Andrew Carnegie generous after death, will shows

Scottish industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Picture: Getty
Scottish industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Picture: Getty
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AN EXTRACT from the will of Andrew Carnegie has revealed the Dunfermline-born philanthropist left almost all of his Scottish estate to labourers employed at his Highland home.

The wishes of the Scottish-American industrialist are among more than 392,000 wills and testaments from 1902 to 1925 released today by the National Records of Scotland.

Major-General Sir Hector Archibald MacDonald. Picture: Getty

Major-General Sir Hector Archibald MacDonald. Picture: Getty

Labour Party founder Keir Hardie, Forth Bridge builder Sir William Arrol, and physicist and inventor William Thomson – Lord Kelvin – are among 15 other famous Scots whose last wishes are revealed.

The will of Mr Carnegie, once the world’s richest man, reveals his estate at Skibo Castle, in Sutherland, was modest compared to the $350 million (equivalent to several billion dollars today) that he donated to good causes during his lifetime.

From Mr Carnegie’s estate, each labourer on the payroll at Skibo who had served more than two years was given $50 (about £12.50 at the time – the average annual wage for an agricultural labourer was about £46) and those who had served five years got $100. Mr Carnegie’s estate was valued at almost £68,000 at the time of his death in 1919 – the equivalent of millions of pounds today.

People from all social classes are included in the released records. One is the will of a second-class passenger who died when the Titanic sank in 1912.

British mathematician and physicist William Thomson Kelvin. Picture: Getty

British mathematician and physicist William Thomson Kelvin. Picture: Getty

Robert Douglas Norman, 28, wrote to his brother before boarding the liner at Glasgow, specifying bequests to relatives in the event of his death. He left behind an estate valued at £5,793 – about £360,000 today.

• The documents are available at

Last wishes of the rich and famous

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)

Industrialist and Philanthropist

Dunfermline and Edinburgh

Carnegie died of bronchial pneumonia on 11 August, 1919, in Lenox, Massachusetts. He had already given away $350,695,653 (about $4.3 billion today). His estate in Scotland was modest compared to that in New York, totalling £67,541.8s.2d – worth about £2.4 million in today’s terms. His will was made up almost entirely up of lists of people who paid duties to him as a laird, with labourers getting payments connected to length of service and crofters being remitted two years’ rent if of good standing, with a third year’s rent paid to all crofters for improvements to their homes.

James Keir Hardie (1856-1915)

Politician and founder of the Labour Party


Hardie died in Glasgow on 25 September, 1915. He left an estate worth £705.1s.3d, which today would be valued at £44,100. The estate was mostly made up from the value of household furniture and an instalment due as an MP.

William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1825-1907)

Mathematician and physicist


Lord Kelvin died on 17 December, 1907, leaving a personal fortune of £128,925.0s. 7d (worth £10.2 million in today’s terms). He left £5,000 to the University of Glasgow for promoting teaching and research.

Sir William Arrol (1839-1913)



Sir William bought an estate at Seafield, near Ayr, in 1885 and built a house there where he lived until his death. He had amassed a personal fortune of £316,589.1s.2d, which would be worth £19.7 million today. He left the majority of his money to his friends and extended family.

Sir Hector Archibald MacDonald, pictured left (1853-1903)

Soldier; Ross-shire

Sir Hector died leaving a personal estate worth £4402.11s.6d, which today would be worth £369,000. His testament left a list of items that were to be kept as heirlooms for his son, Hector, including a portrait of Queen Victoria and his sword from his time as aide-de-camp to the Queen, presented by the people of Ross and Cromarty. All medals and decorations were also individually listed, plus a mounted hoof from his charger horse, Knowall. At the time the will was written in 1899, his horse was not dead – he states in section eight: “My charger Knowall to be shot.”

Donald Alexander Smith (1820-1914)

First Baron of Strathcona and Mount Royal


Lord Strathcona died in London, on 21 January, 1914. His gross personal and moveable estate calculated in 1916 was £4,656,268.8s.1d, making him one of the wealthiest Scots of his time. Today he would be worth £246 million.