Byline: by Jim McBeth
THE most insidious of illnesses prevents the old lady from recalling even the landmarks in her life. Andrew Carnegie, a name she grew up hearing every day, means nothing now. But her inability to conjure a memory of the billionaire steel baron is of no consequence. It is enough to know that Carnegie had her well-being at heart long before she was born.
In a hospital in Carnegie's home town of Dunfermline, an actor is using drama therapy to coax from her some tantalising glimpses of the woman she once was. It is being paid for by Carnegie, nearly a century after his death.
Meanwhile, on a nearby loch, his ghost hovers over squealing children. They, too, do not know him, but they skim across the water in a boat he bought.
Likewise his spirit is in the hands of a hockey player whose gloves were purchased by Carnegie, and it is represented in the music of pipe bands practising on instruments paid for with his cash. They are merely a few of the UK and U.S. projects which still benefit, nine decades after the death of the first and only Scot who could say he was the richest man on earth.
Today around [pounds sterling]50million a year is still being spent worldwide out of the fortune left by the unrepentant capitalist who decreed that 'to die rich was to die disgraced' after being persuaded by his kindly wife to give away an almost incomprehensible sum.
'His fortune would be [pounds sterling]167billion today,' says Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust. 'He had more money than the combined wealth of the top-six richest people in the world today.' And Carnegie's altruism is a gift that keeps on giving through various foundations, including three are in the UK, based in the Fife town where he grew up.
Globally, the Trusts fund every conceivable cause from helping American widows of heroes who died saving others to paying for academic research in Scotland and helping the people of Dunfermline.
Carnegie built 3,000 public libraries, starting with one in his home town, and paid for research institutes, colleges, concert halls - and 7,000 church organs. Mr Evans says: 'We have a broad remit, and we will give money away for years to come.'
The UK Trust, with assets of [pounds sterling]32million, has granted [pounds sterling]4.2million in two years. A separate trust for Scottish universities, governed by their principals, spends [pounds sterling]2million on postgraduate bursaries, fee assistance, 300 research grants and 200 scholarships.
And the Dunfermline Trust, with assets of [pounds sterling]12.5million, is governed by trustees from the town. Last year, the 175th anniversary of Carnegie's birth, they embarked on a [pounds sterling]10million redevelopment of the town's Carnegie museum, gallery, archive and library.
MR EVANS says of the steel baron: 'He endowed 26 foundations, most in the U.S., such as the one to celebrate non-military heroes.' But even that had Scottish beginnings.
In 1886, Carnegie paid for a memorial to a Dunfermline boy who drowned in an attempt to rescue a drowning swimmer from the Town Loch. He was moved by the young man's heroism and donated a large sum for the erection of a memorial.
It was a selfless act that Carnegie never forgot and years later, in 1904, he was equally impressed by the courage of miners in his adopted home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where a colliery disaster claimed the lives of 181 miners, several of whom had perished attempting to save colleagues. Carnegie donated $50,000 to a hardship fund for the miners' families and, four years' later, he set up the Hero Trust which has since recognised 6,000 brave Americans and offered emotional and financial support to their widows and orphans.
But the trusts represent only the mechanics of Carnegie's kindness. It is on the ground that his generosity is still realised in projects such as Fordell Firs, in Dunfermline. …