James Dick

1823 - 1902

Industrialist and philanthropist. Born in Kilmarnock (East Ayrshire), the younger brother of Robert Dick (1820-91). Their father died early and their mother moved the family to Glasgow, where she opened a grocery shop in the Gorbals. Dick was apprenticed to an upholsterer but he and his brother began experimenting with gutta-percha (a form of natural rubber), hardened over the washhouse stove. They were pioneers in the manufacturing and selling of composite footwear, with leather uppers and rubber soles, and bought a shop on the Gallowgate to sell these. Soon they were able scale up production and reduce the price such that R & J. Dick Ltd. were able built the Greenhead Works and open shops across the UK. The brothers grew wealthy. James married late in life to one of his workers - his wife, Kate McDonald, was twenty-eight years younger than himself. He retired from the business, travelled to Australia where he successfully invested his money in gold mines and began supporting projects to improve the lives of Glaswegians, becoming one of city's greatest philanthropists. He donated the land which now forms Cathkin Braes Country Park.

After his brother died, Dick inherited his wealth and reluctantly returned to run the business. He invested substantially in modernising the factory and expanding abroad. However also he gave sizeable sums to create the Dick Wing of Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock, both named after his brother. He also gave a generous donation to Royal Technical College (which eventually became the University of Strathclyde). He cared little for money, had a strong social conscience and gave money to any individual who he felt was in need.

Dick died a millionaire, with no children, but left more money to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, together with the Western Infirmary and Victoria Infirmary. He left more than half his wealth to various charities, and money to each and every one of his hundreds of employees, including the creation of a sizeable non-contributory pension fund. He left his business to fourteen of his senior staff.

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