In the groping analysis of how Glasgow came to be European City of Culture, there was a general conclusion that the arrival of the Burrell Collection had been very much the catalyst. But as the credits for 1990 were claimed and the kudos distributed, it seemed to Jack Webster that the name of one man had been shamefully overlooked. In these exclusive extracts from his new book, he recalls

Tom Honeyman, the man instrumental in persuading Sir William that his collection should be in Glasgow

The name of Dr Tom Honeyman, former Director of Glasgow Art Galleries and Museums, was hardly mentioned during 1990. Yet was it not this distinguished son of the city more than anyone who so popularised art among ordinary folk that they would queue for hours to see the latest exhibition?

Was it not Tom Honeyman who negotiated

with his old acquaintance, Salvador Dali, and persuaded him not only to sell his much-publicised Christ of St John of the Cross but to grant those reproduction rights which have since brought the city a small fortune?

Had we forgotten that Sir William Burrell himself made it plain that it was the work of Tom Honeyman more than any other factor which persuaded him that the famous collection should go to Glasgow rather than Edinburgh or London?

Just as James Bridie had given up being a doctor at Glasgow's Victoria Infirmary to gain fame as a playwright, so did Honeyman - born in 1891 - give up medical practice in Dennistoun to devote himself to art. It was part of a tradition which became fashionable at the time, taken up by such as that other distinguished doctor-writer, A J Cronin.

As a medical student in the years between 1909 and 1916, young Tom would eat his snack lunch in the Art Gallery, just across Kelvingrove Park from the university. Fate has its wily ways, and Honeyman began to be more aware of what he was viewing. His favourites were the nineteenth- century narrative paintings, such as Millais' The Ornithologist and Pattie's Two Strings to Her Bow. The Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum had opened as recently as 1902, following the International Exhibition of the previous year, so the novelty of it was still fresh.

When the First World War ended in 1918, Honeyman was demobilised without delay. Glasgow University was short of teaching staff and he was appointed assistant to Professor Noel Paton in 1919. Tom was happy in his work.

His renewal of contact with Duncan Macdonald, dating back to choir days at Cowcaddens Church, was another of those quirks of fate. By 1926 both men were happily married, Honeyman practising as a doctor in the East End of Glasgow and Macdonald now returning from Edinburgh to join the art business of Reid and Lefevre in West George Street.

By chance, Tom Honeyman was the family doctor of McNeill Reid, whose father, Alexander Reid, founded this prestigious firm. It was some time later before he realised the full significance of Alex Reid, a man with whom he had merely exchanged courteous greetings. The fact that this gentleman had mixed in the Paris art set of Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec - and had named his son after his friend Whistler (James Abbott McNeill) - were revelations in store.

More immediately, old Alexander Reid had reached the conclusion that art dealing in a big way in Scotland was likely to peter out. The new generation of wealthy families was either not interested in art, or was so often in London spending its leisure time that it was easier to look at pictures there, and in greater variety.

With the death of Alexander Reid in 1928, his son McNeill, along with partner Duncan Macdonald, went ahead with the intended move south. They would continue in Glasgow for the remainder of the lease so they would have to find someone to run the Scottish end of the business. The man for the job, they agreed, was Dr Tom Honeyman.

When the proposition was put to him he was clearly faced with the dilemma of a man who was making his way successfully in medicine, with thoughts of becoming a consultant, but was now confronted with an entirely new opportunity in life.

Was it a risk worth taking? Artist friend James McBey was among those who gave encouragement, as did his own wife Cath. His mother sighed and smiled and said: ''I suppose it's the dark streak in you!''

Thus Tom Honeyman gave up his career in medicine and became an art dealer at 1929, moving to London two years later. One day Sir William Burrell from Glasgow turned up at the King Street gallery. His chief passion in French painting had become Degas, of whose works he now had twenty. He had never bought a Cezanne and was not interested in the post-Impressionists, but he did like The House of Zola and bought it for #3800. It was taken to Glasgow and became the only Cezanne in the Burrell Collection.

