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David Dale

David Dale

David Dale (6 January 1739 – 17 March 1806) was a Scottish merchant and businessman, known for establishing the influential weaving community of New Lanark, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland and is credited along with his son in law Robert Owen of being a founder of utopian socialism and a founding father of socialism.


  • Early career 1
  • Marriage and success 2
  • Partnerships and New Lanark 3
  • Religion 4
  • Caroline Dale Owen 5
  • Retiral and death 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • Sources 8
  • External links 9

Early career

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, subsequently setting up his own business in 1768 importing linen yarn from the Dutch Republic.

Marriage and success

He made an advantageous marriage to Anne Campbell, the daughter of John Campbell of Jura (John of the Bank), grandson of John Campbell, 1st Earl of Breadalbane and Holland of the massacre of Glencoe fame, and his wife, Mary who was the daughter of Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll. Jura was a Director of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh and through him Dale became the Glasgow agent of that Bank in 1734, opening the Bank's first Glasgow branch in the High Street. He had become a key part of the Burgher Gentry of Glasgow merchants.

Partnerships and New Lanark

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. However, Dale continued to set up cotton spinning factories. He set up a cotton mills at BlantyreBlantyre and although he sold his interest in this mill it continued in production until 1903. Dale 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 was expanded even further and with some sophistication at his factory by his son in law, Robert Owen, known as the founder of the concept of 'Utopian Socialism'.

Caroline Dale 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. His daughter Mary Dale married James Haldane Stewart, an Anglican clergyman related to the Stewarts of Appin.

Retiral and death

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 cortège 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 kirkyard has the simple inscription "David Dale, Merchant". Dale's grandson and namesake David Dale was created a baronet in 1895 (see Dale baronets).


  • Magnusson, M Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 5th edition, W & R Chambers, Edinburgh, 1990, ISBN 0-550-16040-X
  • Donnachie, I Robert Owen: Owen of New Lanark and New Harmony, Tuckwell Press, 2000, ISBN 1-86232-131-0


  • ""Electric Scotland: Significant Scots - for an extensive 19th century appreciation.

External links

  • for an account and picture of Rosebank House in Cambuslang.
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