Rich As Carnegie
Rich As Carnegie
By: jbhthescots@mac.com, Categories: Words & Images, 3 comments

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With the centenary of Andrew Carnegie’s death looming over the next few years, apparently Brian Cox is working on a film series of the  poor Scot who emigrated to America and became the world’s richest man, and more famous still as a philanthropist.  The Dundee-born Hollywood actor is hoping to develop David Nasaw’s 2007 biography of Carnegie into a feature or TV series. He is working alongside Sonita Gale of Galeforce Films, producers of the documentary Andrew Carnegie: Rags to Riches, Power to Peace, which was narrated by Cox, and adapted for a new BBC documentary that aired this week in the UK.

 

Carnegie started with nothing and went on to make his fortune in iron and steel.  He was the original “new money”, and not the old way of inherited wealth – and we’ve all heard growing up in Scotland the expression “Rich as Carnegie”.  Glasgow comedian Billy Connelly once said that he gave money away ‘as silently as a waiter falling down a flight of stairs with a tray of glasses.’  Carnegie did have an overzealous liking for the publicity he received, though to be fair he did give away his fortune of $350 million (estimated at around $7 billion in today’s value!) to worthy causes…eventually.

 

One such generous bequest being his fondness for largesses towards the building of libraries – 2,811 worldwide – for ordinary working class people, especially here in Scotland and also in the US where he made his vast fortune. His first was in his home town of Dunfermline, in 1881, and dedicated to his mother.  Today’s photo is my own local library, Govanhill – which opened on March 16th 1906 – and is one of twelve such libraries constructed with Carnegie’s gift of £100,000 (roughly £10 million at today’s value) to the city of Glasgow in 1901.

 

Seven Carnegie libraries were designed by the Inverness architect, James. R. Rhind. 
Govanhill was – and still is – an area of high-density tenement housing which was considerably brightened up by the architect’s extravagant use of columns, domes and statues in his baroque-style library.  Its situated at the busy junction of Langside Road and Calder Street, with the main entrance at Langside Road having a sandstone dome topped with a bronze statuette over the recessed doorway. The Calder St. façade in today’s photo, features one of the two groups of statues representing the personification of knowledge, with matronly figures reading to groups of children.

 

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