Presses roll as pupils mark landmark rescue

Smail's Print Works , Innerleithen. Captions at end of AK story.
Smail's Print Works , Innerleithen. Captions at end of AK story.

IN 1893, the first edition of The St Ronan’s Standard and Effective Advertiser newspaper was printed in Innerleithen, writes Andrew Keddie.

It was a small, local tract, consisting of one page of adverts and three pages of news, but it took six skilled men two days to set the type, plus another two days to print.

In 1896, R. Smail & Sons took over the publishing rights and continued to print the St Ronan’s Standard until 1916.

In March of that year, printing ceased, the Great War having caused such depletion in skilled staff that the firm could no longer produce the newspaper.

Now, 95 years after the last St Ronan’s Standard was published, the original Wharfedale Reliance press at Smail’s has been rolling once again to produce a full four-page commemorative edition to celebrate the silver jubilee of Robert Smail’s Printing Works being saved for the nation by the National Trust for Scotland.

Publication is also timed to mark the opening of the works as a visitor attraction for the new season tomorrow (Friday).

The traditional front page, full of local adverts, has been retained and inside is news from 100 years ago with reminiscences about the printing works.

And the back page is given over to the St. Ronan’s Reporter, completed by journalists from the P4 class at St. Ronan’s Primary.

Inside the reader will discover that Robert Smail founded the works in 1866, that in 1890 it was passed to his sons and in 1950 was inherited by his grandson Cowan Smail. During all this time, the works was rarely modernised and nothing was thrown away.

But in 1986, after 120 years of trading, Cowan placed a small notice in the shop window announcing a closing down sale, commencing on April 26. It attracted the attention of a member of the British Ephemera Society who duly informed the National Trust for Scotland and, after a period of negotiation, the sale was completed later that year.

Today, Smail’s remains an integral part of life in Innerleithen, producing commercial jobbing work using Victorian letterpress techniques and machinery, and with an archive of printed matter, business documents and shipping records spanning three generations.

Keith Belleville, head teacher at St Ronan’s. said the project to recreate the St Ronan’s Standard was a prime example of the positive learning opportunites which Smail’s had offered pupils since the National Trust rescue.

“We are very proud of our pupils who, along with Rachel Mays from Smails and their teacher Will Brockie have made a superb contribition in the form of the St. Ronan’s Reporter,” he added.

For more information on Robert Smail’s Printing Works, visit the website or call direct on: 0844 493 2259.