Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Knight to 58 North - Lewis chessmen debate

Widespread support in a Westminster debate yesterday for my idea to open a branch of the British Museum in the Western Isles.

I had to break away from affairs of state to attend the Westminster hall debate to make sure Angus MacNeil, the SNP member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, didn't purloin my plans and hitch them to his own demands for the famous Lewis chessmen returned to the Western Isles.

In a debate on repatriation of artefacts he did just that, but at least he gave credit to the Western Isles Museum service which enthusiastically embraced the British Museum of the Isles concept when I blogged on it a few weeks ago.

My fear now is that conflating the perfectly sound plan to franchise the British Museum brand in Lewis with the demand for repatriation of the chessmen guarantees the august institution will not touch either idea.

Angus welcomed the concept of a British Museum branch. Call it what you want, he said, as long as it brings the chessmen back.

Margaret Hodge, the Minister responding was in no mood to compromise and said the pieces must stay where they are. So long as we keep flogging the dead horse of demanding the pieces back that's how things will stay.

Moving them from one part of the British Museum to another part of the British Museum (which just happens to be in Lewis) just might work. Have you seen the model of the Trojan horse in the museum?

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