Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

Industrialist & Philanthropist - (1835-1919)

Carnegie's is the classic rags to riches tale of "poor boy made good" and, standing at just over 5 feet tall in his monogrammed silk stockings, living proof that you don't need to be a big man to be a Big man.

Born the elder son of a Dunfermline linen weaver, his family emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1848.

By a combination of luck, talent and sheer ruthlessness he worked his way up from being a lowly clerk to a top position in the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and, using his contacts in and knowledge of the railways to buy stock at rock bottom prices before selling it on at a huge profit, he became a millionaire by the time he was 30.

He invested his initial fortune in oil wells and by the 1880's he was the undisputed leader of the burgeoning iron and steel industry, with more money than he could hope to spend in 20 lifetimes.

By 1900 Carnegie had decided that it was time to stop earning money and instead to start spending it in ways which would benefit others, stating that "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced." His most famous bequest (other than the grand Theatre Halls which bear his name in New York and Dunfermline) was for the establishment of over 2500 public libraries throughout Britain and North America, an acknowledgement of his own lack of formal education and his appreciation of having had access to a library whilst still a penniless telegraphist.

He never lost his love for Scotland and at the turn of the century he bought the 30,000 acre Skibo estate in Sutherland where he built a castle. Here, he would entertain royals, nobles and the rich and famous of the day, living in the style of a Highland Chief, with his guests being piped into dinner every evening.

The castle was fitted with all the latest modern conveniences, luxuries and gadgets, one of which provides our favourite Carnegie story of all.

Carnegie's own private bath would, at the flick of a switch, rotate on a turntable from an adjoining bathroom into his bedroom. Impressive stuff, even by today's standards. Carnegie delighted in demonstrating this particular feature to his guests, until one day, in front of the assembled throng, his showing off showed off more than he, or they, had bargained for. As the dividing wall rotated through 180 degrees, the guests were treated to the sight of an extremely shocked Mrs Carnegie sitting in the bath wearing nothing more than a soapy frown!

Today, Skibo Castle is an exclusive hotel, not for the likes of FirstFoot, where only people who are nearly as wealthy as Andrew Carnegie can afford to stay. One presumes, however, the place now offers more conventionally static en-suite facilities.

Carnegie was, throughout his life and in spite of his immense stature, something of a "Mummy's boy", only marrying after her death, by which time he was 52. He was over 60 when his only daughter was born. He died in Massachusetts, aged 84, still stinking rich but far from disgraced, having given away over $350 million in his lifetime, a sum which, to put it into real perspective, would equate to several billions in today's terms.

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