Chapter 8: Charting the ongoing failures of the Trustees.


From charity dispensers to recipients in a few decades, how did it come to this?

The failure of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trustees.

In Chapter 6 supra I dealt briefly with how the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust went from riches to rags. How the Trust, formed in 1903 had by 1953 accumulated an over-abundance of wealth, yet just 22 years later in 1975 they hadn’t enough money to cut the grass in Pittencrieff Park (the Glen) and had to petition the local council to bail them out.

This led to the Trust maintaining ownership of the Glen, but the upkeep and maintenance and associated costs being transferred to the rate-payers of the Dunfermline district.

There is no doubt that the failure of Carnegie’s Dunfermline Trustees would have been unthinkable to Carnegie when he placed the Glen into their trust. If ever a gift were meant to be cherished it was this one.

Carnegie’s family had been banned from entering the Glen because his uncle, Tom Morrison had fought court battles against the owners, the Hunt family, who had stolen common lands bordering on it. Relating this in a letter to the Liberal Party chief, Henry Campbell Bannerman, in 1903 Carnegie described his purchase of the Pittencrieff lands as the sweetest event in my life in the way of material satisfaction.

In March 1903 Carnegie had also written to his best friend the Liberal MP, John Morley, I am Laird of Pittencrieff biggest of all titles to me – King Edward not in it.”

Given the affection Carnegie had for the Glen and his old home town it is not surprising that proportionately (in dollars per capita, his formula for determining value of gifts) he lavished more money on Dunfermline than on any of the many other towns or cities he endowed.

So how did those entrusted with a 70-acre park and a vast financial benefaction – $2.5 million in 1903 & $1.25 million in 1911- fail so miserably?

We may never know the answer to this question, it may have been due to mismanagement, corruption, or a mixture of both, but one thing is for sure it led to the Carnegie Dunfermline & Hero Trust approaching the Dunfermline District Council in 1975 with a begging bowl. The Trust’s shame was spared in a face-saving agreement which transferred the burden of managing the Glen to the people of Dunfermline.

Carnegie told his Trustees in his explanatory letter which was an integral part of the 1903 Charter that his monetary gifts were: all to be used in attempts to bring into the monotonous lives of the toiling masses of Dunfermline more of sweetness and light: to give to them—especially the young—some charm, some happiness, some elevating conditions of life which residence elsewhere would have denied; that the child of my native town, looking back in after years, however far from home it may have roamed, will feel that simply by virtue of being such, life has been made happier and better, if this be the fruit of your labours you will have succeeded ; if not, you will have failed.

It is self-evident that Carnegie’s Trustees had failed, and far from being over-endowed in comparison with their neighbours, the people of Dunfermline were left to pick up the tab for upkeep of the Glen; but did their rescuers and new partners in the Glen, the Dunfermline District Council, fare any better?

Dunfermline District Council & their successors.

In Carnegie’s day Dunfermline was administered by a town council, but in 1929 a government act passed on this role to a Burgh Council. Then in 1975, new legislation was passed introducing a system of two-tier local government which saw Dunfermline District Council as one of three district councils under the overall authority of Fife County Council. This two-tier system was abolished in 1996 in favour of the single, unitary form of government that gives us today’s Fife Council.

So in 1975 when the impecunious Carnegie Dunfermline Trust were in need of a bail-out they approached the newly formed Dunfermline District Council, which was led by the Provost of Dunfermline and based in the Dunfermline City Chambers.

A Dunfermline Trust appealing to a Dunfermline council was always likely to get a sympathetic hearing and so it proved and almost immediately the Trusts costs in the upkeep of the Glen were subsidised and then borne completely by the rate-payers of Dunfermline district.

The situation changed somewhat in 1996 when the upkeep of the Glen was levied on all Fife rate-payers and when rates were abolished council tax payers. With budgets now being controlled from Fife Council HQ in Glenrothes the willingness with which the council would spend large sums on a park in Dunfermline was strained.

To further exacerbate the dire situation the Glen is now in Fife Council has, by mismanagement and possibly corruption, fallen on hard times and in tandem with the Trusts steady decline has reached a state where today it is one of the most indebted councils in the country having debts in 2012 of £713 million. LINK

The ongoing failures of The Trustees causes them to seek HLF & other bail-outs.

More and more Fife Council has had to look to others, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund charity, to bail them, and by extension, their partners in penury, the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, out. The classic example of this is the Glen, but another example of this is the case of Pitreavie Playing Fields which I detailed in Chapter 6 ibid.

Simply put in 1962 the Trust passed on their obligation for the running and upkeep of Pitreavie Playing Fields to Fife County Council by gifting them to the Education Authority of the council on condition that the fields be used by “schools, clubs, and groups of individuals in Dunfermline and District, and to national bodies which are concerned with the promotion of sport or athletics.”

The Trust however wrote into the terms of their gift a claw-back clause to the effect that if Pitreavie was used for purposes other than those stipulated above the ownership of the playing fields would revert to the Trust LINK. Has that time now come?

Starting with David Edward Murray (later Sir David) – who has some experience of gaining common good lands LINK – whose Carnegie Sport and Hospitality Ltd were made stewards of the land in 2001 we have had a succession of organisations and individuals on long-term leases with Fife Council.

The various lessees all declare their intention to look after and improve the facilities at Pitreavie; Charlotte Ventures, Vida, Powerleague, Dunfermline Academy of Sport, and Dunfermline Athletic Football Club (owned by Charlestown Holdings) all talk of their long-term commitment and promise big investments but the reality is the opposite.

The latest of the opportunists to benefit from Pitreavie Playing Fields is Dunfermline Athletic FC whose owner, the very controversial Gavin George Masterton LINK is now suggesting that he owns the site, which will soon be transferred to and offshoot of the football company, the Pars Trust, a move that will “release quite a lot of money” and allow Mr Masterton to pay of his favourite creditor HMRC LINK.

It seem that there is nowhere in this monetary-merry-go-round for the people the playing fields were intended to benefit…….the people of Dunfermline.

Instead of benefiting the people of Dunfermline, Pitreavie seems to be benefiting a group of friends led by controversial Bank of Scotland ex-boss Gavin Masterton described recently as benefiting from what has been described in the press as “handshake banking”.

Masterton is a long time friend, and business associate of David Edward, later, Sir David, Murray LINK , who infamously said that he sold his heavily indebted Rangers FC to another controversial businessman Craig Whyte for £1, because he smelled right and wasn’t a foreigner! LINK This, said Sir David, had caused him to be duped by Whyte.

The omens for Pitreavie are not good. Masterton’s company Stadia went burst in 2005 with debts of about £28 million LINK and as I type (26/02/2013) his staff at Dunfermline Athletic have not been paid their full wages promptly for four months and are, today after only receiving 20% of their salary considering industrial action through their trade union, which is making a complaint to football’s governing body the Scottish Football League.

One would be forgiven for thinking that the gifts given by Andrew Carnegie to his townsfolk had become the private property of a small clique of Scottish businessmen like Masterton and Murray whose only concern is to make a quick buck.

One wonders what Andrew Carnegie would think if he knew that a sports complex in his name had been operated by one man said to have wreaked great damage to sport after his former football club was fined £250,000 for hiding £47m from HMRC over an 11 year period, LINK and another whose actions have brought the football club that bears the name of Carnegie’s birthplace to its knees, and to within weeks of bankruptcy LINK . A former banker whose reputation is so low that the bank he was formerly in charge of have written off any chance of getting back a loan of £12.2m they gave him after already writing off a previous loan of £4m! LINK

Fife Council and the Carnegie Trusts are scrambling for charity which must deprive other small Third Sector applicants!

But here is the worst part of it. The development of Pitreavie by the Pars Trust, or whoever owns it will be dependent on grants or cash from various charitable institutions. Money that will deprive other small organisations in the voluntary sector of their slice of the charity cake. So the gift that Carnegie gave us at Pitreavie will actually deprive other deserving causes that rely on charity.

Here are some of the small voluntary sector applications, many from Fife that have been rejected while Fife Council have succeeded in getting HLF grants to help themselves and their impoverished partners, the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust: LINK

Surely Andrew Carnegie’s intention was not to deprive other good causes from receiving charitable grants for their good causes?

And surely the Heritage Lottery Fund, Social Investment in Scotland, Sport Scotland, et al, which receive public monies, were not designed to bail out profligate local authorities?

The Carnegie Birthplace Museum

Perhaps the low point of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust’s fall into the role of a beneficiary of charitable donations, rather than a dispenser of charity, came when they sought and then were granted a charitable donation of $150,000.00 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. LINK

How did the Carnegie Corporation of New York come to bail out their impoverished Dunfermline cousins?

We know that Vartan Gregorian had visited Dunfermline in 2004, and had been instrumental in the bid to have a Harvard Business School cited in Pittencrieff Park (C 4 ibid), and he seems to have been key to the Carnegie Birthplace upgrade as STV reported at the time: “Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, whose foundation grant-aided the project.” LINK This is a puzzling statement as funding in the UK with grant aid by the NY Corporation seems to be outwith their charter terms.

Gregorian’s statement is even more puzzling because it is at odds with one made by his opposite number in the Dunfermline Trust in 2006. Then, Angus Hogg President of the Dunfermline Trust rubbished suggestions that the New York Corporation could become involved in the locus of another Trust in Scotland.

Hogg stated in a letter to Lizz Mogg LINK

There are twenty one Carnegie Trusts and Foundations worldwide. Each body is separately constituted in line with the aims and wishes of our common founder and each does not overlap on the work of the others. The idea that anyone of the American Foundations (and they are not a collective body in any sense) would look to instigate something in Scotland is as bizarre as it is unfounded

Technicaly at least Hogg is right in this assertion at the time he made it. Even Andrew Carnegie couldn’t get New York Corporation funds spent on a UK Trust.

It is well documented that, when in early 1913, Andrew Carnegie wished to set up a United Kingdom Trust he had instructed Elihu Root, the President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to transfer $10m for this purpose, but to his surprise Root told him that such a transfer would violate the terms of the Corporation’s US Charter. This caused Carnegie to dip into his remaining private wealth to furnish the money needed to set up the UK Trust.

Since then the New York Corporation has applied to the courts and had the terms of its charter amended – as the Dunfermline Trust petitioned the Queen to have theirs amended to accept charity – but none of the amendments from 1917 to 1970 extend the geographical areas in which the Corporation can operate to the Great Britain, the United Kingdom, or Scotland.

I have sought clarification from the Carnegie Corporation of New York in this matter, but to date none has been forthcoming. The gift-aiding of money from the New York to UK Trusts – something Andrew Carnegie was unable to persuade Elihu Root to do in 1913 – has apparently been achieved by Angus Hogg/David Smith via Vartan Gregorian, with ease.

The Charter of the Carnegie Corporation of New York has, like their Dunfermline cousins been subject to amendments, but mainly these have been aimed at increasing the geographical area in which they can operate. LINK

The 1961 amendment extended the Corporation’s operational territory to British Dominion or Colony but specified that a “Dominion” shall only include any country outside the British Isles. It seems clear that the charitable gifts that upgraded the birthplace museum were outwith the charter and were certainly something that could not have been done in Carnegie’s lifetime.

So, while puzzling, as to how the New York Carnegie helped out their Dunfermline cousins with a one hundred and fifty thousand Dollar gift, the symbolism of such a bail out to bring the tired and dowdy old birthplace museum into the twenty-first century is nevertheless striking.

The birthplace museum is a combination of the Moodie Street cottage where Andrew was born and a Memorial Hall or Treasure House adjoining that cottage, which was built to the design of local architect James Grant Shearer RSA (uncle of Dunfermline-born, Moira, the famous ballet dancer/actress) between 1925 and 1928.

The birthplace cottage had been bought in 1895 by Mrs Louise Carnegie, as a 60th birthday present for her husband and let out to local people, and later, the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust commissioned the design and building of the adjoining hall, which was also funded by Andrew Carnegie’s widow Louise, whose concept the project was. This adjoining building was designed as a repository for the treasured mementos of her husband, for posterity, in a public place in his home town.

With the creation of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust in 1903, a caretaker was appointed to the cottage and in 1908 it was opened to the public and the Trust later took responsibility for the Memorial Hall/Treasure House.

How striking a contrast is the success of the Carnegie Corporation of New York in handling their gift from the benefactor with the failure of their Scottish counterparts? That Carnegie’s Birthplace Museum has had to rely on charity from the United States and other agencies in the United Kingdom such as The Association of Independent Museums LINK is all that needs to be said about the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust.

In this matter, as with the upgrade to Pittencrieff Park (The Glen), the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust are, by their appeals for funding, depriving other, deserving, voluntary organisations, a slice of the finite resources available to charities.

Is the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust acting in a manner that is repugnant to the benefactor’s wishes?

When the proposed Harvard Business School in the Glen fell through, the C.E.O. of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, Nora T. C. Rundell spoke to the local newspaper, the Dunfermline Press which reported her views thus:

THE Carnegie Dunfermline Trust has warned that Pittencrieff Park could lose out on lottery millions if a commercial enterprise such as the proposed business school doesn’t go ahead.”

Nora Rundell went on and asserted that the Heritage Lottery Fund “won’t hand over £5 million to fund it [the 10-year masterplan cobbled together by the Trust and the Friends] unless the park is making money.

It is worth considering the full impact of that statement as it implies the the H.L.F. Parks for People grants only apply to “going concerns“, I.E. profitable enterprises.

Honouring our American cousins, or cadging off them?

On 15 October 2013, an article appeared in the Courier, an east of Scotland newspaper entitled: “Dunfermline philanthropist Andrew Carnegie honouredLINK

However, as can be seen from reading the article, the content was accurate but the title misleading. This caused me to pen the following letter to the editor for publication:

Your article, “Dunfermline philanthropist Andrew Carnegie honoured” of 15 Oct, could not have had a more inappropriate title.

