In a previous post, we looked at a selection of films related to Scottish Independence. Now, with the referendum date looming, we’ve dived into our entire Scottish archive. We’ve compiled a sample of some of the finest 20th century reporting on Scotland and, as with our First World War centenary collection, organised them by topic. The films are presented on a single navigable page for the first time. You’ll find coverage of North Sea oil, NATO and nuclear power, as well as terrific celebrations of Scottish culture. You’ll even catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster.
On 18th September 2014, the people of Scotland will vote on a matter of great importance – “Should Scotland be an independent country?” It is not a new question and the British Pathé archive contains a few (and unfortunately only a few) films related to Scottish nationalism during the Twentieth Century. A selection of vintage videos can be viewed below. Particularly interesting is the 1951 newsreel, “The Stone Returns”.
Full title reads: “SCOTS’ WHAE’ HAE’ – Scots Nationalists commemorate 624th anniversary of martyrdom of Sir William Wallace at his birthplace at Elderslie.” Silent newsreel released in cinemas on 29th August 1929. (William Wallace is more popularly known as “Braveheart”.)
The first part of this film documents the International Music and Drama Festival which took place in Edinburgh in 1947. The second features footage from Arbroath in which an historical pageant commemorating Scotland’s Charter of Independence takes place in the ruins of Arbroath Abbey. Released in cinemas 28th August 1947.
A very interesting film about the theft of the Stone of Scone / Destiny by young supporters of Scottish Home Rule from beneath the Coronation chair at Westminster Abbey in an attempt to return the historic object to the Scottish people. The event was even turned into a film in 2008.
Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home stands in by-election at Kinross against Arthur Donaldson, the Scottish National Party candidate, and television star William Rushton who hands out “No Home Rule” posters. Released in cinemas on 7th November 1963.
At first glance, it looks as dull as dishwater – female Polish soldiers on parade in Scotland in 1943. No sound, monochrome, and no hint about provenance or location.
Looking more closely, the road seems strangely familiar, then the name of the hotel and finally the beach. This is when the penny finally dropped this was Gullane – and they were marching through to sand dunes through the fields where our house and others would be built forty years later.
The film also has wider intrinsic interest – newsreels often show troop formations but rarely individual soldiers in close up. And even more rarely women soldiers in such detail and with such intimacy.
So it is a real, undiscovered gem – particularly for those who might now recognise their granny as a younger woman in khaki.
Newsreel archives have traditionally provided visual backdrops for documentary makers – sometimes offering genuinely new insight or just period wallpaper for a tired script.
Putting them online has opened up a whole new vista and worldwide audience who can look at the films for their intrinsic worth and add perspective and context.
I found two films of the Irish Free State football team in 1924 playing Celtic and the USA. At first glance, just lots of guys chasing a ball. But they also say a lot about the development of the Free State following the civil war.
It is also the first glimpse of Celtic playing overseas, the most travelled British club of that era and the Americans whose footballers were also much better behaved than the American rugby team. Both did well at the 1924 Paris Olympics, apart from a riot at the final against France and subsequent dropping of rugby as an Olympic sport – the USA are still the reigning Olympic rugby champions!
There is more, much more to discover, whatever your interest. And there may even be a film that shows your own back yard. Words by Chris Holme of The History Company.