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A Crofter's Life in Shetland (clip 5)

A Crofter's Wife

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An early documentary by filmmaker Jenny Gilbertson, one of Scotland's film pioneers. It records a traditional way of life which was about to disappear for ever and captures the annual farming year of the crofting communities of the Shetland Isles. The film features the islanders at work on their crofts, gathering peat, fishing and the celebrations during the "Up Helly Aa" festival. In this clip we see the daily life of a crofter's wife: sewing, washing outside and collecting peat. Look carefully to see her knitting whilst carrying a peat basket on her back.

Questions & Activities


  • What is crofting?
  • What is the woman doing? How old do you think she is?
  • What do you notice about the landscape and weather conditions?
  • What do you think the woman is saying to the filmmaker?
  • Why is peat important to the crofting community?
  • Discuss the level of hardship experienced by this women
  • Can you observe any risk to her health from the activities she is engaged in?


Make a list of all the tasks the crofter's wife does.

Research the roles played by women in the crofting community.

Research Shetland wool and knitting patterns. What other fabrics and textiles is Scotland famous for?

Research the songs that the women sang whilst walking and find out what this means.

Investigate weaving and knitting methods and create your own simple pattern using paper, wool or other materials.

Construct a storyboard for part of the film. As you do this, notice camera angles and composition.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-175-C
Resource Rights Holder Courtesy of The Gilbertson Family
Project Ref 0981
Date 1931
Genre Documentary, Amateur, Women Filmmakers
School Subject Economic History, Social History, Geography
Subject Matter Rivers and Coasts
Who Jenny Gilbertson (director)
Where Shetland
Event Home life
Attributes Black and White, Silent
Clip Length 2:49
Film Length 46:00