Last week in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, two famous Pittsburghers named Andrew -- Carnegie and Warhol -- got a lot more than 15 minutes of fame.
The celebration, dubbed Andrew Carnegie's International Legacy Week, kicked off an ambitious, 16-week exhibition honoring the industrialist, his philanthropy and the 100th anniversary of the Carnegie UK Trust, which the industrialist set up in 1913 to improve the well-being of the people of the United Kingdom.
On Tuesday, the Andy Warhol Museum's director, Eric Shiner stood near a giant Warhol image of Carnegie to talk up the links between the pop artist and the philanthropist.
"Warhol owed many thanks to Carnegie's philanthropy, having attended art classes at the art museum, graduating from Carnegie Tech, and certainly having read in Carnegie's libraries," Mr. Shiner said, noting that Warhol, like Carnegie, left all his wealth to philanthropic causes.
The Andy Warhol Foundation gives away $10 million a year to arts institutions across America, he added, and "the two Andys could be considered the bookends of philanthropy in the 20th century, each having lasting and profound impact across the world."
As of this weekend, nearly 12,000 Scots had bought tickets to see Andy Warhol in his first-ever show in a house of parliament -- including silk screen prints, paintings, sculptures and prints -- which opened Oct. 5 at the Scottish Parliament and runs until Nov. 3.
"Andy Warhol: Pop, Power and Politics" includes prints documenting the assassination of John. F. Kennedy. There's also a 1972 portrait of Richard Nixon -- with "Vote McGovern" scrawled underneath (Warhol's taxes, coincidentally or not, were audited that year for the first time). There are also iconic box sculptures of Heinz tomato ketchup, Campbell's tomato juice and Del Monte peach halves.
So far the reviews have been excellent -- the show is "an interesting and freshly curated cross-section of Warhol's supposedly political work," art critic David Pollock wrote in The Independent.
Pittsburghers are used to having Andy Warhol's art in close proximity, but Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick told reporters she was stunned when she was offered a chance last year to hold a Warhol Exhibition.
"After choking on my soup I thought about this for a millisecond and said 'yes please,' " she said in an interview with The Scotsman. "It would have been rude to say no. Who wouldn't like to host a Warhol exhibition?"
Carnegie, who founded Pittsburgh's network of museums that now includes the Warhol, also got his due from the Scots. He has his own Web page from the Parliament (www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/61836.aspx) and objects, letters, documents and a robot are on display to represent his legacy.
Carnegie Mellon University, which was established by the steel mogul in 1900 and whose Robotics Institute is widely considered the best in the world, is represented by McBlare, a robot designed to play bagpipes. There are photographs of Diplodocus Carnegii, a dinosaur unearthed in Wyoming beginning in 1899 and brought to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. There are letters between Carnegie, for a time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the richest man in the world, and prominent leaders of the day, and his last will and testament.
On Wednesday, in a nod to Carnegie's establishment of more than 2,600 libraries, former New York Public Library president and current Carnegie Corp. head Vartan Gregorian planted a tree in Pittencrieff Park in Dunfermline, the little town where the industrialist was born (prompting a videotaped message of congratulation from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg).
And on Thursday, six recipients were awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in the Scottish Parliament -- in only the second ceremony outside the U.S. since the medal was created in 2001, the centennial of Carnegie's start as a philanthropist. Today, it's known as the "Nobel Prize" of awards for those who use their private wealth for the public good. In 2007, the Heinz and Mellon families were awarded the medal.
The Dunfermline connection
While Pittsburgh's city fabric is braided with multiple ethnic strands, those from Scotland are the oldest and most durable, said Paul Thompson, director of the Pittsburgh branch of the Saint Andrews Society, which promotes Scottish culture.
"Gen. John Forbes named the city, and Andrew Carnegie built it," he noted. Not only were both men Scots, they were both, by sheer coincidence, from Dunfermline. The University of Pittsburgh was founded by a Scot, too: Hugh Henry Brackenridge, in 1787, as Pittsburgh Academy.
And when we want to call someone nosy, we say they're "nebby" -- from "neb," a Scottish word for nose. Scotland's distinctive language has obviously evolved since its residents began migrating here in the 17th century, and "nebby" didn't ring a bell with Sean Lafferty, a spokesman for the "Yes" campaign for Scottish independence, which is scheduled for a vote in September 2014.
Mr. Lafferty said he was aware of Pittsburgh's strong connections to his country, but "nebby"?
"I had not heard that," he said, adding that he'd consult with a colleague "from Northeast Scotland who might recognize the word."
Mr. Lafferty is already pretty busy, given that recent polls show only 25 to 35 percent of Scots supporting secession from the United Kingdom. Indeed, American polling guru Nate Silver -- who infuriated Republicans and delighted Democrats with his prediction that Barack Obama would win re-election in 2012 -- recently told The Scotsman that there was "no chance" that supporters of Scottish independence will prevail in the referendum.
"I would vote no, and nearly all of my Scottish relatives and friends would," said Mr. Thompson, who pointed out that numerous British prime ministers -- including the current one, David Cameron -- are either Scottish or of Scottish descent, and that most Labor Party leaders are Scots.
Nonetheless, Scotland is often the punch line of jokes by English stand-up comics, Mr. Thompson added.
"When I talk to my brother, who lives in England, he says the vote for secession is now, as it stands, 60-40 against in Scotland, and 60-40 for it in England."
The "Yes Scotland" pro-independence campaign has enlisted Sean Connery -- who is actually a tax exile in the Bahamas and therefore can't vote in the referendum -- to speak out on its behalf. The "Better Together" campaign, or the unionists, have Alex Ferguson, captain of Manchester United, "the biggest football team in the world," said the campaign's spokesman, Rob Shorthouse.
That might come as a surprise to Pittsburgh Steelers fans, who constitute one of the (if not the) largest football fan bases worldwide.
"Oh, American football," said Mr. Shorthouse. "That's football you don't use your feet for."
At least "nebby" was familiar to him, although Scots phrase it a little differently, he said.
"We say, 'keep your neb out of it,' " he said.
Asked about Pittsburgh's strong connections to Scotland, Mr. Shorthouse confessed ignorance -- "I'm Googling frantically as we speak" -- but Carnegie is nonetheless a familiar figure to Scots.
The industrialist exemplifies an outward-looking country that isn't confined within a set of borders, one of the many Scots who went out into the world and changed it, "which is one of the arguments we make," he said.
On the other hand, Scottish nationalists see those immigrants as one more example of its unique character.
Uncle Sam, a.k.a. Samuel Wilson, was born to parents from Greenock, Scotland, noted Blair Jenkins, the "Yes Scotland" chief executive, in an emailed statement to the Post-Gazette. President Barack Obama has Scottish blood, and so did presidents Clinton, Carter and Reagan, "and of course Pittsburghers know this influence all too well with Andrew Carnegie."
While Carnegie's hometown of Dunfermline has a street named for it in the North Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Scottish identity "now encompasses a diverse genealogy including those with ancestry from England, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Scandinavia, Africa, Asia, Australia New Zealand, Canada and many more," Mr. Jenkins said.
"Scots and American-Scots will always be proud of their history and as we look to the future, we invite Scots the world over to join our referendum debate to discuss the simple democratic principle -- that decisions taken on Scotland's future should be taken in Scotland."
Mackenzie Carpenter: email@example.com; 412-263-1949; on Twitter @MackenziePG. First Published October 19, 2013 8:00 PM