Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

Alan Cochrane ques­tions re­cent rewil­d­ing de­ci­sions The ragsto-riches tale of Andrew Carnegie

The cheru­bic face, stocky build and eyes with a glint of steel were about the only things about Andrew Carnegie that never changed. To­day, the two parts of his birth­place mu­seum re­ally make you think about the amaz­ing quirks of fickle for­tune that can trans­form a life. For the still-ex­tant Dun­fermline weaver’s cot­tage where he was born into near­poverty in 1835 con­trasts starkly with the newer at­tached ‘me­mo­rial trea­sure house’ that tells the story of his hugely rich later life. Rich lit­er­ally, and rich in a much wider sense.

In this cen­ten­nial year of his pass­ing, the re­mark­able phil­an­thropic legacy of the diminu­tive-but-dy­namic Scot who be­came the world’s wealth­i­est man con­tin­ues to res­onate. Largely be­cause, in his later years, he ded­i­cated the boun­ti­ful fruits of his life not so much to his own en­joy­ment as to the im­prove­ment of our to­mor­rows; to the ‘real and per­ma­nent good’ of hu­mankind.

How suc­cess­ful that has been so far is per­haps mea­sur­able by events mark­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of his death this Au­gust, most no­tably the eight­month ex­hi­bi­tion cur­rently run­ning at the Carnegie Hall in New York City un­til Oc­to­ber. It’s the Hall’s first show about its founder and fea­tures archival doc­u­ments, pho­tos, and arte­facts on loan from the Carnegie fam­ily, the Carnegie Cor­po­ra­tion of New York, and – among others – the Andrew Carnegie Birth­place Mu­seum.

Both cen­tres of life-trac­ing cel­e­bra­tion are prov­ing mag­netic to in­ter­ested passers-by, and the Carnegie Hall show doubt­less aims to at­tract at least as many as the per­ma­nent Scot­tish one – which last year pulled in 15,500 peo­ple, 2,000 of them from the States, while ex­pect­ing re­newed aware­ness of the man to boost the fig­ure con­sid­er­ably by the end of 2019.

A cen­tury on from the death of Dun­fermline-born phi­lan­thropist Andrew Carnegie, Rick Wil­son tells the rags-to-riches tale of the world’s wealth­i­est man who be­came the pa­tron saint of li­braries

As they emerge, vis­i­tors are well fa­mil­iarised with Carnegie’s clas­sic rags-to-riches tale. When he was 13, chang­ing technology in weav­ing drove his fam­ily from their Moodie Street home in Dun­fermline to Amer­ica – made pos­si­ble only with a £20 loan from the lo­cal baker, which was quickly re­paid. He started work as a bob­bin boy in a mill be­fore be­com­ing a te­leg­ra­pher at the Penn­syl­va­nia Rail­road, where his pen­man­ship and en­ergy won his bosses’ trust and speedy pro­mo­tion – while he learned in­vest­ment lessons from them.

On re­ceiv­ing his first div­i­dend cheque from the Adams Ex­press Com­pany, barely eight years af­ter ar­rival in the US, he ex­claimed: ‘Eureka! Here’s the goose that lays the golden eggs.’ And later he said: ‘I’ll re­mem­ber that cheque as long as I live... It gave me the first penny of rev­enue from cap­i­tal; some­thing I had not worked for with sweat of my brow.’

With his web of steel in­ter­ests largely con­sol­i­dated into the Carnegie Steel Com­pany, he earned most of his money from steel pro­duc­tion boosted by the Amer­i­can Civil War. Iron­i­cally, he be­came in­tensely anti-war, de­scrib­ing it as ‘the foulest blot upon our civil­i­sa­tion’, and less than en­am­oured with ty­coon­ery for its own sake.

‘The man who dies rich dies dis­graced,’ said the man who be­came a mil­lion­aire at 33, and when he sold his com­pany in 1901 for a mas­sive $480mil­lion – to be con­grat­u­lated by the or­gan­is­ing fi­nancier of JP Mor­gan ‘on be­ing the rich­est man in the world’ – he seemed stricken by con­science and turned his life’s fo­cus into push­ing his for­tune back into so­ci­ety.

That came to a grand to­tal of $350mil­lion and, in pur­suit of other peo­ple’s self-im­prove­ment all over the world, he be­came known as ‘the pa­tron saint of li­braries’. In all, he founded 2,811 of them. By his death in 1919, every US state had at least one Carnegiebu­ilt pub­lic li­brary, Bri­tain and Ire­land had 660, Canada 156, New Zealand 23, South Africa 13, and so it went on, un­til Sin­ga­pore with one. Scot­land, of course, was favoured with rel­a­tively more than the rest with 147.

