‘Glasgow is proud to host the world’s first museum show on Alcoholics Anonymous’

By Ellen Thomson at

The world’s first museum display on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has opened at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Darkness into Light: The story of Alcoholics Anonymous in Scotland was curated by members of AA Archives Scotland.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Pictured: Henny Dundas, granddaughter of the organisation’s founder in Scotland

The inspiring exhibition details the society’s history and ongoing work in the community.

It covers its first meeting in Scotland in 1948 into a country-wide organisation, which has helped countless individuals affected by alcoholism.

Darkness into Light: The story of Alcoholics Anonymous contains famous photographs, significant documents and letters and newspaper clippings.

An unassuming photograph taken in the Mayflower Hotel, Ohio on 10 June 1935 shows the hotel’s telephone box, yet it was the destination for a momentous call.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Pictured: Henny Dundas and her mother Althea Dundas-Bekker

While struggling to stay sober stockbroker Bill Wilson called fellow alcoholic doctor Dr Bob Smith.

Together they proceeded to develop a ‘way out’ from the ‘disease of alcoholism’, by founding a fellowship that has changed the life of millions, by offering hope and recovery for those who have a desire to stop drinking – Alcoholics Anonymous.

By 1939 AA had 100 members. It is estimated in excess of 1 million weekly meetings are now held worldwide, although the organisation keeps no personal information on its members and asks nothing of them except their first name.

The display includes a photograph of Sir Philip Dundas who is credited as being the pioneer for Alcoholics Anonymous in Scotland.

CUTTING

The exhibition features a newspaper cutting from the Sunday Mail 22 August 1948, which reads “Alcoholics Anonymous Come to Scotland. Six men who met in a Church vestry in Perth this weekend made Scottish history – when they formed the first Scots branch of Alcoholics Anonymous.”

Sir Philip continued to travel throughout the country and in 1949 a group in Edinburgh and Glasgow registered with the Alcoholics Anonymous General Service Office in New York.

Sir Philip’s granddaughter Henrietta ‘Henny’ Dundas joined Andy Cudden, assistant manager of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to officially open the exhibition.

Professor Jonathan Chick, former Non Alcoholic Trustee of the AA General Service Board, said: Although many AA members in Scotland may not know the story of its arrival here, history is actually at the heart of every meeting in the sense that the method is the accumulation, passed down over time, of what has worked.

TOLERANCE

“As the years passed, gems of wisdom entered into the talk and practice of its members; traditions of genuineness, openness, patience, tolerance and readiness to help others as well as the knowledge that for some, alcohol is a very dangerous drug.

“In my time in the NHS and now at a private addictions hospital I have met very many people struggling with addiction to alcohol who owe their lives to AA.

“There used to be scepticism that mutual help could be effective, but in recent years medical research has satisfied me and many colleagues that it is not just chance that people get well through AA.”

Chair of Glasgow Life, councillor David McDonald, said: “Glasgow is proud to host the world’s first museum display on AA, as confirmed by Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, New York.

‘PRIVILEGE’

“It is a great privilege to be part of it.

“We hope it will inform people of the group’s worthwhile work and, for those who may need it, act as a signpost towards the help which is available.”

Martin B, member of AA in Scotland, said: “AA does incredible work in every community in Scotland. As a member I’m honoured to have helped put this exhibition together.”

* Darkness into Light: The story of Alcoholics Anonymous in Scotland is open now in the community exhibition space on the first floor of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and runs until 18 January 2018.