The piece by Leeza Clark accurately reports that in Pittencrieff Park, commonly known as The Glen, Dunfermline (said by Andrew Carnegie to be his most treasured possession and his greatest gift), honours were handed out, but the plaudits went, not to anything connected to the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust who own The Glen, but to a US citizen, Vartan Gregorian.

The avenue named “Vartan’s Way” has no reflection on Andrew Carnegie other than the fact that Vartan is President of the highly successful and wealthy Carnegie, New York Corporation, which has in the past given grant aid to it’s impoverished Scottish partner the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust to renovate the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Cottage and Museum.

I don’t grudge Mr Gregorian his accolade at the prime site by the top of The Glen, but it is to that man the honour goes, and to his predecessors, who have stewarded Carnegie’s New York legacy so wisely that today they annually gift about 100 million dollars to good causes.

By contrast, we, the Fife council-tax payers have since 1975 subsidised the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, by taking over the costly (£699,000 in 2007) running and maintenance of The Glen when the Trust could no longer afford, or meet their stewardship obligations, to do so.

So as the prime site at the top of The Glen is now named Vartan’s Way as an accolade to success, let us name a small unkempt corner at the bottom of The Glen, “Hogg’s Botton” in testimony to the failures of the current Chairman of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust and his hapless predecessors.

What Andrew Carnegie would have made of his Dunfermline Trustees cadging money off their American cousins and then courting them with flattery, one can only guess?

It almost goes without saying that none of the trustees responded to this letter.

 LATEST 13/01/2016

It’s not looking good for the Carnegie Hall Dunfermline

The building was the second Carnegie Hall, after the well-known landmark in Carnegie’s adopted home of New York. Designed by local architects Muirhead and Rutherford, Louise Carnegie, his daughter, attended the earth-cutting ceremony.

The Hall opened in 1937 with a programme of musical recitals and children’s entertainment, and, as other venues faded in Dunfermline, Carnegie Hall became the main theatre for variety shows and amateur dramatics.

In 1974, Dunfermline District Council took over the management of the Hall, introducing a civic theatre programme that continued to support local amateur groups, but now also included popular Scottish entertainment, pop music acts and pantomime. In 1976, comedian Billy Connolly recorded his Atlantic Bridge album at both Carnegie Halls in Dunfermline and New York.

But cash-strapped Fife Council seem to want to get it off their hands and offload it to one of their favourite charitable trusts, The Alhambra Theatre Trust. Read all about it here: LINK

 LATEST 19/09/2016

It’s not looking good for Carnegie’s beloved Pittencrieff Park (The Glen)

Despite undergoing a £1.6 million facelift with a total of 29 improvements which were carried out between 2012 and 2016 as part of the restoration of the 76-acre park, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with help from Carnegie Dunfermline Trust and Fife Council things are not looking good for Pittencrieff Park (The Glen).

Last week’s Dunfermline Press headline that ‘The Glen’ might face closure was shocking, but not surprising. The downward spiral of The Glen has coincided with that of the organisation entrusted to look after it, The Carnegie Dunfermline & Hero Trust (The Trust). LINK

On this site it’s well documented that from 1975 the cash-strapped Trust had to petition Dunfermline District Council for help as they couldn’t afford the cost of the upkeep of The Glen and the burden of this task was transferred to us, the people of the town, then on to Fife Council ratepayers in 1996.

But the major change came in 2006 when The Trust persuaded The Queen to change the Royal Charter so that The Trust could now “appeal for donations”, that is seek charity.

And seek it they have, in conjunction with Fife Council, recently gaining a grant for £1.6million. So The Trust has become a subsidy junkie, scrambling with other Third Sector organisations for a share of the finite funds that HLF and others dole out.

In the old days when I was a youth, The Trust, was self sufficient and like The Glen well run. The Glen then was also well policed by the Park Ranger who lived in the house at the south gates. He lived on the job and was efficient in acting with the police in clearing out troublemakers and locking up at night.

I don’t suppose I’m alone in remembering him coming round ringing a bell at dusk, to signal time-up on ‘winchers’. Don’t suppose I’m alone either in dodging him and making a later exit over the wall!

But the ‘Parkie’ like his house and his bell are gone, and unless The Trust get more public funds (they were recently turned down for yet more HLF funding) then the dire warning of Community Sergeant, Tom Clague, may come to pass and the bell may toll for the closing of The Glen.

What would Carnegie have made of it all?

Will Trustees resign if this comes to pass, or will they continue as normal, pretending that everything is hunky-dory?

Do ursines unload in the undergrowth?