastic new bookshop”, The National Archives are offering 33% off a range of family history titles. Many other books on historical and genealogical topics are sold below the recommended prices.

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Webmaster's Jottings 2020-03-17 - When contacting centre

Due to the present virus situation, the decision has been taken to close the centre until further notice.

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Historian 116, June 2020, Parts 1&2

Historian 116 eJournal has been uploaded to the website and has been sent out to those who have requested the electronic version. We have been experiencing problems with our outgoing email, specifically btinternet addresses. If you have not received it, please email [email protected].

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