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:
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: