Rory McEwen

Music legend’s botanical art in new exhibition

Scottish folk and blues legend Rory McEwen’s botanical art will be exhibited at Marchmont House as part of a celebration of his life and achievements.

Family and friends will gather at the Borders mansion where McEwen spent his childhood in order to see the exhibition ahead of its public opening, and to celebrate his life and achievements.

They will also help launch an appeal by the Marchmont Makers Foundation to raise funds to provide artists’ residencies at the nearby Fogo Cottage, which McEwen bought and used as a studio after he turned away from a career in music and TV to concentrate on art.

The Spirit of Rory McEwen exhibition is free to visit and takes place from May 1-8, 10am-4pm at the Old Squash Court Studio, Marchmont House, Greenlaw.

The exhibition, which marks what would have been his 90th birthday year, will feature works from the collection at Marchmont, which is now a home for the arts and creative activity, and pieces belonging to the McEwen family.

For nearly two decades, between 1964 and his death in 1982, Rory McEwen concentrated much of his prodigious talent on creating exquisite renditions of plants and flowers in watercolour on vellum, as well as sculptures and landscapes.

However, to many he was best known as the host of the ground-breaking folk and blues television show Hullabaloo and for his performances playing the 12-string guitar. Guests on the show included luminaries of the folk revival scene Martin Carthy, Rambling Jack Elliot and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Jools Holland said: ‘He was extraordinary at both art and music, which is unusual. His art is timeless, and Van Morrison said he would have ended up a vet if he hadn’t heard Rory McEwen play.

Rory McEwen in New York, 1956 (Photo: Larry Lawrence)

‘I wish I had met him as I’m sure we would have got on well as we share the same interests. Our television programmes are similar as he had both blues and folk musicians playing in the same room.’

McEwen’s daughter, Christabel Holland, a child psychotherapist, said: ‘It’s wonderful that my father is being celebrated in this way. His botanical art is beautiful – he used watercolour on vellum, which gives his paintings a luminosity. His friends and family are excited that a larger exhibition of his work will tour America next year.

‘At the same time we are also delighted to help the foundation launch a fundraising appeal so that other artists can spend time working at The Studio, Fogo, which he loved so much and where he produced so much wonderful art.

‘The creative community being created by Hugo Burge’s Marchmont Maker’s Foundation and the encouragement it gives to artists is truly inspiring and would have been appreciated and applauded by our father, Rory.’

Fogo Cottage was bought by Marchmont and transformed back into a studio last year and is available for artists to rent.

Tulip ‘Helen Josephine’ (Rose Breeder) 197, by Rory McEwen

The foundation, however, wants to The foundation, however, wants to give artists the time, space and financial freedom to concentrate on the development of their own work without the demands of deadlines or public presentation. Application will be via an open call to encourage opportunities which may not otherwise happen.

Hugo Burge, former tech entrepreneur and director of Marchmont House, said: ‘At Marchmont, we love to shine a light on under told stories of creativity and inspiration, so it is a delight to focus on a story so close to home, that of Rory, who was born at Marchmont and was a power-house of artistic talent and energy.

‘Rory was a personification of the creative energy that Marchmont represents and by funding artists’ residencies at Fogo Cottage we hope to help continue the artistic legacy he established.’

The McEwen family are key figures in the history of Marchmont. Major changes were made between 1914 and 1917 when the then owner, Robert Finnie McEwen commissioned the eminent Scottish architect Sir Robert Lorimer to enlarge the house and it stands today as perhaps the finest example of his “grand” house refurbishments.

The Spirit of Rory McEwen will be free, with a suggested donation of £3 to the Fogo Residency fundraiser, and open to the public May 1-8, 10am-4pm at the Old Squash Court Studio, Marchmont House, near Greenlaw in the Borders. See

Donations to the Fogo Residency can be made at