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A Highlander Looks Back
New York and Death of Mr Carnegie


IN the month of April, 1919, a singular honour was conferred upon me. The one who was never happier than when planning for the happiness of others, Mrs Carnegie of Skibo brought me all the way from Sutherland to New York to play my bagpipes at Miss Margaret Carnegie’s marriage to Mr Roswell Miller. This was a complete surprise to daughter Margaret, to whom I played years before at Skibo Castle.

The trip was an eventful one. Allowing myself ten days to be in time for the wedding, I sailed from Liverpool on board the ship “Carmania”. The very first night the ship was held up, and lay overnight in the Mersey. Next day a large number of Canadian troops were embarked, and instead of making for New York as I expected, Halifax had first to be reached to disembark the troops. It was a very stormy passage, and progress was slow, with waves mountains high to contend with.

Time passed and I began to get very uneasy as to whether I would arrive in time for the purpose for which I had set out. I wondered on arriving at Halifax whether it would be quicker to go over land from there, but was advised by the ship’s officers not so, as, given reasonably good weather, the ship would still get me there in time, and she did, but only just in time. I arrived on the morning of the wedding, 22nd April. Mrs Carnegie’s secretary, Mr Barrow, was there to meet me, and quickly got me through the Customs, and in a speedy car we were soon at Two East Ninety-First Street.

I had a tune on my pipes aboard ship and the good old bagpipe was singing beautifully for the occasion. After a wonderful and unforgettable welcome it only remained for me to play some of the young bride’s favourite tunes of old, such as “The Highland Wedding”, “My Nut Brown Maiden”, “I Lo’e no Laddie but Aine” and “Wooed Married and A‘ ”. I accomplished something that will ever live green in my memory. I was given a great holiday, visiting scenes I had known fourteen years previously. Homeward bound on board the good ship “Aquitania”, I arrived in Sutherland after an absence of six weeks.

It was a great joy being once again in the environment of the Carnegie home, but to my regret I saw a great change in Mr Carnegie, who passed away on the following 11th August, 1919, mourned by countless people of all countries who understood his great benevolence to mankind.

When the death of Mr Andrew Carnegie took place on 11th August, 1919, it required no spectacular newspaper headlines to reveal to the world that a great man had passed away. Nothing, in my opinion, could have been more impressive than the simple announcement in four words by “The Scotsman” newspaper: “Andrew Carnegie is dead”, following which was an editorial couched in words truly depicting a man who in many respects was unequalled. To rise from bobbin boy to millionaire is surely unique, and to know such a man intimately, as was my privilege, was a wonderful experience.

Having had that privilege prompts me to record my personal knowledge of the man who, when he retired from business, bequeathed of his great wealth a sum exceeding seventy million sterling for the good of humanity. First and foremost Mr Carnegie was a peace-loving man and to this end he gave a great fortune so that the nations would arbitrate their differences rather than resort to the hideous practice of war and its consequent slaughter of millions of innocent lives and the destruction of irreplaceable, valuable, and historic property.

It was quite apparent on August 4th, 1914, when the Great War broke out that Mr Carnegie’s fondest hopes for world peace were now shattered, and it had broken his heart. From then until he passed peacefully to his rest, on 11th August, 1919, he appeared as a fading flower that had added lustre and imperishable beauty to the works of God’s creation.

Mr Carnegie lived the simple life, and thus got the most and the best out of it. Nothing, however, was spared that added to the joy of those who had the privilege of staying at his home in Skibo Castle, Sutherland, or Two East Ninety-First Street, New York, nor to those like myself who had served him.

He was a lover of good music with which I am proud to say he associated the music of the Highland bagpipe. He looked upon the bagpipe as a great Scottish heritage, and to me it was a very great disappointment when recently the Trustees in charge of the fund endowed by Mr Carnegie for the preservation and encouragement of Art, Education, and Music refused to recognise an appeal from the Glasgow College of Bagpipe Music for help.

Mr Carnegie could be seen at his best when he annually entertained to dinner his old comrades and business associates at Two East Ninety-First Street, New York. It was a stag party. No ladies. The ladies dined out that night. It was a great joy to hear Mr Carnegie and “the Boys”, as he affectionately called them, recount their business ups and down until they controlled the greatest manufacturing business of steel in the United States and probably the largest in the world.

When Mr Carnegie retired from business he was reputed to be the world’s richest man. To his undying credit, along with his many other munificent gifts, he endowed a fund to ensure that none of his old workmen or their dependents would suffer through old age or by being incapacitated for reasons of bad health. This fund was to his heart next to that with which he endowed for its permanent welfare his native birthplace, the town of Dunfermline.

Mr Carnegie’s gifts to both America and Great Britain and other countries are so colossal that I would not trust my pen to touch upon their magnitude. I have witnessed, however, many cases brought to Mr Carnegie’s notice, which after being certified by some responsible person as deserving, had his kindly consideration and generous support with the provision that there be no publicity. So much is already known and written about the wonderful achievements of Mr Andrew Carnegie that it is with modest pride I venture' to record my simple tribute to a truly great man who, to know, will ever shed the sunshine of happy memories upon my sojourn.


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