IN this concluding episode of a three-part series on the history of Scots in America, we look at one of the greatest, most controversial and most influential Scotsmen of all time, Andrew Carnegie of Dunfermline.

By any standards he was the wealthiest Scotsman that ever lived, and at one point was the richest man in the world with a fortune that some experts (Forbes Magazine) have estimated at the equivalent of $200 billion in current money, or more than twice the worth of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Like Gates, Carnegie acquired almost unimaginable wealth and then made a pledge – he said he would give it all away, and by and large he almost did, only failing in his task because there was so much of it.

So who was this Scot who was small in stature, standing about 5ft 2ins tall, and preached kindness to his fellow man but was not above sanctioning the use of armed force to break strikes, who wined and dined presidents and prime ministers yet preferred the company of writers, who took American citizenship yet remained a proud Scot until death?

Born on November 25, 1835 at 4 Moodie Street, Dunfermline – it’s now a museum – Carnegie was the son of William, a damask weaver who fell on hard times as industrialisation took away his trade, and Margaret, nee Morrison.

His father and his shopkeeper uncle, "Uncle Lauder", were huge influences on the young Carnegie, both of them encouraging the boy to read and think for himself, with the latter inculcating a strong love of Scottish history and the works of Robert Burns.

In his autobiography, Carnegie revealed the source of his life-long love of romanticism and literature – Dunfermline itself with its Abbey, Palace and Pittencrieff Glen with all their ruins.

He wrote: “The child privileged to develop amid such surroundings absorbs poetry and romance with the air he breathes, assimilates history and tradition as he gazes around.

“These become to him his real world in childhood – the ideal is the ever-present real. The actual has yet to come when, later in life, he is launched into the workaday world of stern reality.

“Even then, and till his last day, the early impressions remain, sometimes for short seasons disappearing perchance, but only apparently driven away or suppressed. They are always rising and coming again to the front to exert their influence, to elevate his thought and colour his life.

“No bright child of Dunfermline can escape the influence of the Abbey, Palace, and Glen. These touch him and set fire to the latent spark within.”

Also in his autobiography, Carnegie described one memorable incident involving his father: “I grew up treasuring within me the fact that my father had risen and left the Presbyterian Church one day when the minister preached the doctrine of infant damnation. This was shortly after I had made my appearance.

“Father could not stand it and said: ‘If that be your religion and that your God, I seek a better religion and a nobler God.’ He left the Presbyterian Church never to return, but he did not cease to attend various other churches.”

The Carnegies struggled to make a living. Andrew had a brother, Thomas, who was eight years younger than him – he would later join Carnegie in business – and an "in between" sister Ann who died in infancy, a fate that befell so many of the working poor in the mid-19th century. To Andrew’s heartbreak at leaving Dunfermline, William Carnegie sold his loom, borrowed £20 from relatives and moved his family to Allegheny in the USA in 1848.

The weaving trade there was still hard, but Carnegie’s mother Margaret was able to find work as a shoe binder, earning the princely sum of $4 a week, as well as caring for the family. Seeing his mother slave round the clock bred a commitment to hard work into Carnegie, and at the age of just 13 he started work as a bobbin boy in a local cotton factory owned by a Scot who also employed William Carnegie. He earned $1.20 a week for a six-day week. His working career was off to a lowly start, but this second phase of his life would be extraordinary.

The family income was what we would now term poverty level, but Carnegie was already dreaming of much greater things, and unlike so many millions of others he made it happen.

Another Scottish factory owner, John Hay, intervened to help Carnegie move on. He took on the bobbin boy as a machine tender at $2 a week, but was so impressed with Carnegie’s penmanship learned at school in Dunfermline that he made him a clerk.

From then it was a short move in 1850 to a telegraph company in nearby Pittsburgh that suited the ever-loquacious Carnegie, who used his highly retentive memory to build up a catalogue of top-quality clients – the networking that would be the essential quality to making him very rich – while one businessman, Colonel James Anderson, gave the Scottish teenager access to his personal library so that he could educate himself.

In later life Carnegie would write books and be on first-name terms with the great writers of the day, and always credited Anderson for use of that library.

Well-connected with the leading lights of Pittsburgh, Carnegie won promotion and $20-a-month salary, which made him the family breadwinner, but he already knew that railways were the coming business and jumped ship to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company shortly before his father died in 1855 at the age of 51.

Carnegie came under the influence of Thomas A Scott, who would rise to become the first Vice-President of the Railroad in 1860. He took a shine to the young Scotsman, and in turn Carnegie made a dazzling rise through the ranks on sheer merit and hard work, and showed himself to be truly innovative – he was the first railroad manager in America to employ young women as telegraph operators.

