Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1938 - 1939::07 June, 1939::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Dé Céadaoin, 7adh Meitheamh, 1939.

Wednesday, 7th June, 1939.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:





D. O Briain.

R. Walsh.

DEPUTY DILLON in the Chair.

Mr. J. Maher (Roinn an Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste) and Mr. A. D. Codling (Roinn Airgeadais), called and examined.


Mr. J. P. Walshe called and examined.

758. Chairman.—In connection with this Vote, there is no note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. With regard to subhead B 1—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—a question arose on the Board of Works Vote as to the continued expenditure on the Embassy in Madrid and as to what the position was. At the time we were considering that Vote, the civil war in Spain had not concluded. Perhaps you can tell us now, from the information that has come to hand since Madrid has fallen into the hands of General Franco, what is the position with regard to our Embassy there?—The position is that we found, on our first inspection of the Embassy premises, that the property was very largely—90 per cent.— intact, and we shall be reoccupying these premises in October. At the present moment the Spanish Government is functioning in Burgos and our representative cannot go back to Madrid until the Government goes back there. The Government have expressed the desire that the Legations should not go back to the capital until the reorganisation of the capital has been more or less completed. Most of the Legations are still at San Sebastian. The position with regard to the actual rent of the Legation is as it was, but the whole matter will be liquidated very soon. The landlady is now free and our Minister is in communication with her, and probably there will be some discussion with regard to the possibility of distributing the actual loss incurred during the non-occupancy. The whole thing is moving towards liquidation, owing to the change in the Spanish situation, the ending of the civil war; and the return to normal life.

759. As regards the extra receipts payable to the Exchequer, we had before us on a previous occasion a difficulty that arose in connection with the collection of Consular fees, and I think the Committee made a suggestion?—It has been carried out.

760. And you are satisfied now that there is a watertight system to prevent any leakage in these fees?—I am quite satisfied.

761. Could you tell us what is the item referred to in the Appropriation Accounts—Fee from Imperial Comunications Advisory Committee of £500?— The High Commissioners in London of the different States of the Commonwealth are members of the Governmental Committee of Imperial Cables and Wireless. This is a company which controls certain cables and wireless within the British Commonwealth of Nations in which State interests are involved. There is a company and there is a Government committee. Each member of this committee —that is, the Government committee—is in receipt of a salary of £500 a year. In our case that £500 goes into the Exchequer.

762. Who represents us on that Board? —The High Commissioner in London.

763. Are each of the other States members of the Commonwealth represented on that Board?—They are.

764. And only States members of the Commonwealth?—On that particular committee? There is nobody outside the Commonwealth on this committee; it is an exclusively Commonwealth business.

765. I observe that the fees for the issue of passports rose from £2,700 to £4,364. The amount realised was substantially larger than the amount estimated. Was there any special reason for that, or was it that more people travelled that year? —It is due partly to the increase in the number of persons travelling, and partly to a variation in exchange.


Mr. J. P. Walshe further examined.

766. Chairman.—There is no note either by the Comptroller and Auditor-General in connection with this Vote. As regards subhead A—Contribution towards the Expenses of the League of Nations—does that contribution cover any liability we have for the International Labour Office? —The International Labour Office is covered in the Department of Industry and Commerce Vote.

767. Is there a separate contribution for it?—There is.

768. The explanation of subhead C involves an elaborate arithmetic calculation, which has to be made every year—it is caused by the fluctuation of the Swiss franc against the gold franc?—It is very elaborate.

The witness withdrew.


Dr. George J. Furlong called and examined.

769. Chairman.—With regard to subhead B—Purchase and Repair of Pictures —I have seen a list of our acquisitions this year, but I do not think we have any picture at all in Dublin by Van Gogh?

Dr. Furlong.—No, there is none, in either collection.

770. Is there any possibility of acquiring one?—I should like to acquire one, certainly, but it is not very easy to do so.

771. Have they become more expensive now?—Well, yes. A good one is rather expensive, and would cost about £2,000. I agree, however, that we ought to have one.

772. Yes, but it does seem rather imperfect not to have an example of his work, does it not?—Yes, but I think that it would fit in better with the Municipal Gallery, and that it is they who ought to buy it; but then, on the other hand, they have no grant, or at least the grant they have goes towards paying off the debt incurred in remodelling the Gallery.

773. I think it was in Denver, in the State of Colorado, last autumn, that there was one in the possession of a rancher, which was for sale. Do you think it might be possible to get one?— Of course, there is a large number in America.

774. No, I am sorry; it was not in Denver, but in Sydney, Australia, and the picture in question belonged to a sheep rancher and it was for sale in Sydney last October. Now, Dr. Furlong, there is one matter that interests me in connection with this Vote. I do not know whether you are having a similar experience to that of the Municipal Gallery, as reported, and that is, that sufficient public interest is not being taken in the National Gallery. I wonder whether or not interest could be stimulated if the assistance of the Press were invoked to write short descriptions of chosen pictures? You may have observed the practice that obtains in connection with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London? —You mean, of showing one exhibit?

