Burrell in a birl thanks to weasel words

The whirling noise you hear in the distance is Sir William Burrell birling in his grave as Holyrood voted unanimously on Tuesday to override the terms of his bequest to the city of Glasgow ­(“Glasgow is right to cash in on Burrell’s legacy”, 23 January).

This is but the latest chapter in a long national history of failure to respect the wishes of public benefactors. In Argyll and Bute, the preferred tactic is to accept the bequest of listed buildings, then by neglect to allow them to fall into a state of disrepair. The property is then sold off to developers for a housing project.

The wishes of the dead should be respected, otherwise those alive will find other ways to disperse the fruits of their labours and the nation will be the poorer for it.

The terms of Sir William’s bequest to Glasgow might be onerous, but the city had 
lawyers when the city fathers accepted the gift. The current problems with the Burrell building are the fault of the city council which approved its plans and construction.

The Burrell Collection should stay in Glasgow. The items in the collection are unique. The Edinburgh pandas may be endangered but they are not, yet, unique. Our pair of immigrants left relatives in China for travellers to view in their native habitat.

It is false economics to think that sending the Burrell Collection abroad will generate more income than having visitors come to Scotland to view these treasures.

The McLellan Galleries on Sauchiehall Street is another bequest to the city of Glasgow lying unused and neglected. The Burrell Collection should be rehoused in the McLellan Galleries for the duration of the refurbishment of the museum building. The free admission will more than be made up by the spending of visitors to Glasgow and Scotland. I, therefore, urge Her Majesty to refuse to give Royal ­Assent to this misguided bill.

John Black

Woodhollow House


Michael Kelly’s article on the Burrell Collection (Perspective, 23 January) fairly has my head birlin’.

On the one hand, he says it is nothing special, and even refers to trash left by Sir William Burrell, but then on the other hand he says it is so good that we must send it winging its way round the world so that foreign viewers will glimpse some of its ­glories and beat a path to Glasgow to see the rest.

I am confused by the former Lord Provost of Glasgow’s mixed messages.

There was no confusion in May 1944, in the banqueting hall of the City Chambers, when Sir William Burrell was granted the freedom of the city, by Lord Provost James Welsh, in recognition of his generosity. Then he was lauded in speeches by the Lord Provost for making Glasgow’s position as having the “best municipally owned art collection in the world, completely unassailable”.

The Lord Provost was also pleased to receive funds from the Burrells so that a museum, designed to house the 
£1 million collection, could be built outside the town centre. Money was also provided to add to the collection from time to time.

Glasses were raised by all the councillors and VIP guests to Sir William and his wife (he always insisted she be recognised as joint benefactor) who did Glasgow proud with this and other gifts. (In 1927, the year of his knighthood, they gave £5,000 to restore Provand’s Lordship, reputedly the city’s oldest house.)

Now we hear the traducing of Sir William’s reputation and taste by the very type of people who gladly accepted his gifts, then failed to build the agreed appropriate place to house them in. Politicians, such as Michael Kelly, now seek to justify their and their predecessors’ failures regarding the Burrell legacy with weasel words.

Worse still, the very specific terms of the Burrell bequest are being dishonoured and changed by a tawdry act of the Scottish Parliament.

Who today would leave 
anything of value to local or national politicians when their word means nothing?

Tom Minogue

Victoria Terrace