Early days in Dunfermline, family and friends.
Andrew Carnegie was something of an enigma.
Andrew Carnegie’s father William was a free-thinker and known for his radical views which were published in letters/articles in newspapers and magazines. He was ahead of his time in advocating reform in matters such as the parliamentary electoral system and Catholic emancipation. Carnegie’s paternal grandfather Andrew (known as the professor) was a leader of the “Radical Weavers of Dunfermline”, his paternal great-grandfather James was also a radical who was arrested and imprisoned for sedition during the “Meal Riots” of 1770.
Naturally enough, as a young man Andrew was influenced by his father, but he admitted that his biggest influence came from his uncle George Lauder, that man’s son George or “Dod” as he was known LINK,and his mother’s brother, Tom “Bailie” Morrison. Both the Lauder and the Morrison families were known radicals and free-thinkers who were active in the politics of the day. LINK
Pittencrieff estate and glen.
The Morrison’s in particular were well-known for their radical politics and Thomas Morrison Senior, Andrew Carnegie’s maternal grandfather, was a founder-member of a campaign to gain public access to the ancient Abbey and Palace of Dunfermline. Access to these ancient monuments was barred to the public because they were situated within the private, Pittencrieff Estate and Glen which was owned by the laird, one Colonel James Hunt.
The campaign for access to these historical ruins was acrimonious and included the tearing down of a wall that barred public entrance to them. When eventually through the courts, Bailie Morrison secured the rights of the public to enter Pittencrieff on one day of the year to view the monuments, Colonel Hunt declared that from that day forth: “no Morrison be admitted to the Glen“, and he obtained a special court order to uphold this ban. Thus the son of Margret Carnegie (Nee Morrison), Andrew, found himself barred from Pittencrieff estate.
Laughter and tears in Dunfermline.
In 1909 when giving a talk in Peebles Andrew Carnegie said “Millionaires who laugh are rare, very rare, indeed”. But if Carnegie was a serious, even a dour man in later life, he must have had his share of laughter as a young man brought up in the company of real characters such as his uncle Bailie. Bailie had known men who remembered the time when Colonel Hunt’s grandfather had been a barber in Dunfermline. The modest barber had succeeded in life through investment, and the Hunts had purchased Pittencrieff.
Pittencrieff estate lay at the edge of town, and then—as now—the practice of landowners such as the Hunts was to constantly try to expand their acreage by encroaching upon the ‘common lands’ of the town. Then—as now—there were those with a sense of civic duty, like the Morrisons, who fought such actions through the courts. One court action by Bailie Morrison successfully blocked Colonel Hunt’s efforts at expansion, and immediately after the court hearing the enraged Hunt challenged Baillie Morrison to a duel—a challenge that was readily accepted. “All right,” roared Bailie, for the entire town to hear, “I’ll fight ye. As challenged party, I have the choice of weapons. I’ll take my father’s shoemaker’s knife and you take your grandfather’s razor.”
Baillie Morrison had a trick which he used to heckle speakers he did not approve of; it was to imitate the call of the cuckoo! This ruse was said to have driven many speakers to distraction as their meetings degenerated into farce.
Life could not have been all laughter for the young Carnegie, for the advent of machine looms in the weaving industry during the industrial revolution brought great change to Scotland, and Carnegie’s father was ruined.
Across the ocean to a better life.
In 1848 the Carnegie family left Dunfermline and went to the U.S.A. to seek their fortunes. America was a natural choice as the Carnegie’s were republicans and admirers of the American meritocracy, and Andrew’s mother had two sisters, Catherine and Ann living in Pittsburg.
Carnegie started work as a humble ‘Bobbin boy’ in the textile mills, but soon became fairly well-off by dint of hard work and observing how the Stock Market worked while doing his job of delivering telegrams to investors. Carnegie then rose through the ranks of a railway company and when the Civil War broke out he was a key man in transporting troops for the government.
In 1864 Carnegie avoided the draft himself by paying an Irish immigrant, John Lindew, $850 to take his place. This practice was widely used by the rich and it enabled Carnegie to take full advantage of a war that made him both rich and influential.
The rest, as they say, is history. Andrew Carnegie went on to become the richest man in the world with a fortune that in today’s money would equate to over $100 billion. History does not record what became of Carnegie’s Irish, Civil War, surrogate.
Initially at least, Andrew Carnegie the steelmaker appears to have been true to his roots and radical upbringing. He was an enlightened employer, and in the boom times when skilled labour was at a premium in steel-making, Carnegie was the darling of trade unions. His fair treatment of the skilled workforce and recognition of the trade unions made his factories models of good industrial relations in the USA. Carnegie gave his iron-workers an eight-hour-day, arranged cheap mortgages, and even wrote an essay on the need for trade unions in the workplace.
