In 1886, over 20 years before the Carnegie Hero Fund was established in the UK, Carnegie heard about the death of a Dunfermline boy who drowned in an heroic attempt to rescue a young swimmer in difficulties in the Town Loch, Dunfermline. Such was the response to the tragedy that a fund was launched to erect a memorial by public subscription. One of the subscribers was Andrew Carnegie who added the sum of £100 to the appeal. Carnegie’s comments are now inscribed in stone on the local hero’s memorial: “The false heroes of barbarous man are those who can only boast of the destruction of their fellows. The true heroes of civilisation are those alone who save or greatly serve them.”
The first Hero Fund, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, was established in America in 1904 after a colliery disaster near Carnegie's adopted home of Pittsburgh when 181 men, including two who gave their lives in rescue attempts, were killed in an explosion at the Harwick Colliery. In these days, when a family lost the breadwinner, some barely survived. When Andrew Carnegie heard of this tragedy, he immediately donated the sum of $50,000 thus doubling the amount raised by public subscription. He described the Hero Fund as ".. my ain bairn" and later wrote: "It (the Fund) has proved from every point of view a decided success."
The Carnegie Hero Fund Trust was established in Britain in 1908 and was soon followed by nine Funds on the European continent.
The continuing aim of the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust UK is to recognise civilian heroism and give financial assistance, where necessary, to people who have been injured or to the dependants of people who have been killed in attempting to save another human life in peaceful pursuits. Its geographical area is Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the surrounding territorial waters. Each year the Trust considers around 12 cases.