There was deep and widespread shock and sadness at the news of the death of the man credited with the rebirth of New Lanark, Jim Arnold.
Jim was 73 years old and was described as “the greatest conservator in Scotland”, spending half of his life transforming what had become a ghost former mill village into a United Nations World Heritage Site and Clydesdale’s biggest tourist attraction.
A young Dr Arnold began his association with New Lanark in 1974 when he threw his lot in with a small group of people who believed that the 18th century village, regarded as the birthplace of the co-operative movement, was well worth saving.
Decades later he revealed to the Gazette that this mission began against fierce opposition of some local influential figures who wanted the abandoned mills and mostly vacant tenements bulldozed.
He became the director if the New Lanark Conservation Trust and, over the next 36 years, saw that ‘ghost’ village gradually come back to life and become one of the world’s major industrial heritage sites, a status officially confirmed by the United Nation’s cultural arm UNESCO in 2001. Now far from abandoned, some 300,000 visitors a year come to New Lanark from around the world.
A friend,local historian Ed Archer, said of Jim: “He was without doubt the most important figure in the industrial heritage world not only in Scotland but in the whole world. We will never see man of his calibre again.”
On his retirement in 2009 Jim Arnold said: “The actual future of New Lanark is now secure. It should always be here,”
And so will very fond memories of the man who made that possible.