The beginnings of the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock

Future Museum

A quick internet search on philanthropy reveals some well-known names in the business world who generously donate some of their wealth to a myriad of much needed causes.  These people follow in the footsteps of benefactors that have went before them.  

James Dick was born in 1823 in Soulis Street, Kilmarnock, and was the sixth child and third son in the family. The family was poor, but when James Dick died in 1902 he left an estate of over £1,000,000, an enormous amount of money at the time. From humble beginnings James, and his brother Robert, became businessmen of world-wide importance. Their hugely successful business, R. and J. Dick, revolved around the production of shoes with gutta-percha soles and drive-belts for industrial machinery, using the rubber-like substance balata. He also invested wisely in Gold Mines in Australia. 

James in particular was keen to give something back, and was latterly known as a philanthropist and benefactor to a variety of good causes. For Kilmarnock, his most important gift was that he paid for the town's new museum, art gallery and library, opened in 1901.  The Dick Institute, which continues to be one of the most important cultural facilities in South-West Scotland, was named for James' brother Robert, who had died in 1891. James also donated Cathkin Braes to Glasgow and the Dick Wing of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. On his death, his business was bequeathed to fourteen of his higher-ranking employees.  

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