HE also borrowed money to invest in shares in the company, and described a "eureka" moment when he got his first dividend, “something that I had not worked for with the sweat of my brow.” One of the greatest of all capitalists was thus born… Everyone knew a war was looming – Carnegie himself had joined anti-slavery protests in 1856 – and the American Civil War duly made railroad companies wealthy. Carnegie’s mentor Scott was made President Abraham Lincoln’s Assistant Secretary of War in charge of transport, and Carnegie effectively took charge of all military railways in the north, meeting and being impressed by Lincoln on numerous occasions. Carnegie correctly saw rail travel as the post-war future and in 1864 he built the Superior Mill to make ironwork and steel rails for the massively increasing rail network, as well as investing hugely in the sleeping cars invented by George Pullman – in the first year he made $400,000 (about $12m in today’s terms) from his Pullman investments alone.

The manufacture of iron and steel now became Carnegie’s overriding concern. Not yet in his mid-thirties and surrounding himself with hard-headed Scottish managers and entrepreneurs such as his cousin George Lauder, he invested in new ironworks and steel mills and the fledgling oil industry.

Moving in the highest circles of American society, the talkative, charming and self-educated fair-haired Scot was a hit. We know he loved the company of women, but he was too busy making money while being devoted to his mother.

He did not wed until after she died, marrying Louise Whitfield when he was 51 and she was 30, and they had a daughter, Margaret. He was rarely photographed standing beside his wife because she practically towered over him.

The ultimate networker used all his political and business connections to build a vast empire of iron and steel manufacture. His great innovation was to make sure his companies controlled all the processes, from garnering raw materials such as iron ore to completing the finished product.

His company imported the Bessemer process from Britain, the first steel firm in the USA to do so, and by the time he formed the Carnegie Steel Corporation in 1892, his companies were making half as much steel as the entire British steel industry, which had been by the far the world’s largest.

He had also invested and re-invested profits in a plethora of businesses and become more and more interested in politics in Britain and the USA. He took on American citizenship, which meant he had to renounce his rights as a British citizen, but still bought shares in UK newspapers and backed William Ewart Gladstone in his campaigns, while cultivating the friendship of successive American presidents and other top political leaders. He wrote a book that appeared to criticise the Royal Family, though in fact he was advocating republicanism over monarchy, and then produced the Gospel of Wealth in 1889, which argued that the gaining of wealth had to be followed by philanthropy. The one major black mark against Carnegie was his attitude to strikes. He was in fact in favour of trade unions, but only if they took a negotiated line. Carnegie could not bear to see production halted as it broke his cardinal rule, the other realisation that had made him so wealthy – to cut manufacturing costs you simply had to make more of the product, or what we now know as economies of scale.

IN what should have been his year of triumph, 1892, a strike broke out at his Homestead steelworks in Pennsylvania. Though not directly responsible for what happened as he was in Scotland on holiday, Carnegie allowed the use of the Pinkerton private detective and security agency – founded by a Scot, Allan Pinkerton from the Gorbals in Glasgow – to try and smash the strike. The confrontation between strikers and strikebreakers ended in a fierce firefight and the death of seven strikers and three Pinkerton agents.

Carnegie was mortified and his reputation was sullied. He was branded a dictatorial strikebreaker and the label stuck. As the end of the century approached, Carnegie’s thoughts turned to his last and greatest works – giving all his money away.

It is often thought that Carnegie turned to philanthropy because of his shame at Homestead. That is simply not true. In what we would now call a pre-nuptial agreement with his wife – he was innovative in so many things – Carnegie categorically stated that he would give away his wealth before he died.

The list of his benefactions is very lengthy, very wide-ranging and hugely imaginative in its scope. He had already endowed dozens of public libraries, starting with Dunfermline in 1883. In 1901, he sold his US Steel corporation for the equivalent of about $20bn, and his philanthropy took off. He gave to some 3,000 public libraries worldwide, countless educational and other institutes including the University of Birmingham and an astonishing (for 1901) figure of $10m for the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, which is still going and gives £2m a year to beneficiaries.

His investments kept earning money so Carnegie did not manage to dispose of all his wealth. Of all his gifts, the one that meant most to him was Pittencrieff Glen, now Pittencrieff Park, for the use of the people in his native Dunfermline. “Pittencrieff Glen is the most soul-satisfying public gift I ever made, or ever can make,” he wrote.

Carnegie died in 1919, aged 83. True to form, his family got enough to keep them comfortable but no more. We really never will see his like again.