However in 1888 when the advent of steel and new techniques in the steel-making process allowed mass production by semi-skilled labour and low demand that forced iron prices down, Carnegie no longer had to woo the craft unions whose members mainly puddled iron.
With a need to cut costs and no need to court the skilled labour that gave his iron and steel plants profitability, Carnegie became his workers most bitter enemy by engineering a showdown at the Edgar Thomson Steel Works at Braddock.
Carnegie, via his plant manager, Captain William Jones, introduced proposals to cut the minimum price paid for meeting certain production targets. These proposals also included the introduction of a twelve-hour shiftworking and a refusal to negotiate on the basis of collective bargaining, effectively making the Braddock works a non-union sweatshop, policed by armed Pinkerton’s, where scab labour was brought in by train.
Carnegie’s unionised workforce (temporarily laid off for a works repair shutdown) faced with a ‘take it or leave it’ ultimatum crumbled and had no choice but accept Carnegie’s draconian measures, which he deemed necessary to compete in a fiercely competitive market with a surplus of stock, and return to work. The alternative for the workers was unemployment and eviction from their company mortgaged homes.
In 1892 Carnegie’s repeated his lock-out and draconian cost-cutting proposals at his unionised steel producing Homestead plant. This plant was situated on the banks of the river Monongahela, and during the dispute the company, in a long-planned move, attempted to bring in armed agents of the Pinkerton Company by river barge. The striker’s however had got wind of this move and, armed with their own weapons, lay in wait on the river-banks for the armed Pinkerton’s. The ensuing battle and loss of life during the fierce gunfights that took place is seen as the low point in labour-relations in the U.S.A.
What damaged Carnegie most from the Homestead strike was not the fact that he had engineered the lockout and confrontation with his workforce—the tactic of bringing in scab-labour protected by armed Pinkerton’s had been successful at Braddock in 1888—rather it was the fact that having done so, he left the USA for Scotland, where he took refuge in the remote Rannoch Lodge, a mansion on Rannoch Moor, far from the questions of the media.
This was a departure from his usual summer holiday in Scotland where – since 1888 – he had stayed at Cluny Castle, Laggan, or other trips abroad, when he was always in contact with the USA by telegraph. Isolated on Rannoch Moor Carnegie shunned the press and sought to avoid responsibility for what he knew would be a very turbulent period in his USA steel mills.
Henry Clay Frick, Carnegie’s business manager was left to carry out Carnegie’s plan, and almost paid for it with his life when he was shot by a political activist exactly one month after the Pinkerton’s abortive landing at Homestead. Frick’s role in the breaking of the strike may have made business sense, but was carried out with such ruthlessness and disregard for human life, that Carnegie became a pariah among those who had once admired him for his liberal views and practices.
The dispersal of Carnegie’s wealth.
Carnegie must have been acutely aware of the suffering of his striking workers, reminding him of his boyhood hero, his uncle Bailie, who had been jailed in Scotland for what at the time was the criminal offence of ‘Cessation of Labour’—or striking. Perhaps Carnegie was driven to succeed at all costs, haunted as he was by the spectre of his father’s failure—an event that had destroyed that principled man’s spirit.
In the later years of his life Carnegie set about distributing his vast wealth in ways that would benefit the poor and needy. By 1918, a year before his death, Andrew Carnegie had given away 90% of his $350 million fortune—all to charitable causes that served the poorer in society. There can be little doubt that Carnegie was mindful of his humble beginnings and radical ancestors when he made the decision to target his philanthropy at the bettering of the poor in society.
Were George Lauder’s history lessons responsible for Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy?
In his autobiography Andrew Carnegie tells of how the influence of his uncle, George Lauder Senior, “could not be overestimated”. LINK Uncle Lauder, a widower, treated the young Carnegie as if he was his own son. Andrew Carnegie and George Lauder Junior—known as Naig and Dod—were keen students of the local history that uncle Lauder dispensed from his shop in the High Street and on walks by the ancient Abbey ruins.
Dunfermline, the burial-place of Robert The Bruce and ten other Scots rulers, LINK is the ancient capital of Scotland and is steeped in the country’s history and it is inconceivable that the philanthropy of Robert of Crail, Abbot of Dunfermline in the reign of Robert The Bruce, would be unknown to the young Carnegie.
