Monday 20 January 2014

Lord McAlpine dies

Robert Alistair McAlpine, Baron McAlpine of West Green has died. The British businessman, politician and author, who became prominent in British politics in the 1980s as the treasurer and a major fundraiser of the Conservative Party, was descended from the McAlpine baronets who made their fortune in the construction industry.
Lord McAlpine became embroiled in a controversy over the Salisbury Hoard, a cache of Iron Age artefacts that turned out to have been illicitly excavated from a farm by two metal detectorists. He had amassed a collection of some of the best items from the hoard, including 22 miniature bronze shields that he sold to the British Museum in 1989 for £55,000. After it emerged that the objects had been excavated without the landowner’s permission, the British Museum returned the items in 1998, but Lord McAlpine refused to reimburse the museum, “when there was no chance that I would get my money back from anyone else,” he told The Art Newspaper at the time (February 1998, pp1 and 3). He pointed out, however, that he had paid for publication of a book on the museum’s founder Sir Hans Sloane, edited by Arthur MacGregor and published by the British Museum Press. “The sales are benefiting the museum, and it cost me more than the price of the shields,” he said. The museum eventually reacquired the shields and some lesser objects from the Salisbury Hoard in lieu of inheritance tax.
'Art collector and political fundraiser extraordinaire, Alistair McAlpine has died, aged 71', By The Art Newspaper, 19 January 2014.

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