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April 9, 2008

Andrew Carnegie’s gift to the people of Dunfermline under threat

A petition with 10,000 signatures has been submitted opposing a move by Fife Council to sell off the 70-acre Pittencrieff Park and Glen to developers. The Council’s proposal would mean that this much loved and well used park would be lost to the people of Dunfermline. Should Council’s be able to sell off Common Good land?


The people of Dunfermline have been fortunate over a long period of time in being gifted land and buildings by local benefactors. The first such gift that I am aware of, a large tract of monastic land, was gifted them by the Abbot of Dunfermline, Robert of Crail in 1322. The terms of the gift were that many acres of pasture land was gifted to the ordinary people of Dunfermline in perpetuity, to do as they wished with in return for a token annual fee—six pence or a pair of white Paris gloves.

Perhaps this well documented act of benevolence by the Abbot of Dunfermline was the ideal that inspired Andrew Carnegie, Dunfermline’s best-known son, to carry out his philanthropy in later life? One thing is certain the Abbot’s gift has all but disappeared over the years as corrupt or lazy stewards of the common good allowed it to be sold or given away. Today very little is left.

It is a matter of record that Andrew Carnegie was aware of the purloining of common good land by the landowners of his day. When Andrew Carnegie decided to gift the 70-acre Pittencrieff Park and Glen together with money to support its upkeep in perpetuity—specifically for the people’s leisure—he gave it to a dedicated Trust. Perhaps Carnegie wanted to avoid his gift to the people of Dunfermline going the same way as that of his mentor in philanthropy Robert of Crail.

Sadly it appears that the gift Carnegie described as his “most precious” is under threat as it faces development to bail out the cash-strapped Fife Council who took over the stewardship of the park when the designated stewards, the Carnegie Dunfermline & Hero Fund Trust fell on hard times.

Save Our Glen website is a website set up to take a detailed look at the stewardship of Pittencrieff Park by the Carnegie Dunfermline & Hero Fund Trust/Fife Council, and to chronicle the threat to the people’s park of Pittencrieff and if possible mobilise the people to stop this loss of green space.

If the specific terms of gifts to the people can be overturned and reversed by those entrusted with their stewardship, the long tradition of benevolent giving in Scotland will come to an end. What present-day Carnegie would gift land or precious artifacts if they know that these might be sold off to augment their profligate local council’s cash shortfall?