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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
David Dale, a model old Glasgow worthy

Two of our Glasgow streets, Dale Street, Bridgeton, and Dale Street, Tradeston, derive their name from the estimable gentleman above named, whose multifarious activities, mercantile, manufacturing, financial, municipal, benevolent and religious, both "here about and far away," were truly astonishing ! He was the father of the cotton trade of Glasgow, or it may even be said of Scotland. In 1783 he took an active part in forming the Chamber of Commerce; was one of its first directors, and was twice chosen chairman. In the terrible years between 1782 and 1799, when meal rose to 21s. 4d. a boll, he chartered ships and imported great quantities of grain, not for gain to himself, but to sell it cheap to the poor starving people.

Mr. Dale was also for many years a magistrate of Glasgow, and in this capacity won the golden opinions of his fellow-citizens, as he tempered justice with mercy. Hence, the poor blessed him, and affectionately distinguished him by the title of the "benevolent magistrate." In person he was short and corpulent, and the complete beau ideal of a Glasgow bailie, in living and genuine reality, and not merely ideal like the famous Bailie Nicol Jarvie.

It is also recorded that in connection with his mills at New Lanark he set himself to provide his workpeople with good houses, good sanitation, good schooling, and good training, intellectual, moral, and religious. He always tried to make business yield something better than profit; and outside of his own business connections he was a zealous friend and helper "in every good word and work." Originally a member of the Church of Scotland, he became a founder of the "Old Scotch Independents;" he travelled all about to counsel and comfort their scattered congregations; for thirty-seven years he officiated as pastor, and preached regularly on Sundays to his own congregation in Greyfriars Wynd; yea, so earnest was he, that to help his pulpit work he had taught himself to read the Scriptures in the original Hebrew and Greek. He also sought like his Lord and Master to seek and save those who were counted lost, as he visited Bridewell to preach to the prisoners.

To crown all he was no sour, gloomy zealot, but a genial, humorous man, given to hospitality, and he both could and would sing a good old Scotch song with such feeling as to bring tears to the eyes. Yet, strange to say, all these good and noble qualities did not save him from fanatical persecution and insult, because his true and genuine Christianity did not run in the regular popular channel. His taking on him the work of the Christian ministry grated against the prejudices of his Presbyterian fellow-citizens, by whom he was denounced as a Nadab or Abihu, and he was hooted and pelted on his way to his labours, in what was sneeringly called the Candle Kirk, which edifice was actually attacked by the mob of would-be orthodox believers or professors.

But none of these things moved him; he lived down the scath and the scorn; for when he rested from his labours on 17th March, 1806, in his 68th year, all the city mourned; and he was laid in the Ramshorn kirkyard with a great following of gentle and simple. He lies beneath a plain stone let into the east wall, bearing on it—


By his wife Ann Campbell, he left five daughters, of whom the eldest was married to the well-known Robert Owen. His portrait is preserved for us in Kay’s Morning Walk (reproduced in Stuart). His offices and warehouses on the east side of St. Andrew’s Square, also his town house at the south-west corner of Charlotte Street; and his country house, Rosebank, near Cambuslang, are all still to the fore.

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