Dale, David (DNB00)

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DALE, DAVID (1739–1806), industrialist and philanthropist, was born 6 Jan. 1739 at Stewarton in Ayrshire, where his father was a grocer. He was employed at an early age in herding cattle, and then was apprenticed to a Paisley weaver. He afterwards perambulated the country to purchase from farmers' wives their homespun linen yarns, which he sold in Glasgow (Glasgow Past and Present, iii. 371). At or about the age of twenty-four he settled in Glasgow as clerk to a silk-mercer. Procuring a sleeping partner with some capital he started in business as an importer from France and Holland of their fine yarns to be woven into lawns and cambrics. Becoming fairly prosperous, he dissolved the partnership, and the enterprise brought him large profits. He is said to have acquired, not long after its erection, the first cotton mill built in Scotland, in 1778, by an English company at Rothesay (Bremner, p. 279). Dale arranged to engage in cotton-spinning in conjunction with Arkwright during the latter's visit to Scotland, when he was entertained at a public dinner in Glasgow at which Dale was present. They went together to the falls of the Clyde, near Lanark, which Arkwright pronounced likely to become the Manchester of Scotland, and they fixed on the site of what became New Lanark. Dale began the building of the first mill there in April 1785, a month or two after the trial in the common pleas which reinstated Arkwright in his patent rights, but when he was again deprived of these in the following June Dale became so far independent of Arkwright and dissolved the connection. By 1795 Dale had four mills at work, driven by the Clyde, and giving employment to 1,334 persons, to house whom he had built the village of New Lanark. The employment they offered not being popular in the district, pauper children were procured from the poor-houses of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and excellent arrangements were made by Dale for their education and maintenance. In 1791 an emigrant vessel from Skye to North America was driven ashore at Greenock, where some two hundred of the passengers were landed, most of whom Dale induced to settle at New Lanark and work for him. He was also a partner in large cotton mills at Catrine on the banks of the Ayr, and at Spinningdale on the firth of Dornock in Sutherlandshire among others. In this last his co-partner was Mr. Macintosh (father of the inventor of the indiarubber macintoshes), in conjunction with whom and a French expert he established in 1785 the first Turkey-red dyeing works in Scotland, the colour produced being known as Dale's red (Stewart, p. 76). He was also largely engaged in the manufacture of cotton cloth in Glasgow. In 1783 he had become agent for the Royal Bank of Scotland, a position of emolument and influence.

In 1799 Dale completed the sale of the New Lanark mills to a Manchester company. They appointed as their manager the well-known Robert Owen, who made New Lanark one of the industrial show-places of the world, and who, marrying Dale's daughter, speaks of him most affectionately, though they differed widely on the subject of religion. According to Owen, it was through his persuasion that Dale parted with his interest in other cotton mills. In 1800 Dale purchased for a residence Rosebank, near Glasgow, and, having acquired a handsome fortune, withdrew as far as was possible for him from active business. Some thirty years before he had seceded from the established church of Scotland and founded a new communion on congregational principles, but with an unpaid ministry, which was known as the ‘Old Independents,’ and of which he was during the rest of his life the chief pastor. At one time he was a regular visitor to Bridewell, preaching to the convicts, and he travelled great distances to visit the churches in communion with his own. He learned in later life to read the Old and New Testament in the original, and he was a liberal supporter of the Baptist Missionary Society's scheme for the translation of the Bible into the various languages of Hindostan. To Glasgow, its institutions, and its poor he was a munificent benefactor. On several occasions he mitigated the local effects of dearth by importing at his own risk cargoes of food from abroad, which was sold to the poor at prime cost. In the dearth of 1799–1800 one of these cargoes consisted of Indian corn, then almost unknown in Scotland. In person Dale was short and stout, in temperament lively and cheerful. He had a taste for music and sang old Scotch songs with considerable effect. He died at Glasgow 17 March 1806.

[Memoir (by the late Andrew Liddell of Glasgow) in R. Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen; Cleland's Annals of Glasgow, 1816; Senex's Glasgow Past and Present, 1884; Strang's Glasgow and its Clubs, 2nd edit. 1857; Stewart's Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship, 1881; The Life of Robert Owen, written by himself, vol. i. 1857; Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, xv. 34, &c.; Bremner's Industries of Scotland, 1869; ‘Richard Arkwright’ in F. Espinasse's Lancashire Worthies, 2nd ser. 1877.]

F. E.