After Honeyman moved to London, his first important exhibition was Thirty Years of Pablo Picasso, which he regarded as a baptism of fire. The foreword to the catalogue was written by Maud Dale, first wife of Chester Dale and the lady who played a major part in the creation of the world-famous Chester Dale Collection.

Maud was an enthusiastic student of the modern school in Paris, where Tom Honeyman had met her two years earlier. Now mixing in a vastly different society, Cath and Tom Honeyman found themselves on a visit to the Dale home and setting eyes on a range of work the like of which they had never seen in one house: nine Picassos, six each of Matisse, Modigliani, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas, Braque and Vlaminck, three each of Courbet, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, two or more of Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Utrillo and Dufy, and examples of every other artist, major and minor, in 100 years of French painting.

Honeyman was rubbing shoulders with the art critics of London and meeting people like Augustus John. He became a good friend of the Scotsman's art critic in London, Douglas Percy Bliss, a friendship which survived many differences of opinion in later years when they both headed north, Honeyman to be Director of Glasgow Art Galleries and Museums and Bliss to be head of Glasgow School of Art. Neither had an easy furrow to plough in those appointments.

The post of Director of Art Galleries and Museums at a salary of #800, rising to #1200 per annum by increments every two years, with free house and coal, was advertised on April 1, 1939. While a salary of #800 in the 1930s seemed a substantial sum to most people, the breadwinner in the Honeyman home had been earning upwards of #4000 a year in London. Nevertheless, in went his application along with 21 others, including some who would later become top names in the galleries of Britain. Intriguingly, one of the applicants was C M Grieve, better known as Hugh MacDairmid, the famous Scots poet with whom Honeyman had served in Salonika during the First World War.

As far as Honeyman was concerned, a degree in medicine hardly seemed the ideal preparation to run a major civic enterprise. Yet the job did appeal to him. Tom Honeyman did indeed land the job, an appointment which was confirmed in June 1939. Honeyman took up office in August 1939, immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War in September. On that Sunday morning when Chamberlain made the fateful announcement the Honeyman households goods were on their way north.

Honeyman settled into his new job, learning to cope with town councillors who were, apart from the odd case of congenital idiocy, a fairly supportive bunch. Among the early frustrations, he found it hard to reconcile the needs of his department with ''party policy''.

When Dr Honeyman arrived there had been a recent history of bad blood running between the Art Gallery staff and the local newspapers. He would invite journalists to hear about his plans and perhaps the latest on-goings of Dali or Picasso.


A phone call to Dr Honeyman's home one December evening in 1943 sparked off the single most dramatic happening in the artistic life of Glasgow. The caller was Sir William Burrell, the wealthy shipowner who no longer lived in his native city but was to be found in the splendour of Hutton Castle at Chirnside, not far from Berwick-upon-Tweed.

His call was a matter of great secrecy, he emphasised, but he wanted Dr Honeyman to travel as soon as possible to see him at the castle.

Sir William and Lady Burrell had decided to give their entire collection of 8000 items to the city of Glasgow. In addition, there would be a sum of #450,000 to provide a gallery for its display.

A man seldom stuck for words, Tom Honeyman found himself in such a state of excitement that any coherent response seemed to desert him. By any standard, it was a most stunning piece of news, one which he tried to absorb on the journey back to Glasgow, as he turned over in his mind the incredible story of William Burrell.

Honeyman had first met Sir William in 1929, by which time he had already moved across to the East Coast, to the beautiful Hutton Castle. He retained a Greek Thomson house in Great Western Terrace, Glasgow, with a panelled hall and staircase which were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer. Occasionally, between lunch and train time, he would call at Reid's gallery in West George Street, to which Dr Honeyman had recently diverted himself as an art dealer.

Sir William would always look at anything by Joseph Crawhall, one of the members of the Glasgow School (the Burrell Collection has no fewer than 132 Crawhalls). But by the time Honeyman met Sir William he had become less interested in painting, feeling that the picture side of his collection was more or less complete.

