Overlooked No More: Phyllis Dodd’s portrait of Cathy Honeyman

Oil on canvas, Portrait of Cathy Honeyman, 1951, by Phyllis Dodd, acquired by Glasgow Museums in 2018 with an NFA grant of £1,250.

At Glasgow Museums we are delighted to have been able to acquire this beautifully introspective and evocative portrait of Cathy Honeyman by Phyllis Dodd. The portrait, which until now has been in family hands, highlights what it meant to be a woman in mid-20th century Britain and, more specifically, Glasgow.

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Phyllis Dodd (1899-1995) was active as an artist in the city for 50 years, developing and maintaining a successful portrait practice. She moved there in 1945 when her husband, Scottish artist Douglas Percy Bliss (1900-1984), was appointed Director of Glasgow School of Art.

Victoria Catherine (‘Cathy’ or ‘Cath’) Honeyman, née Burnett, a gifted pianist who could have had a professional musical career were it not for domestic obligations, was the wife of Dr T J (‘Tom’) Honeyman, arguably Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museums’ most influential and charismatic director. She played duets during intervals in the theatrical performances her husband organised which were, in the words of an unpublished family memoir, ‘pioneering in a new form of interlude music’. Women have frequently been written out of history and this portrait provides a fascinating insight into the lives of two women, eclipsed by more public-facing husbands, who had to balance, and indeed sacrifice, their own careers to meet the demands of family and societal expectations.

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Until now very little has been known about Cathy Honeyman, her husband being viewed in isolation. This painting has already provided invaluable impetus for research, including renewed contact with the Honeyman family and insight into the wider family through archival material, including Cathy’s diaries which simply and eloquently shed light on what it was like to be a middle class woman in 1950s Glasgow. Entries include health and beauty hints, exercise and weight charts, life expectancy tables for females, favourite recipes, postal information and cleaning tips. Advice includes: ‘To remove freckles use a dash of hydrogen peroxide’, ‘Eat slowly, chew properly, and you will not overeat or have indigestion’; and ‘cultivate cheerfulness’. Cathy’s 1951 diary documents regular trips to Scottish seaside resorts Rothesay and Millport and visits to London, Capri, Pompeii, Rome, Florence and Venice as well as regular attendance at theatres, art galleries and cultural events and hosting prominent figures like Kenneth Clark. The diary also documents that she sat to Dodd intensively between 16 and 21 February 1951. It evidences a blossoming friendship between the two women which no doubt aided the insightful and sensitive nature of this portrait. The portrait was commissioned in the year that her husband made a prestigious visit to America, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, and painted when he was negotiating the high profile and extremely controversial acquisition of Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross for Glasgow Museums. The contrast says much about male and female spheres at the time.

Dr Joanna Meacock
Curator of British Art
Glasgow Museums

https://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums

 

A particularly sociable Sentinel

Sentinel steam waggon acquired by Grampian Transport Museum in 2000 with an NFA grant of £15,200. Mike Ward wrote about the acquisition of the Sentinel in a post published on 19 March. Now he’s back with an update on what has been a busy summer for this popular vehicle as it took part in events to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War.

Of all historic vehicles, steamers are most often credited with ‘being alive’. There is something about steam … it is almost a natural, living source of power and if that’s true perhaps steam vehicles are the most likely to have personalities.

Fifteen years ago the NFA helped Grampian Transport Museum purchase V 3507, a 1914 Sentinel steam waggon (Sentinel’s spelling!) It turned out to be the sole surviving complete and working Glasgow-built example, new to Alexander Runcie, a Carrier from Inverurie close by the museum.

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The Sentinel steam waggon out on the road

We coaxed the old steamer back into safe working condition and decided to treat it as a working exhibit. After some careful thought it was agreed that with safe mounting steps and temporary seating it could give passenger rides on special occasions. This was a great success from the outset, although some among us thought it a little irregular to give rides on the back of a lorry.

Imagine our surprise, therefore, to discover as our researches continued, photographs of V 3507 giving rides to large groups of school children during the First World War. This old steamer had done it all before and on a huge scale. During the war government took over the railways and all pleasure excursions were banned. This was particularly significant in the Aberdeen area as the town was a vitally important port and railhead for supporting the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. The Great North of Scotland Railway’s network was overloaded with traffic. As losses mounted on the Western Front, Sandy Runcie stepped in and began to organise outings for local children to lift the mood and boost failing morale. He did this throughout the war with picnic excursions to local beauty spots, even carrying up to 145 people to church on Sundays. After the war this unofficial home front war work was commented on in the press.

Rev John Cook with Sentinel crew on a tour of local war memorials, 3 August 2014

Rev John Cook with Sentinel crew on a tour of local war memorials, 3 August 2014

With the centenary of the start of the war on 3rd August 2014, V 3507 had its own commemoration. The waggon carried our local Minister and members of his congregation on a tour of the local war memorials where services of remembrance were held. All agreed that the old waggon was like a ‘living’ link to those dark days. It seemed like a natural thing for this particularly sociable Sentinel to do.

 

Mike Ward MBE
Curator
Grampian Transport Museum
www.gtm.org.uk

 

 

Two GGs in Our Waggon

Sentinel steam waggon acquired by Grampian Transport Museum in 2000 with an NFA grant of £15,200.

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Sentinel steam waggon on the road

When I worked at the Bass Museum of Brewing in Burton On Trent, one of the key vehicle exhibits was one of three Daimler Worthington White Shield bottle cars, advertising vehicles built in 1923 in the shape of a bottle. In my present post at the Grampian Transport Museum I managed to borrow one of the other two from Beaulieu. It was like welcoming back an old friend and I wondered if GTM could ever aspire to the jewel in the Bass Museum’s vehicle fleet at that time, a 1917 Standard Sentinel steam waggon.

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Sentinel steam waggon at night

It was a strange coincidence that about a week after receiving the bottle car we were tipped off about a very early Sentinel that ‘belonged’ to Aberdeenshire and had languished in a barn near London for 30 years.

Research confirmed that this particular Sentinel was the one for us. It was built at Polmadie, Glasgow in 1914, works No 753, and registered by the firm V 3507. It was new to Sandy Runcie, a carrier in Inverurie who published a photograph of his new Sentinel as a Christmas card that year. Changing hands twice in the county, it worked finally as part of the McIntosh of Forgue fleet as late as 1942; spanning two world wars. It transpired that we had found the world’s oldest known surviving complete Sentinel and the sole surviving Scottish built example with a strong local provenance and wonderful local stories to tell.

A price of £40,000 was agreed and we began a fundraising appeal. The perfect fit to our Collecting Policy and encouragement to proceed from Glasgow Transport Museum oiled the wheels and both the Heritage Lottery Fund and NFA responded positively to our appeal for help. After a few short weeks the Sentinel joined the bottle car and my sense of déjà vu went critical. The only real problem in applying for funds was explaining that ‘waggon’ was not a mis-spelling. It was how Sentinel described their products!

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Sentinel volunteers outing

Mike Ward MBE
Curator
Grampian Transport Museum
www.gtm.org.uk