Brian’s amazing legacy

I only knew him as Brian – an always smarty-dressed and elderly gentleman who came to Rosarios in Northumberland Place for his boiled egg or porridge breakfast.

He sat in a corner seat by the window and was usually engrossed in his meal as poor eyesight meant he had to be careful how he went about it.

He would chat – from time to time – but often was hidden by his newspaper held close to his face.

I was sad to hear he had passed away in his ninetieth year this April but – from what l later heard – amazed at the legacy he has left the city of Bath.

Brian McElney OBE turned out to have had a lifelong interest in Chinese art and was an avid collector. He had been a prominent former lawyer and long-time resident of Hong Kong.

Later in life he retired to Bath to be near family and donated his amazing collection to form the Museum of East Asian Art – near the Circus – which opened to the public in 1993 as an educational charity.

Brian didn’t live long enough to be able to join in celebrating the museum’s 30th anniversary but – as a tribute to him – a special exhibition has just opened in his name.

Through a series of rare historical photographs, and a display of 30 treasures from the collection, the exhibition uncovers hidden stories of the Museum, looks at the fascinating life of the late Museum founder and acknowledges the contribution of communities in Hong Kong and Bath which have helped to shape the Museum and its collection over the decades. 

I was lucky enough to be able to pop in for a preview before the galleries officially open today (Saturday, July 1st) and asked Curatorial Consultant, Dr Ivy Yi Yan Chan to tell me more of the story behind the man and the museum.

Do check out for more information and to watch a video interview Brian did about his life and collection.

1 Comment

  1. Richard,
    Such an interesting article on The Museum of East Asian Art’s new exhibition to honour their founder and their 30 years in Bath.
    Your video interview with MEAA Curator Ivy Chan is succinct and extremely informative.
    Everyone in Bath should pay a visit to this wonderful little gem of a museum!

Comments are closed.