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Seawards the Great Ships (clip 4)

Scotland's First Oscar Winner

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The Oscar-winning documentary about shipbuilding on the Clyde, directed by Hilary Harris from a treatment by John Grierson features artistic and cinematographic camerawork that has inspired many modern documentary filmmakers. This clip talks romantically about the 'birth of a ship' and features footage from the preparations for the launch and the launch of the motor vessel "British Trust" from Scott's shipyard, Greenock.

Questions & Activities


  • How would you describe the tone of the narration and the use of visual and verbal metaphors in this film?
  • How can something made of metal float?
  • Does the film present a positive or negative image of shipbuilding?
  • Why does the big boat need the tugs?
  • What is the atmosphere like at the launch?


Research how long it took to make a ship, the different stages of production, and the number of ships made on the River Clyde each year.

Write a description of the launch from the perspective of one of the workers, spectators or dignitaries. Or write a newspaper report about the launch. Describe the main moments and the ritual of the launch.

Study the forces involved in the launch of a ship and how displacement works to keep a ship afloat. Use footage from this and other ship launches on the Scotland on Screen website to make your own science documentary about the science of ships and shipbuilding.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-275-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 2230
Date 1960
Genre Documentary, Sponsored
School Subject Business Studies, Media Studies, English, Science, Technologies, Geography
Subject Matter Creative Writing, Rivers and Coasts
Who Central Office of Information (sponsor), Clyde Shipbuilders' Association (sponsor), Films of Scotland (sponsor), Hilary Harris (director), John Grierson (writer), Templar Film Studios (production company)
Where River Clyde
Event Heavy Industry
Attributes Colour, Sound
Clip Length 7:04
Film Length 30:00