Help the George MacDonald Society secure historic MacDonald painting

Edward Clifford – Group Portrait of the Broadlands Conference, painted circa 1887

Rev Dr. John McNeill, a member of the Board of Directors of the George MacDonald Society, has been collecting material on George MacDonald and nineteenth-century Scottish spirituality in general over the last thirty years. He was alerted by the great-great grandson of George MacDonald to the auction of the Group Portrait of the Broadlands Conferences (1887) at Dreweatts’ Auction House on Thursday 28th May with only one week to go. The Broadlands painting is an exceptional tribute to an era of pioneering Christianity. Figures represented include Hannah Pearsall-Smith, the inspirational Quaker; Emilia Gurney, the feminist social reformer; and our man George MacDonald of Huntly.

Remarkably, John was able to find enough money – a combination of loans and gifts – to make a bid for the painting with the support of the George MacDonald Society (GMS). After John’s viewing of the painting two days before the auction, Dreweatts were very keen that such an expert on the period and a devoted fan of George MacDonald should purchase the painting with the support of the GMS and keep it for the nation, and they were extremely helpful with their advice. His bid was successful!

The total price was £18,500, which includes the bid for the painting and the Buyer’s Premium plus VAT. Most of the purchase price was initially borrowed. There have been donations and gifts of £12,500 since the auction, leaving £6,000 (approximately $8,250) of loans that must be repaid. The Society needs your financial help to help complete securing this work. We need people of spiritual and artistic vision to gather round, moved by the same Spirit that inspired the Broadlands Conferences and stirred creative minds like George MacDonald.

The presence of George MacDonald alone makes the Broadlands painting a very significant cultural treasure. The goal is for this painting to be displayed in public spaces and perhaps, one day, housed in a space that highlights the importance of this ecumenical gathering to advance Christianity in Great Britain. However, we need your help to make this become a reality. The George MacDonald Society has set up a GoFundMe page and we would encourage you to support it. Please also share the link to the GoFundMe page widely and help get the word out there. The link is:\_source=customer&utm\_medium=copy\_link\_all&utm\_campaign=m\_pd%20share-sheet&fbclid=IwAR0HX9cS9j06obeEOaTwnhLmvmO09525sPJBkdbMzkIpD67j\_ZKJ6o1-iu4

In addition, The Wayfarer Trust, an arts and media organisation founded by the writer Murray Watts more than twenty years ago is offering itself as a conduit for donations and Gift Aid (if you pay tax in the UK) to raise the outstanding money to purchase the painting. For contact details please visit

Some further background on the significance of the Broadland’s Conferences can be found here:

GMS Update

I am very pleased to announce that Malcolm Guite, who many of you will know, has agreed to become the George MacDonald Society’s President (his latest “Spell in the Library” can be found at We have also broadened the GMS board and the Officers of the Society are now:

  • President: Malcom Guite
  • Co-chairpersons: Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, Mike Partridge
  • Treasurer/ Membership Secretary: Mike Partridge (Acting)
  • Correspondence Secretary/ Orts Editor: Donna Whatmough-Triggs
  • North Wind Editor: John Pennington
  • Academic Representative: Daniel Gabelman
  • Society Historians: Rachel Johnson, John McNeill
  • Web Master: Mike Partridge
  • North American Representative: Bonnie Gaarden
  • Central & Eastern European Representative: Denise Vasiliu
  • Committee Members: John Flynn, Jess Lederman, Robert Trexler

If nothing else, the last twelve months have shown us that, while it is great to meet in person, much can also be achieved online to connect folks with shared interests, who are geographically (or for other reasons) separated. This is especially the case with an international Society like ours. Going forward we see the Society focussing on four main areas relating to the interest in George MacDonald: Academic, Popular, The Arts, and Theology. Already there are some exciting ideas being considered, which will have implications both for our visibility and online engagement with the membership. It is early days and conversations are still taking place, but watch this space! We are always open to ideas and if you have any suggestions or skills that would benefit the Society, then please do contact one of the above. We would love to hear from you.

Filming the “Princess and the Goblin”

Princess Irene at the bottom of her Grandmother’s Staircase
Princess Irene at the bottom of her Grandmother’s Staircase

Norwich-based Goblin Market Theatre Company is to produce a film of Donna Trigg’s dramatic version of The Princess and the Goblin, which was performed at Holkham Hall, Norfolk last year. Filming will take place using Binham Priory, an 11th Century Benedictine Priory north of Fakenham, as the set. For more information see this article on the Eastern Daily Press web site.