Andrew Carnegie’s gift to Ireland remembered with 100 year anniversary stamps

Philanthropist’s largesse funded the building of 66 libraries throughout Ireland

An Post has unveiled four stamps to honour the contribution of the Scottish-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who funded 66 libraries in Ireland.

The four stamps, designed by Vermillion Design, feature line drawings of four Irish Carnegie Libraries by Irish artist Dorothy Smith and photographed by Gillian Buckley.

The featured buildings are the libraries in Kilkenny city, Clondalkin, Co Dublin, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow and Athea, Co Limerick.

Born in Scotland, Carnegie emigrated with his family to the US in search of a better life in 1848. At 12 he began working in the cotton industry and through his entrepeneurship and particularly his interests in the steel industry became one of the world's richest men.

In the last decades of his life he devoted himself to philanthropy and his contribution to Ireland were the libraries now celebrated in the new stamp set.

Carnegie gave almost $40 million to build 1,200 libraries across the English-speaking world of which 80 were pledged to Ireland. Of them, 66 were built and 62 are still in use today.

The stamps have been unveiled to mark the centenary of Carnegie’s death in 1919.

Speaking at the launch in Dublin's Pearse Street library, which was built with Carnegie money, the chair of An Post's Philatelic Advisory Committee Felix Larkin said it was right that Ireland should remember the tycoon's generosity.

He said aside from the public good that the libraries do, they are also beautiful buildings - “architectural ornaments in the towns and cities in which they were located”.

He quoted Carnegie’s own words that “surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community”.