In Bruce’s reign (1306-1329) the Burgh of Dunfermline consisted of two separate entities divided by the Tower Burn. The land to the West of the burn which is now known as Pittencrieff Park is sometimes referred to as the King’s Burgh, and the land to the East of the burn forming the town was known as the Monastic Burgh, owned by the Abbot of Dunfermline, Robert of Crail.
Robert of Crail was the Abbot of Dunfermline from the years 1313/14 to 1327/28 and in the middle of his stewardship in about 1322 he gave away a large portion of monastic land to the people of Dunfermline, to do as they wished with it, in return for a token annual fee—“six pence or a pair of white Paris gloves”.
Could this well documented act of benevolence by the Abbot of Dunfermline have been the genesis of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy in later life? LINK
We will never know this for certain, but it is certain that Andrew Carnegie was aware of this exemplary act of benevolence in favour of his townsfolk. This could not have been lost on him, and perhaps acted as a spur for his-own philanthropy in later years.
Carnegie’s critics accuse him of giving away his wealth to salve his conscience, which was troubled by his employment practices—practices which were at odds with his upbringing—and that may be so, though he did give charitable gifts before Braddock or Homestead.
Whatever the truth of the matter is, at least Carnegie had a conscience when he had made his wealth, if not during its accumulation. Perhaps in the times he lived in it would have been impossible to have been a good employer with a social conscience and achieve success as an industrialist. Perhaps that is still the case today and we simply chose not to question the reasons we can buy—at unnaturally low costs—the trainers or shirts that we wear.
Carnegie’s statue in Pittencrieff Park (The Glen) Dunfermline
Pittencrieff Park and the new laird.
This website is not aimed at an analysis or judgement of Carnegie, the man, or his motives. I have only set out those parts of Carnegie’s youth that I feel are relevant to the main topic of this website—Pittencrieff Park! Pittencrieff Park which Carnegie gifted for the recreation of the poor people of his native town—the toiling masses so that they may see some sweetness and light.
The ownership of Pittencrieff Park was so intertwined in Andrew Carnegie’s family past that Carnegie—when he became a wealthy benefactor—craved it above all else. In 1902 he got what he wanted when Colonel Hunt sold him the estate for £45,000 (about £2.6 million in today’s prices). So the poor boy who had been excluded by the Laird of Pittencrieff and reduced to staring at the beautiful park through the estate railings now found himself the laird, having inherited this title with his purchase of the estate.
Although Carnegie soon gave the Pittencrieff Park and Glen to the people of his native town he kept for himself the ancient tower that stands in the Pittencrieff Glen as ownership of this tower allowed him to keep the title of Laird of Pittencrieff. In his autobiography, Carnegie stated with regard to Pittencrieff Park: “No gift I have made or can ever make can possibly approach that of Pittencrieff Glen” and he went on to describe it as the “most soul-satisfying public gift I ever made, or ever can make—to the people of Dunfermline forever.” LINK
On this website, I hope to be able to tell the story of the Pittencrieff Park & Glen (hereinafter the Glen) and the stewardship of this, Carnegie’s most precious gift, by The Carnegie Dunfermline & Hero Fund Trustees (hereinafter the “Trust”).
The Trust falls on hard times and seeks help.
The Trust, a once cash-rich body, is today reduced to being a recipient of charity. This sad reversal of fortunes can be traced back to a period from 1965 — when the Trust could no longer support the annual Children’s Gala — through to 1975, when the Trust admitted that they could no longer afford to cut the grass in the Glen.
In 1976 the Trust sought help from the Dunfermline Burgh Council and since 1978 they have relied on the ratepayers of Fife — through Dunfermline Burgh Council’s successor, Fife Council — for the maintenance of the park. Since I support the Trust financially through my Council Tax, I will have my say on this charity, a charity that dispenses charity to a small degree but charitably receives our local tax money to a larger degree (£699,000.00 in 2006). LINK
Selling off the family silver.
The latest development in the downhill slide of the Trust sees the trailing of proposals that would result in the sale of parts of the fringes of the Glen for property development.
So a Trust which in 1952 owned over 500 acres of land is now reduced to the prospect of commercially developing the fringes of the 70-acre Glen to make ends meet.
The rise and decline of Carnegie’s Dunfermline legacy has taken place in private and I will attempt to shed some light on the extent of—if not the reason for—the decline. I have inserted links to supporting documentation so that the reader will not—as I had to—go through the long and laborious process of extracting information regarding the formation, administration and changing role of the secretive organisation that is somewhat ironically named the Trust.
Artist’s impression of Malcolm Canmore’s Tower