Search is on for portrait not seen for a century

George Holiwell is visiting Berwickshire to trace a painting of a Polworth ancestor
George Holiwell is visiting Berwickshire to trace a painting of a Polworth ancestor

A man investigating his Borders heritage has begun a search for a painting that disappeared from public sight nearly 100 years ago.

George Holywell left Scotland to work in the aluminium industry all over the world, eventually settling in Canada in 1981. Now retired, he divides his time between Ontario and Scottsdale, Arizona.

George is a direct descendant of his near namesake, the Reverend George Holiwell, who lived at Polwarth near Duns during the 1660s.

“My family on my fathers side all came from the Duns area,” he said.

Now George is hunting the whereabouts of a painting of his ancestor, who was made Minister of Polwarth by Sir Patrick Home, of nearby Marchmont House.

George tells a family story that Polwarth church provided a hiding place for Lord Home during religious and political unrest, with the nobleman surviving tin the vault for a month.

“I knew about the family story and the connection between my ancestor and the earl of Marchmont,” he said.

“But it’s not just stories and paintings. I think it’s genetic as well. I look at my young daughter and I recognise my ancestors in her.

“How and why his portrait was painted I do not know but I have an etching of it. It was last seen in Duns, in the possession of a John Ford who lived in Duns in 1920.”

If you have any information about the painting, or anything else to tell George, email:gholywell@cogeco.ca