National Public Service Week Video: Meet Helen Small

National Public Service Week - Meet Helen Small - Transcript

Mrs. Small: I graduated from the University of Toronto in 1948 with a BA and I had a scholarship, a fellowship at Queens for an MA.

Mrs. Small: While I was at Queens I had written a competition for entry in the Administrative level for the Public Service. It was called the Junior Administrative Assistant. And this was a new demarche from the end of the war to recruit young university trained people to the lower echelon of the administrative side of the Public Service from which future managers and indeed Deputy Ministers and all kind of important people emerged.

Mrs. Small: Bob Bryce supported this competition because he wanted to open up the Public Service to people with slightly higher educational levels. I had a very good interview with Bob Bryce. And I was very promptly offered a job at the Treasury Board. And this absolutely appalled the Director of Estimates who was a lovely elderly gentleman, as I thought at that time, a gentleman called Mr. Smelley. I heard later that he said "the men are going to swear in front of her. She will be offended. Where will we put her?" *laughs*

Mrs. Small: Mr. Massey and Father Levesque were commissioned in 1949 to conduct a Royal Commission on the national cultural development in the arts letters and science. And that report lead to the creation of Canada Council for the arts. Absolutely one of the vital pieces of paper that was produced in that era and very greatly affects the way Government attends to the arts in Canada ever since.

Mrs. Small: When I dealt with the National Art Gallery, the most exciting thing I did was the, negotiate the purchase of the paintings from the Prince of Liechtenstein which was a substantial purchase. The Gallery has a very small amount of money, given to it every year to purchase paintings. So this was an extraordinary thing. And it was an interesting time. Harry McCurry, the then Director of the National Gallery, really negotiated that himself, but he bought them through Agnew in London who was acting on behalf of the Prince. And you will be interested to know, that our cultural advisor to the National Gallery on the artistic merit of the pictures was Anthony Blunt. He was the keeper of the king's pictures who was one of the Cambridge spies and later lost his knighthood. But he advised the Government of Canada on the purchase of the painting of the Prince of Liechtenstein. So that would have been an extraordinary thing that had to go through first to the TB and then go on to Cabinet. And I made, wrote the submission for the TB and then I went on and drafted the galleries a submission to the Cabinet for the extra dollars to complete this purchase."

Anabelle Kienle Poňka: There are paintings by a number of very important artists for example Barthel Beham, Hans Memling. There were two paintings by Fillipo Lippi and one painting by Rembrandt. So these are all very, you know, important names in Art's History. And the quality of these works was and is also exceptionally high. And so you know, if we look at the collection of the National Art Gallery today, we still look at these purchases as some of the most, you know, magnificent and important that we have done over the course of our history starting at 1880.

Secretary: So now when you go to the Gallery and you see these...

Mrs. Small: They are my favorite. I periodically take people in and say "I got that, I bought that for the Gallery" *laughs* more or less.

Alternative Formats

If you cannot open the video please consult our Help page.

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: