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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

New Lanark

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I spent most of Saturday at New Lanark, a late 18th-century mill town (and World Heritage site) situated along the River Clyde in South Lanarkshire. There’s a lovely hourlong wooded walk that takes in three waterfalls (harnessed for hydroelectric power in 1927), although the weather was pretty dismal, so my photos of the falls aren’t really worth sharing.

The exhibition was open by the time I got back from my walk:

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Above: the engine house; YARN!; the roof garden; a phrenology model in the restored 1820 period classroom.

Robert Owen purchased the business from his father-in-law, David Dale,
in 1799, and over the next few decades turned the weaving mill complex (which originally milled cotton picked by American slaves) into a celebrated experiment in utopian socialism. Owen thought even the humblest factory worker deserved a comprehensive education (at least until the age of ten, although continuing ed classes were offered at night), fresh air and exercise, a sick fund in case of illness, hygienic living spaces, and quality meat and produce available at reasonable prices at the village store. My inner cynic piped up as I went through the exhibition–no doubt such reforms resulted in a very obedient workforce; ‘Institute for the Formation of Character,’ ieeeee!, etc.–but it’s true his ideas were well ahead of his time, and that what we take for granted now was pretty revolutionary back then. You learn on the cheesy ‘Annie McLeod Experience’ ride (narrated by the ghost of a 10-year-old millworker–!) that they worked six days a week, ten (or was it twelve?) hours a day, and only got two holidays a year–but back then that work schedule was generous.

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The history lesson was interesting and all, but this was what I really came for. Bwahahahahaha. Proceeds benefit ongoing conservation efforts.

2 Comments to New Lanark

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    February 21, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Goodness that is depressing–having children working 6 days a week and that was progressive! Of course there are plenty of brats today who might benefit from this work schedule mwahahaha!

  2. March 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Oooh, I love phrenology! That’s probably un-PC of me, but who bloody well cares.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.