In the days immediately before going to Peter Clarke’s funeral, I did some work in Scotland, and then on the Saturday attended a conference to celebrate the life of David Dale, who died two hundred years ago. David Dale’s life and achievements have tended to be somewhat overshadowed by his son-in-law Robert Owen, the Utopian socialist reformer, whose own son Robert Dale Owen left his mark on history when persuading Abraham Lincoln of the case for the abolition of slavery. Robert Owen was part of a consortium that took over the mills at New Lanark when David Dale, who had built the mills – initially in cooperation with Richard Arkwright – retired to his house in Cambuslang. Building those spectacular mills and harnessing the power from the falls of Clyde to drive the water wheels that turned the machinery, was clearly an achievement in itself and a triumph of engineering and enterprise, but Dale was much more than a builder and owner of cotton mills. With so much written about Dale, including plentiful web entries in e.g. Wikipedia and David McLaren’s printed biography, this is not a place to report further on Dale’s drive, his entrepreneurial activity, his key role as financier in western Scotland, his independent stance vis-à-vis the established churches, his philanthropy, his commitment to the health and education of the “pauper apprentices” who worked in his mills, or even his funeral when the streets of Glasgow were evidently packed with mourners. Let me declare an interest.
David Dale was my great, great, great grandfather. His second daughter Mary married my great great grandfather James Haldane Stewart. Their granddaughter Caroline Sophia Campbell Stewart married my grandfather Ernest Morell Blackie. To put it another way, my grandmother’s grandmother was David Dale’s daughter. I knew my grandmother and put that way the link has more immediacy, and as I walked around New Lanark on Sunday morning and came to David Dale’s house there, it was intriguing to reflect that I walked where my grandmother’s grandmother had played as a little girl.
The risk of being a family history bore is close if not already present, but perhaps the reader will indulge a point of historical interest. James Haldane Stewart’s grandfather was Charles James Stewart (5th of Ardsheal) who led the Stewart clans in the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 [see third para under heading "History"]. Charles was exiled after the defeat at Culloden and his land forfeited, and his son Duncan eventually found work as a customs collector in New England. Duncan married the daughter of a colonial family, one Anne Erving, and their son James, destined to marry Mary Dale, was born in America, but left that country very soon afterwards (there being no enduring place for British tax collectors!). Mary Dale’s mother meanwhile was born Ann Caroline Campbell, daughter of John Campbell, the “cashier” (chief executive) of the Royal Bank of Scotland. This was the Campbell who had hidden the bank’s money in Edinburgh castle when Bonnie Prince Charlie, flush from victory at Prestonpans, marched into Edinburgh. Campbell, by so depriving Charles Edward Stuart of a key requirement in his quest to capture the throne, was thus arguably in part responsible for the ultimate Hanoverian triumph over the routed Jacobites, including the humiliation of the man whose grandson was, about 60 years later, to marry Campbell’s granddaughter.
New Lanark is today a World Heritage site, and well worth a visit.