Considering the times in which Burrell lived, Honeyman reckoned his collection of French paintings would have been even more notable if Sir William had been less of a bargain hunter and more courageous, less prejudiced and more aware of what was happening to art and artists.

He would illustrate this by showing what he had paid for his paintings: The Empress Eugenie on the Beach, Trouville by Boudin was bought in 1923 for #250; Portrait of Duranty by Degas, also bought in 1923, for #1900; The Rehearsal by Degas, bought in 1926 for #6500; Jockeys in the Rain by Degas, bought in 1937 for #3885 (this came from the Gow Collection); Self Portrait by Rembrandt came in 1948 for #12,500 and Portrait by Franz Hals was bought in 1946 for #14,500. The Rembrandt and Hals came late in Burrell's life so the #14,500 seems to have been the most he ever paid.

A great deal of care, therefore, went into his purchases. Catalogues were scrutinised and his amazing memory made it easy for him to identify works which might have eluded him on an earlier occasion. Honeyman couldn't recall a single case where his name was associated with a dramatic purchase at an extravagant price.

Sir William remained paranoid about his privacy. Whereas journalists would have been queuing up to get the story of his life as a collector, he resisted all approaches. ''The collection, not the collector, is the important thing,'' he would say.

After his early contact with Burrell at Reid's gallery in Glasgow, Honeyman strengthened the rapport during his visits to the Lefevre in London. It is sometimes difficult to envisage the worldwide travelling of the well-to-do in a bygone day but it was not uncommon for Sir William and Lady Burrell to be off on some cruising holiday in the West Indies and dropping in for a few days in London on the way through. On those occasions they would seek out Honeyman from the Lefevre Gallery and take him to Christie's or Sotheby's to discuss some lot which was due up for sale.

The fact that it took 40 years from that initial move in 1943 until the Burrell Collection finally went on show in its own home became the subject of much argument, bickering and controversial discussion. But in fairness to the authorities, it had much to do with the conditions which Burrell attached his gift. That in turn was all to do with the siting of the proposed gallery which had to be somewhere in the vicinity of Killearn and no fewer than 16 miles from the Glasgow Royal Exchange, in the heart of the city.

The administration of funds lay with the city treasurer and Honeyman felt that art and even the Burrell Collection was sometimes regarded as minor matters. He once heard a former holder of the office being asked when the Corporation was going to get a move on with Burrell. He replied: ''Damn the Burrell Collection! I wish we had never seen it!''

The work of gathering, registering, cataloguing, photographing and storing of the collection became too much for the immediate control of Honeyman and the Corporation created a new appointment, a Keeper of the Burrell Collection.

Sir William found it difficult to understand Honeyman's point that the trustees should have some freedom, in case circumstances changed. Anyway, the great benefactor died in 1958, aged 97, and the controversy rumbled on for quarter of a century after that before the Burrell Collection was finally housed and opened. In the event, the site was ultimately settled at Pollok Park, on the South Side of Glasgow, thanks to the generosity of Mrs Maxwell Macdonald and family and the Burrell Collection was given a splendid home within these picturesque grounds in 1983.


It hardly needs saying that Dali became one of the most controversial artists of the twentieth century. He was no stranger to Tom Honeyman, who was closely associated with

the large-scale London Exhibition at the New Burlington Gallery in 1936. This was the historic occasion on which the artist perpetrated a Houdini-like stunt by dressing up in a diver's suit, attempting to speak from within - and coming very close to being asphyxiated.

This, however, was nothing to the furore which blew up 15 years later after Honeyman had dropped in to see his friends at the Lefevre Gallery during a visit to London. The place was crowded and the focus of attention was Dali's large painting of Christ on the cross. There was no doubt about the effect the picture was having on the stream of spectators and Honeyman felt so disturbed by the experience that he had to get out of the gallery and find some peace in which to gather his thoughts.

He simply thought the painting was out of period, a piece of unashamed romanticism in an age of eclectic classicism, and he was interested in the association of ideas which was being set up in the mind of the spectator.

