Fam­ily’s trib­ute to pi­o­neer of cin­ema

Grand­daugh­ter tracks down the cast of am­a­teur cam­era­man’s trea­sure trove

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Tim Knowles TKNOWLES@SUNDAYPOST.COM

The fam­ily of an am­a­teur film-maker are hunt­ing down un­wit­ting stars from more than 50 years ago.

Harry Bir­rell not only shot films of Scots at work, rest and play – he turned his home into a cin­ema to screen them.

Fans went to his fam­ily home to watch his footage, in­clud­ing scenes of wa­ter­ski­ing on the icy wa­ters of Loch Earn, crowds at the first Ed­in­burgh fes­ti­val and of­fi­cers train­ing in Dunbar dur­ing the Sec­ond World War.

Now the reels of film that had re­mained wrapped in am­a­teur film- maker Harry Bir­rell’s old cloth­ing in­side a fam­ily shed are be­ing dusted down.

Harry’s grand­daugh­ter Ca­rina Bir­rell and di­rec­tor Matt Pinder are search­ing for the miss­ing faces in the doc­u­men­tary which will open a win­dow to Scot­tish life from half a cen­tury ago.

A pi­o­neer of colour film, Harry, who was born into money in 1918, lived at Stanely House in Pais­ley but the ar­rival of his first cam­era at 11 changed the way he saw the world.

Ac­tress Ca­rina, 30, known to thou­sands of Scots as Glas­gow Air­port’s wel­com­ing Holo­gram Holly, said: “I was young when he died, so a lot of what I’ve learnt has been through watch­ing his films and this project is about get­ting to know him.

“He was fas­ci­nated with doc­u­ment­ing time so that peo­ple could look back and see it decades down the line.”

Harry joined the army dur­ing the Sec­ond World War and was able to cap­ture life in the bar­racks, of­fi­cer cadet train­ing in Dunbar along with his ex­pe­ri­ences of com­mand­ing a bat­tal­ion of Gurkhas in In­dia.

Af­ter re­turn­ing home he be­gan film­ing the ski­ing in Scot­land and knocked to­gether two rooms in his Ge­or­gian home in Giffnock, Glas­gow, to cre­ate a 25-seater bal­cony cin­ema.

With red vel­vet chairs, the cin­ema screened more than 400 doc­u­men­taries in­clud­ing shots of skiers be­ing pulled up the hill by snow trucks and the build­ing of the Forth Road Bridge.

“It was a big so­cial thing. He was con­stantly do­ing screen­ings in the cin­ema and get­ting neigh­bours and friends in­volved in some way so that they would en­joy com­ing to watch them­selves in the cin­ema – and he would al­ways serve gin and ton­ics,” Ca­rina added.

Pay­ing ho­mage to Harry’ s work and love for cin­ema, Ca­rina and Matt are search­ing for any­one who may have known the re­mark­able man.

Ca­rina said: “If we don’t do this now those we are try­ing to trace and who could be won­der­ful con­trib­u­tors will be gone.” Matt said :“He wasn’ t mak­ing films for any broad­caster, he was just do­ing it be­cause he loved it and what grabbed me was his unique per­spec­tive.

“I got lost in it. Just count­less hours of me watch­ing these old films, and hope­fully it’s not just me and it gets a lot of in­ter­est from dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

“They won’t know Harry but they will have done sim­i­lar trips to the ones in his films and every­one has a grand­dad and likes hear­ing sto­ries of the olden days.”

Ca­rina and Matt will tour the BBC and Cre­ative Scot­land funded film across Scot­tish cine­mas be­fore it ar­rives on TV.

Harry Bir­rell as a dash­ing young of­fi­cer in the army

Some stills from Harry Bir­rell’s films in­clude scenes of Bri­tain at work, rest and play

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.