775. Yes, and writing a short article descriptive of the genre to which a particular picture belongs, and of its background?—Yes; but, on the other hand, there is a widespread delusion that nobody goes to the National Gallery. That is not accurate, because actually the average attendance for the last year has been 120 a day. Of course, that does not mean that you will find 120 people there on the one day or at the one particular time. The attendance varies from 50 on some days to, perhaps, 600 on another day; but taking the average over the last three years, the attendance has increased and is now, roughly, 120 a day. I consider that that is not so bad, and then you must take into account the fact that the National Gallery is not open at night, whereas the Municipal Gallery is open on certain nights of the week.

776. Deputy Walsh.—I take it, Dr. Furlong, that many of these people would be visitors to Dublin?—Yes, but not entirely. During the summer months a great many of them would be visitors to the city, but during the winter time they would be mostly residents of the city. Of course, a large percentage of those attending the Gallery would be visitors to the city, but that is true of London or of any other Gallery in any country.

Well, from my experience, it would seem to me that it is the exception rather than the rule to meet a Dublin man who was ever even in the National Gallery.

777. Chairman.—I think, Dr. Furlong, that we have an El Greco?—Yes.

778. Well, I doubt if many people in the City of Dublin are aware of that, and I think that a short article in the Press, referring to our El Greco, would stimulate public interest. While I appreciate the excellent work that is being done in the Gallery, do you not think it would be a good idea to try to stimulate public interest by some such means as I have suggested—not only an interest founded in curiosity, but founded on a real desire to see the pictures we have got?—Well, yes, but I think you will remember that the Broadcasting Director, Dr. Kiernan, ran a series of broadcasts on our national treasures and, in connection with that, we had two broadcasts from the National Gallery; and then, every year, I do, roughly, about three broadcasts, into each one of which the National Gallery comes; some reference is made to the National Gallery—either to some picture or some school of painting, or something connected with the Gallery.

779. I take it that you are familiar with the lectures given by the Assistant Curators of the National Gallery in London?—Yes, but London is in a very different position. London keeps a complete staff of three lecturers who do nothing else but lecture, and there is no charge for these lectures. Not only do they lecture publicly at stated hours, but any ten people, or in some cases even less, if they write in to the Director, can have a lecture also. In addition, I understand that they have now started what one might call a theatre and that they get guest lecturers, roughly, about once a week, in addition to keeping the permanent staff of lecturers. Of course, that adds greatly to the interest in the Gallery, but it means more expense also.

780. Would it be unthinkable to do something of the same nature here, on more economical lines, by seeking the co-operation of the Press in publishing a short article once a week, on, say, a particular picture, with a view to inspiring the people to come and see that picture with the article in their hands?—I quite agree that it would be a good idea, and the Press are always quite willing to help us. For example, when we get a new picture we send to the Press an account of it, and a photograph of the picture. We do not send it immediately on the acquisition of the picture because, very often, when we acquire a picture, it has to be cleaned or reframed, and some weeks might elapse before it is actually on view to the public. Accordingly we only announce the details to the Press when the picture is actually on view, because it is very irritating to the public, having read an announcement in the Press about a picture, to come along to the Gallery and find that the picture is not on view and will not be on view for some weeks afterwards. As I say, the Press are very good in that way, but of course we cannot compel them to publish the announcement. Then, Dr. Kieran makes an announcement when we have a new picture, and, of course, whenever we have something special, we try to get the maximum publicity.

781. Well, apart from announcing the acquisition of a new picture, I think that if some articles of the type I have in mind were to be written with regard to other pictures that you have, which are of a peculiar quality, you would be astonished at the response you would get from the people of Dublin who, perhaps, do not know that these pictures are in the Gallery?—Yes, I agree, but the only difficulty is that I cannot, so to speak, force the Press to take such articles. They are usually quite willing to take an article or announcement with regard to a new picture because, naturally, from their point of view, that is news; but I do not think the other matter would be quite so simple.

782. Well, I was wondering whether you might not be able to think of some way of meeting the Press and discussing the matter with them?—As a matter of fact, I do meet them from time to time. Of course, with regard to the matter of attendance, this winter they are going to put electric light in the Gallery and, presumably, when the electric light is installed—of course, it will take some months to do it—the Gallery will be open at night, and that will probably have an effect.

783. Is there ever any occasion on which a conducted tour of the Gallery is available to the public?—Yes, we have had them. I have taken schools around, who asked to be taken around, and I have also taken the Friends of the National Collections around when they asked to be taken around.

784. There never has been any general invitation to the public?—Well, of course, on the particular day on which the Friends of the National Collections came. if anybody else came along they would be allowed to go round also. We would not have the power to stop them, in any case, nor would we want to do so.

785. But it is not encouraged?—Well, the simplest thing to do, if you wanted to have lectures in the Gallery on an economic basis, would be to have some one person who would be able to deal with the National Gallery, the Municipal Gallery and, possibly, the Museum.

786. You mean, one person who would be able to deal with the three institutions?—Yes.

The witness withdrew.

The Committee adjourned at 12 noon until Thursday, 22nd instant.