There are hundreds of historical documents surrounding the revolutionary work done by Robert Owen and his father-in-law David Dale at the New Lanark Mills in Scotland. However for the first time, the human story behind the mills has been told in the historical fiction book: ‘New Lanark – Spinning New Lives,’ which has gone on worldwide release.
Based in the 1780s, the book weaves the stories of the mill workers, plagued by terrible working and living conditions, with the tale of David Dale, the owner, who could not stand by and watch his workers live in such poverty.
David Dale revolutionised the mill by offering education, improved working conditions and better wages to his workers. This went onto inspire a young Robert Owen, known as the father of the modern day co-operative movement, who visited the mills and eventually took them over from Dale.
In a quote from Dale himself, used in the book, he said: “It gives me great pleasure to say, that by proper management and attention, much good instead of evil may be done at cotton mills.”
The book, written by C.A. Hope, tells the story of New Lanark through three main characters: Joe, frantic to save his family from ruin by working in the mills; Fiona, a young girl forced into child labour; and Anne Caroline Dale and her relationship with Owen.
Peppered with quotes from Dale and other important figures of the day, including poet Robert Burns, the story mixes reality with fiction.
The author C.A Hope explained: “Owen’s work touches all our lives, everyday, it has shaped our society. Yet it wasn’t until I started researching that I discovered just how charismatic Owen and Dale must have been as men: friends, husbands, fathers. This is a story of relationships. Taking nothing away from Owen’s achievements, I wanted to give Dale the credit he is due in this first book, Spinning New Lives.”
Dale’s fiercely religious beliefs are also brought to the forefront of the book, it was his Christian beliefs which fuelled his passion to change working conditions.
In a quote, he said: “As mortals on the brink of eternity we are called to hear and believe the Gospel of Christ. Now is the accepted time of our salvation.”
The book depicts the fear of the mill workers when the mill was sold to Robert Owen; many worried about his lack of religion.
The story however has only just begun, in the next book ‘New Lanark – Living with a Visionary’, C.A. Hope continues with the story of Robert Owen, focusing on his journey to social reformer.
‘New Lanark – Spinning New Lives’ is being distributed worldwide and was launched at a candlelit reception in New Lanark. New Lanark is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
• For further details, email Marluc Publishing.