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26th June 2020
Ellie Simpson

Ian Donnachie: In Memorium

It is with great sadness that the Trust learned of the recent passing of Ian Donnachie, one of the foremost experts on the history of New Lanark, and its greatest manager, Robert Owen.

Ian was Emeritus Professor of History at the Open University and co-author of Historic New Lanark: The Dale and Owen Industrial Community since 1785. Since its initial publication in 1993, and the updated edition in 2015, this has become the ‘go to’ book for anyone looking to explore the rich history of New Lanark, including most of the Trust staff—evidenced in the number of post-it note covered copies which can be found around the offices!

Ian’s seminal text on Robert Owen, Robert Owen of New Lanark and New Harmony, appropriately published in 2000, 200 years after Owen took over the New Lanark Mills, is perhaps the most in-depth look at the life and work of this influential figure since his autobiography, The Life of Robert Owen, published in two volumes in 1857–58.

As is evidenced in these texts, Ian had a great love for New Lanark, and was a lifetime member and past Chair of the Friends of New Lanark organisation. He offered the support of the Open University for the Friends’ annual Robert Owen Memorial Lecture, held every year on the Friday closest to Owen’s birthday, and was a regular contributor to newsletters, funding appeals and projects in support of New Lanark.

Above all, and to the eternal gratitude of many New Lanark staff, Iain was passionate about sharing his knowledge. He regularly e-mailed little snippets of interesting research, and encouraged others in their own work. In 2013, not long after I began working for the Trust, Ian told me he was ‘very interested’ to hear a lecture I was giving as part of a landscape art project. I immediately got ‘the fear’ as having an Emeritus Professor attend your first professional talk was extremely nerve-wracking! Ian was however, as with everything he was involved in, gracious and supportive.

Ian held a wealth of research and information relating to New Lanark and Owen, which he was gradually gifting to the New Lanark archive. This material has enriched the collection held by the Trust and will allow the continuation of research and the dissemination of knowledge so beloved by Ian.

As New Lanark begins to reopen following the impact of COVID-19, we hope we will be able to continue to build upon Ian’s (and indeed Owen’s) legacy of working together and using our knowledge to help shape a stronger future for our communities.

Our thanks are to Ian for his immeasurable contribution to recording the history of New Lanark, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

Jane Masters, Head of Heritage & Development

New Lanark Trust, 24th June 2020

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