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Vanggaard, T. (1991). On Dr William Gillespie's Reminiscences. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 18:555-555.

(1991). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 18:555-555

On Dr William Gillespie's Reminiscences

Thorkil Vanggaard

Dear Sir,

Recently a member of the Danish Psycho-Analytical Society drew my attention to a paragraph in Gillespie's Reminiscences, Int. Rev. Psycho-Anal. (1990) 17:11. The paragraph which is on p. 20 deals with the 1959 Congress in Copenhagen, of which I was the local organizer. It runs as follows:

'For the next Congress we had accepted an invitation from the tiny Society in Denmark. In Copenhagen they had a brand-new congress centre. Apart from a ballet company we were the first to use it, and it helped us to have a successful Congress. Few people know how near we came to disaster shortly before its opening. The local organizer of the Congress had, without consultation, invited several people from behind the iron curtain to attend the Congress at the expense of the International. When I challenged his right to do this without authorization he became very angry and seriously threatened to withdraw along with the Danish Society, in which case the Congress would of necessity have had to be abandoned' (italics mine).

As far as my part is concerned this is all wrong. The facts are the following:

I had been told that Dr Bruno Bettelheim of Yugoslavia very much wanted to attend the Congress, but that Yugoslavian regulations did not allow him the necessary exchange into foreign currency. Dr Bettelheim's name and reputation as an analyst were known to me; in addition the regional WHO officer of psychiatry for Europe, the Australian Dr Donald Buckle, had visited Bettelheim in Yugoslavia and spoke well of him. I wrote to Bettelheim that the Congress management would put him up in Copenhagen. Having the responsibility for the whole Congress budget it never occurred to me to consult the Central Executive in a trifling matter like that. And when subsequently Gillespie 'challenged' me I considered him petty-minded and refused to accept his censure. That was all. Not even a hint of any kind of threat was involved — of course not, what a ridiculous and impossible idea; and the other members of the Danish Society knew nothing of the matter.

So: Not 'several people', but one well known analyst—not 'from behind the iron curtain' but from Yugoslavia—and not only was Gillespie not 'seriously threatened', he was not threatened at all.

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