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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 21:33 GMT
The king of Skibo Castle
Carnegie graphic
Skibo Castle was Carnegie's "think tank HQ"
BBC News Online Scotland looks at the life of Andrew Carnegie - the man whose vision created the modern-day Skibo Castle.


"The man who dies rich dies disgraced."

That was the adage of Andrew Carnegie, the wealthy businessman who created a lavish Highland castle in the 1800s.

The Scots-born son of a weaver enjoyed spending the money he had made from the American steel industry.

But his life was not characteristically self-indulgent.

He was keen to give to others - he was one of the world's original philanthropists.

For a man who had left Scotland as a child, Skibo Castle was an important project - a summer haven away from the hustle and bustle of American life.

Madonna and Guy Ritchie
Modonna and Guy Ritchie will exhange vows at Skibo
It was built in a much earlier time, but its prominence as a place of finery only came when Carnegie purchased it for 85,000.

The former Dunfermline boy spent 2m creating a magnificent rose-tinted structure overlooking the Dornoch Firth.

It became a place the multi-millionaire showbiz couple Madonna and Guy Ritchie would have felt at home in.

Although the castle of Carnegie is long gone, the castle which stands on the site today, Skibo, has all the modern trappings - thanks to new owner Peter de Savary, who bought it after it fell into disrepair.

Helping others

It is now a grand home and hotel which remains loyal to its 19th Century owner's vision.

Carnegie might have inspired a retreat for the elite and famous of the 21st Century, but how well would he have got on with the singing sensation and accomplished film director who are to marry at Skibo?

He shares their wealth and their enjoyment of travel.

But he had a desire to change the world in order to help others.


His forward-looking university pensions scheme for staff was brought to the UK - tremendous advances such as that were instituted at Skibo

Bill Runcieman
Bill Runcieman knows a great deal about Carnegie, his generosity, his homes and his loyalty to Dunfermline.

The secretary of one of the businessman's trusts believes Skibo Castle was built primarily as a family home.

"Andrew Carnegie would escape from his hectic life in American and spend idyllic summers with his family.

"It was a grand place, some may say opulent, but I don't believe it was built to show off the Carnegie fortune. It had a practical purpose."

'Think tank HQ'

But Skibo was not just a second home, says Mr Runcieman.

"It also acted as his think tank HQ," he said.

Experts in various fields of work would travel from America and the UK to discuss with Carnegie what his next philanthropic endeavour should be.

Those on the guest list included King Edward VII, W.E. Gladstone, Lloyd George, Hebert Spencer, Rudyard Kipling and the Rockefellers.

Carnegie
Carnegie believed his wealth should be spent while he was alive
Heads are turned today at the prospect of Sting, Pavarotti, Michael Douglas, Rupert Everett and Vinney Jones entering Skibo.

But in Carnegie's time, there was no media frenzy when royalty and politicians came to stay.

So, what did the businessman dream up at Skibo during the hot Scottish summers?

Mr Runcieman said: "Well before he died in 1919 he had set up a number of trusts which he oversaw very closely.

"Many may not know that he helped to revolutionise the way university education worked in the US.

UK trusts

"His forward-looking pensions scheme for staff was eventually brought to the UK.

"Tremendous advances such as that were instituted at Skibo."

He established five UK-trusts which live on today - the Carnegie UK Trust; the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust; the Carnegie Trust for Universities of Scotland and the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust.

Bedroom, Skibo Castle
One of the revamped rooms at Skibo Castle
More than 80 years after the industrialist's death, the bereaved, students, medics and heroes are given financial assistance in the name of Carnegie.

He was not the architect of trust funds and he was not the first American to be called a philanthropist.

But Mr Runcieman points out that comparisons to the Rockefellers go only so far.

"Unlike other industrialists, who gave their money away after they had died, Carnegie set up his trusts while he was still living.

"He gave away something in the order of $350m.

"He spread his money far and wide, medicine education social projects, too many to name.

Carnegie coin
Carnegie created five trusts in the UK
"As well as the five trusts in the UK, he has many, many more in the US."

Despite being thought of as American, Carnegie - who moved from Dunfermline with his family in 1848 - was a proud Scot.

Mr Runcieman said he would not like to guess how Carnegie would receive news of a showbiz wedding at his beloved Skibo.

But he added: "The castle continues today to have the famous and wealthy visitors of Carnegie's day.

"And the current owner Peter de Savary has continued to expose Skibo to the great and the good."

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