The arguments began to rage. There was no doubt that Dali's Christ was an artistic event. Honeyman went hot-foot back to Glasgow with nothing much but Dali in his mind.

The catalogue price for Christ of St John of the Cross was #12,000 but Tom Honeyman negotiated the lowest price that could possibly be accepted by the artist and that was #8200, viewed as an incredible bargain in the light of history but by no means regarded as such at the time. Around the same period, a small picture in an imperfect state, Christ and the Woman taken in Adultery by Peter Breughel, was sold at an auction for more than #11,000. The art critic of the Times, Denys Sutton, commented on that one: ''Its price, though high, bears greater relation to its value than the #8200 paid by Glasgow for a painting by Salvador Dali.''

Honeyman expected criticism, but not perhaps to the extent to which he had to respond. Angustus John was among those who deprecated this ''wilful extravagance'' and deplored such a ''mad price'' for a work by a living painter.

For better or worse, Tom Honeyman had acquired his much-publicised Christ of St John of the Cross, and nearly half a century later it remains a matter of intense public interest, having attracted to Glasgow Art Gallery countless thousands who would otherwise never have seen inside its doors.


If Tom Honeyman caused controversy and excitement over Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross, his attempts to bring the public through the doors of Glasgow Art Gallery were never more successful than in two exhibitions which took place in that post-war period.

The sight of long queues snaking their way round the building for the Picasso-Matisse Exhibition of 1946 and again for the Van Gogh of 1948 were a sure sign that the public imagination had been fired as seldom before.

One evening, Mrs Helen Gault, Honeyman's convener, rang to say her committee had agreed to raise his salary by #150. This decision would have to be confirmed but she was sure that that was no more than a formality. A fortnight later Dr Honeyman was on an early morning train journey to Oban to inspect some pictures when he just about choked on an item in the morning paper, which announced that his increase had been refused. He arrived home furious with a Corporation which could so humiliate its senior employees by publicising the rejection of a salary increase which had not even been asked for.

Unable to contain his anger, Tom Honeyman sat down and wrote his letter

of resignation.

Honeyman made it clear his resignation had nothing to do with the refusal of an increase but with the ham-fisted way of going about it. It had also to do with the fact that he had obviously failed to convince the Corporation that the Art Gallery job was, or should be, the biggest job of its kind outside London.

The resignation rumpus over, Dr Honeyman settled back uneasily to the job, caught up in what was known everywhere as ''post-war planning''. Asked to point the way ahead, he wrote a memorandum which made several far-reaching suggestions. He thought the Art Galleries and Museums Committee should be renamed the Arts Committee, to administer civic enterprises in the three fine arts - music, drama and painting. For a long time he had been saying that a new art gallery was essential for a proper development. He thought the present building should be adapted as a museum.

Once again he said Glasgow should acquire the Royal Exchange building, just off George Square, and turn it into a museum devoted to the history of the city, with lunch-hour music and down-town exhibitions. Against his own interest, as events would prove, he was in favour of dividing his job in two - a Museum Director and an Art Gallery Director, operating in separate buildings.

As Tom Honeyman approached the 1970s - and towards the end of his life, as it happened - he went on an extended cruise in the Pacific and wrote an account of his 15 years at Kelvingrove.

''I know Glasgow has squandered much of its great inheritance. It is at present badly governed and it is the worst publicised city in the kingdom. But in no other place have I found more love, more tolerance, more wit, more brilliance, more mediocrity, more encouragement, more frustration, more sympathy, more envy, more big men in small jobs and small men in big jobs.''

More than 40 years later, Art Gallery director Julian Spalding, himself embroiled in controversy, felt Dr Honeyman had over-simplified his relationship with the council: ''There is often politics involved in that kind of situation and a particular councillor may well have been put there to get at Honeyman. They had been trying to push him out.''

l From Dali to Burrell by Jack Webster is published by B&W on Friday, priced #14.99. ISBN 1 873631 82 0