Tory Historian finds it extraordinary that those in the culture industry (and it has become an industry though not all of it creates anything) should have such a sneering attitude to the businessmen and women who have made the money that made much of our cultural heritage possible. According to many of them the proper person to subsidize their activities is the taxpayer whose opinion is never asked and who contributes the money involuntarily. The alternative, they so often pronounce, money contributed voluntarily by the person who made or earned it, makes that lucre somehow tainted.

One has to admit that with government cuts, though they do not go far enough in TH's opinion, this attitude is changing. Even the BBC, usually the leading apostle of the ideology of sneering at people who actually make money, has put up a fascinating article about Sir William Burrell,

celebrated as an art lover and philanthropist. He left a wealth of objects to the people of Scotland in the magnificent Burrell Collection.
The reason who could collect and then leave that wealth of objects was because he had been a highly successful shipping merchant.
"It was often said he was ruthless, but that's not the right word," says maritime historian Martin Bellamy, Head of Research at Glasgow Museums. "He was an innovative business operator with an inspired commercial mind.

"He was a typical Victorian entrepreneur. He exploited the world of opportunities that the British Empire created.

"Burrell took over a modestly successful family business and expanded it enormously."

Burrell's secret was his ground-breaking operation of a type of trade called 'tramp shipping'.

Unlike liners which followed a set route of destinations, tramp ships did not have scheduled deliveries. They sailed to whatever port their cargo took them.

While a ship was unloading, the captain would make arrangements to find the next job. This led to delays and meant ships often sailed only part full. But Burrell had a solution.

"He travelled the world and set up a network of agents," says Bellamy. "They would do the work of the captains and secure the next cargo before his ships arrived.
The rest of this fascinating article tells of the business Sir William built up and of the art collection he amassed. One cannot help wondering at the naiveté of the people who work in the BBC who seem to be astonished and feel the need to repeat several times that Burrell's activities as an art collector and philanthropist would not have been possible without his activities as a ruthless and imaginative businessman.

BBC2 will be showing a programme on this great man this evening at 9 but only in Scotland. However, it will be available across the UK for seven days on iPlayer.


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