Sunday, December 31, 2017

GREAT NEWS ABOUT ADAM SMITH'S PANMURE HOUSE

Heather McGreggor, Dean of Edinburgh Business School, has announced (31 December) that Panmure House, former Home of Adam Smith from 1788 to 1790, in Edinburgh, is close to raising the final tranche of the necessary funds to complete its restoration which  was commenced in 2005. Below is the text of the official announcement of this excellent news.

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE BY KATE WHITEHEAD:
Latest News about restoration of Panmure House where Adam Smith (1723-1790) lived from 1778-1790.
How Hong Kong helped restore Adam Smith’s former home in Edinburgh to create venue for the world’s greatest minds to meet
Panmure House, the only surviving residence of the 18th century economist, is being turned into a hub for the latest academic thinking thanks in part to fund-raising in Hong Kong led by Bank of East Asia’s David Li. 
Keith Lumsden, founder of EBS – the graduate school of business of Heriot-Watt University in the same city – was an economist and passionate supporter of Smith’s ideas, and couldn’t bear to see the property go to waste. He arranged for EBS to buy it in 2008, and five years later led a fundraising drive to raise money to restore the house, which included a trip to Hong Kong.
“Keith came out with the Duke of Buccleuch, a prominent supporter of the Panmure House restoration campaign,” says Andrew Burns, manager of the management office of Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia (BEA). “His great-great-great-grandfather was mentored and taught by Adam Smith and he regaled us with some fascinating stories.”
Two dinners in Hong Kong hosted by David Li Kwok-po, a knight and the chairman and chief executive of BEA, helped drum up support for restoring the 17th-century house. This included re-slating the roof, conserving the exterior stonework, and replacing the timber sash and casement windows.
“The single largest number of donors came from here and they were all convened by David Li,” McGregor says. “It would not be an exaggeration to say that this project would not even have got this far without the help of David Li. Hong Kong has been the most supportive community in the world.”
But while that initial drive paved the way for the exterior of the house to be repaired, there was little follow-up and the project floundered. Then McGregor came along. A former investment banker, she was also known as “Mrs Moneypenny” after her entertaining weekly column in the Financial Times that ran from 1999 to 2016, in which she memorably referred to her three children as Cost Centres #1, #2 and #3.
In her column, Mrs Moneypenny came across as a doer. McGregor is much like that in the flesh, epitomising the saying: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”
“I started [as executive dean] on September 1 and we broke ground [on Panmure House] on October 12,” McGregor says.
Determined to get the project underway – so that they could make the most of a favourable currency exchange and get started before construction costs increased – McGregor decided to borrow the money to complete the renovation and then ask people to help repay the loan. She is hoping to raise £1 million (US$1.3 million) and the university will contribute on a matching basis.
This is why she was in Hong Kong: first to thank donors and show them how far the project has progressed, and then to raise more funds.
But why should Hong Kong care about an old building in Scotland? There are plenty of reasons, which start from back when Hong Kong was ceded to the British in 1842.
“The radical ideas that flowered in 18th-century Scotland changed the way the world thought and acted, and Panmure House sat at the heart of it all,” McGregor says. “When Hong Kong was founded as a trading colony, it was a time when Adam’s memory and ideas were very current.”
There are also strong business ties between Scotland and Hong Kong, and there remains a strong Scottish presence in the city. “So many companies were founded by people coming here from Scotland. The whole of HSBC is essentially a Scottish bank. All the major hongs [foreign traders] here had huge Scottish representation,” McGregor says.
McGregor also has strong Hong Kong connections – it is where she married her Australian husband and earned her PhD from the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Since university professors often wear the academic robes pertaining to their highest degree, she spends a lot of time in HKU robes
The renovation of Panmure House is due to be completed in September 2018 and McGregor has big plans for the building – including bringing some of the world’s greatest minds and biggest thinkers to Edinburgh.
“Every year we want a Nobel Prize winner to come to Panmure House. And we want visiting scholars to come, and PhD students from Hong Kong,” McGregor says.
The house will not serve as a residence, but is being set up so that it is part of the university. The two large rooms on the ground floor will serve as space for lectures, exhibitions and public talks. Of the two smaller rooms on the upper floor, one will be set aside for a Nobel Prize winner or other academic to study for short periods of time, and the other will accommodate two PhD students.
McGregor hopes to create something similar to The Friends of Cambridge University in Hong Kong, a group founded by Li in 1981. The group established and manages a scholarship fund that has since supported 170 Hong Kong students to do their undergraduate degrees at Cambridge University. McGregor hopes a similar scheme could regularly bring Hong Kong students to Edinburgh to do their doctorate degrees.
“I would like people to come from Hong Kong, go to Edinburgh and come back and say, ‘I did six months or a year of my PhD research at a desk in the house where Adam Smith lived’,” she says.
Smith entered university at a young age, earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow and got a postgraduate scholarship to study at Oxford University. McGregor is so familiar with the details of his life that she talks about him as though he were a personal acquaintance. “I feel like I’ve known him,” she says.
She laughs as she recounts a letter Smith wrote to Scottish philosopher David Hume about his European grand tour with Henry Scott, the third Duke of Buccleuch.
“Adam wrote to David Hume saying how bored he was. ‘Here we are, another day in Florence, another painting.’ He liked to surround himself with people and debate big ideas, and I don’t think endless culture was doing it for him,” McGregor say.ch will serve as She hopes to continue that tradition of bringing great minds together to ponder great ideas.
“The important thing about a heritage asset is that it is used in a way that you could only use that building – and we’ll be doing that by bringing these incredible thinkers from all over the world,” McGregor says.
“I hope that the association with Hong Kong continues for many years, and one of the ways I hope that happens is by creating a scholarship for people to come and study there. I would want to have it for Hong Kong nationals who got through their first degree here and then would like to come and do their PhD with us.”

Find out more about the project at www.panmurehouse.org
COMMENT
THIS IS EXCELLENT NEWS. 
I WAS A PROFESSOR AT EDINBURGH BUSINESS SCHOOL WHEN THE PANMURE HOUSE PROJECT WAS INITIATED  BY OUR PURCHASE OF THE PANMURE HOUSE BUILDING FOR £800,000 FROM OUR OWN FUNDS AND DONATIONS.  
I HAD ALSO RETIRED FROM THE UNIVERSITY  TO CONCENTRATE ON ACADEMIC WORK, AND RESEARCH.
I HAVE KEPT AN EYE ON THE PANMURE HOUSE PROJECT SINCE THEN AND THIS NEWS IS A SPLENDID VISION THAT LOOKS FINALLY READY TO COMPLETE WHAT WAS BEGUN, AND KEPT ALIVE, UNDER PROFESSOR KEITH LUMSDEN'S LEADERSHIP.

I have published three books on Adam Smith:
2005: Adam Smith's Lost Legacy, Palgrave-Macmillan
2008: Adam Smith: a moral philosopher and his political economy. Palgrave-Macmillan (Great Thinkers is Economics Series). 2nd Edition, 2010, and in paper back.
2018: An Authentic Account of Adam Smith. Palgrave-Macmillan.
There have also been several academic Journal articles and book chapters in edited academic books, plus, of course this Blog.

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