A NEW book based on its author’s 1970s Glasgow childhood says the city’s famous Burrell Collection was regularly plundered by cheeky youths before it moved to its custom-built museum home in Pollok Park.

It is a claim strenuously denied by Glasgow Life, who insist the priceless collection has always been "exceptionally well cared for."

“I recall tales of local boys stumbling on a store of tea chests in a dusty basement - crates that contained ‘ornaments’ packed under protective straw and newspaper wrappings,” recalled Michael Gallagher, a retired engineer who has written his first book, Jamie's Keepsake.

“They took what they could carry and pawned or sold them for only a few quid, including Chinese vases and bowls, also a Chinese statuette, and animal figurines like ones I have described in my book.”

Glasgow Times:

Michael, who grew-up in Hardridge on the edge of Pollok Park added: “From memory, these were wrapped in layers of brown paper. I know of at least a dozen items that were taken but I’m sure there were many more.”

Sir William Burrell, a wealthy Glaswegian shipping magnate and art collector, acquired the collection of rare medieval art and precious cultural artefacts from around the world over many years, before donating it to the city in 1944.

READ MORE: Poverty, peevers and eggs in a tin - new book reveals Glasgow life in the 40s and 50s, warts and all

For almost 30 years, until the early 1970s when the collection was properly curated for the first time, its contents were held in several locations across the city.

According to Michael’s new novel, items including Chinese statues, vases and figurines were removed in a series of opportunist raids on the basement of Pollok House, where much of the collection was stored.

Glasgow Times:

A spokesperson for Glasgow Life said: “Sir William Burrell was famously fastidious when it came to studying, caring for and protecting his breath-taking collection. It was carefully researched and recorded by Sir William and the gift to Glasgow in 1944 (around 6000 objects at that point) came after more than a decade of consideration and contemplation about the ideal civic home for it. 

“Although the collection was stored and exhibited in many different locations, they were not unsecured and were, in fact, exceptionally well cared for.

“Whilst noting this is a work of fiction it is important to underline we are unaware of any objects that formed the catalogued collection given to Glasgow by Sir William and Lady Constance Burrell going missing.

“The first keeper of the collection (Andrew Hannah, appointed in 1947) worked very carefully with Sir William to inventory the collection before works arrived with Glasgow Museums. He and Tom Honeyman, then director of Glasgow Museums, received daily letters from Sir William from Hutton Castle before his death in 1958 and it would seem incredible to assume he would not have raised any concerns about the way the collection was being kept if he had any at all.

“The next keeper, William Wells, devoted a great deal of his time to completing a detailed catalogue. The collection continued to grow after the Memorandum of Agreement with Glasgow was signed by Sir William and Lady Constance who also carried on collecting exquisite artworks. Nearly 9000 works in total were eventually given to Glasgow and even after their deaths, more objects were added to the collection in agreement with the Burrell Trustees. Perhaps the most notable of these is The Warwick Vase, which was recovered from the gardens of Emperor Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli and saved for the nation in 1978 when it had been sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“Glasgow Museums responsibility to care for the works in the Burrell Collection and wider city collection has always been taken seriously and across the museums sector, security and registering of objects continues to improve. In the past, occasional thefts from museums stores have been recorded across the UK and around the world. Glasgow is no different in this.

“We would always encourage anyone claiming to have knowledge of such criminal activity or the whereabouts of any items stolen from the people of Glasgow to tell us or the police.”