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David Dale (1739-1806)

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David Dale (1739-1806) was a Scottish merchant and businessman, famous for establishing the influential weaving community of New Lanark.

1739 David Dale was born in Stewarton, Ayrshire. He was the son of a grocer and was apprenticed to a Paisley weaver, subsequently working in Hamilton and Cambuslang. He then began preparing for an entrepreneurial career, travelling round the country buying up homespun linen. He later became a clerk to a Glasgow mercer

1768 He set up his own business importing linen yarn from the Dutch Republic.

He married Anne Campbell, the daughter of a John Campbell of Jura, a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh and became the Glasgow agent of the Bank in 1783, opening the Bank's first Glasgow branch. He had become a key part of the Burgher Gentry of Glasgow merchants, living in style in a house in Charlotte Street designed by Robert Adam.

He had a brief partnership with Richard Arkwright, the cotton industrialist, to exploit Arkwright's new technology. The partnership failed partly because Arkwright had not managed to secure full ownership of the design of the spinning frame.

Dale continued to set up cotton spinning factories. The one at Blantyre failed but he went on to set up the New Lanark Mills in 1786. One motivation for this (apart from profit) was the desire to provide alternative employment for destitute Highlanders who had been cleared from their crofts (perhaps from the estates of his Campbell of Jura relatives) as part of the Highland Clearances. Others thought he had taken a typical business opportunity when a ship-load of would-be emigrants to America were stranded at Greenock.

Dale left the Church of Scotland as one of the many Seceders of the 18th Century. He set up and became Pastor of a dissenting group of Christians - the Old Scotch Independents, a Congregational-type church. He was capable (according to his obituarist) of reading the Holy Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek. Some have attributed his activities at New Lanark to his religious outlook. This tradition of a philanthropic approach to business he passed on to his son-in-law Robert Owen.

His daughter Caroline married Robert Owen - a Welsh entrepreneur of a similar background to Dale. Part of the marriage settlement included selling the New Lanark Mills, village and lands - for £60,000 repayable over 20 years - to a partnership including Owen.

Dale retired to his country retreat a few miles from Glasgow - "Rosebank" in Cambuslang, though he died at his house in Charlotte Street in 1806.

His funeral cortege was followed to St David's Church (the Ramshorn Kirk) in Glasgow' Ingram Street by some of the most prominent figures of the day.

His grave in the south east corner of the kirk yard has the simple inscription "David Dale, Merchant".

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