But his phi­lan­thropy ex­tended well be­yond li­braries to the es­tab­lish­ment of a re­mark­able 26-strong world­wide range of trusts and foun­da­tions in the USA, Europe and Bri­tain. With the help of Carnegie fund­ing, these or­gan­i­sa­tions carry on work to­day in fields as di­verse as art, ed­u­ca­tion, in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, the pro­mo­tion of peace, and sci­en­tific re­search. The Carnegie Coun­cil for Ethics, for in­stance, is to­day’s lead­ing in­sti­tute for re­search and ed­u­ca­tion in ethics and in­ter­na­tional pol­icy.

But for the av­er­age per­son, it is the world-fa­mous bricks-and-mor­tar mon­u­ments to his mis­sions that most im­press, work­ing as hard to­day as they ever did – such as the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice in The Hague, and the

afore­men­tioned 3,000-seat Carnegie Hall in New York.

There is an­other Carnegie Hall, of course: the much smaller 500-seat one he built in Dun­fermline which has fea­tured in this year’s cen­ten­nial events – with a de­scen­dant, Perth mu­sic teacher Joe White­man, tak­ing the stage for two nights in May as the great man in The Star Span­gled Scotch­man. Great-great-great grand­son White­man is de­scended from Carnegie on his mother’s side.

An­other event, planned for Au­gust, is a ser­vice fea­tur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of a Carnegie gift to Dun­fermline Abbey – for the sec­ond time – of a Tiffany-de­signed stained-glass win­dow. ‘As a na­ture scene, it was not con­sid­ered re­li­gious enough when first of­fered in 1913,’ says the birth­place mu­seum man­ager/cu­ra­tor Kerke Kook. ‘But we’re glad that this time it will fi­nally be find­ing its right­ful home. Times have changed.’

The youth­ful Es­to­nian seems to rep­re­sent a new wave of Carnegie en­thu­si­asts as she re­calls his widow Louise say­ing, on open­ing the new part of the mu­seum in 1928, that she hoped her hus­band’s life would in­spire fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. ‘I be­lieve my con­tem­po­raries are re­spond­ing to a man who was well ahead of his time,’ says Ms Kook. ‘Though I work here, I keep dis­cov­er­ing amaz­ing things he did – such as fund­ing schol­ar­ships for a re­search team for Marie Curie’s No­bel Prize-win­ning break­through on ra­dioac­tiv­ity.’

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Carnegie’s home town has en­joyed spe­cial at­ten­tion, with the Carnegie Dun­fermline Trust man­ag­ing since 1903 to make good use of a £4mil­lion gift in a va­ri­ety of projects – a li­brary, of course, but also swim­ming baths, bowl­ing greens, clin­ics, a col­lege, a school of hand­i­crafts, mu­sic in­sti­tute, women’s cen­tre, youth cen­tre, and the mag­nif­i­cent Pit­ten­crieff Park.

In­deed, set­ting aside his proud pur­chase of Sk­ibo Cas­tle as his Scot­tish home, per­haps Carnegie’s most sat­is­fy­ing ‘na­tive’ achieve­ment con­cerned that park – from which, as a ragged-trousered boy, he was barred by the then-laird for be­ing of a fam­ily cam­paign­ing for the peo­ple’s right to en­joy it. In 1902, he bought the park for £45,000 and be­came the Laird of Pit­ten­crieff – ‘the grand­est ti­tle on earth in my es­ti­ma­tion’.

The in­tense sat­is­fac­tion he felt at the ‘true ro­mance’ of this de­vel­op­ment, which even saw a statue of him erected in the park, moved him to say: ‘This is the crown­ing mercy of my ca­reer! I set it apart from all other pub­lic gifts. Truly, the whirligig of time brings in some strange re­venges.’

He seemed stricken by con­science and turned his life’s fo­cus into push­ing his for­tune back into so­ci­ety

Above: Carnegie pho­tographed on 17 Oc­to­ber 1913.

left: Carnegie’s birth­place, Moodie Street, Dun­fermline.

Left: Carnegie with boy­hood friend and busi­ness part­ner Tom Miller. Far

Below: At Sk­ibo in 1914.

Above: Sk­ibo Cas­tle was Carnegie’s Scot­tish home.

Above left: Trip from Brighton to In­ver­ness in 1881. Andrew is hold­ing a whip, his mother Mar­garet is next to him.

Above right: Andrew and Louise Carnegie on hon­ey­moon in Scot­land, 1887.

Below: Statue of Carnegie, Dun­fermline.

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