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The Health of a City (clip 1)

Public health in 1960s Glasgow

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Made to commemorate the centenary of the appointment of the first Medical Officer of Health for Glasgow, this film highlights their work in housing, schools and hospitals. There is no formal screen credit to Director, but the Films of Scotland production file refers to Derek Williams as director and creator of the original treatment and script. John Grierson acted as unpaid associate producer and took an active role in the final shape of the film. He had strong and critical views on what he held to be the grim and pessimistic portrayal of the city in the original cut, and proposed post production cuts and changes to the film render it more optimistic and to give a more positive image of the city, changes which did not always sit well with Williams. This clip talks about the history and development of Glasgow as an industrial and commercial centre. It shows shots of slums and Glasgow's innovative water supply system.

Questions & Activities


  • How do the opening shots influence the mood of this film?
  • Why have they chosen to use shots of children?
  • What sounds help bring the still photographs alive?
  • Who would this film have been made for and why?
  • Which major changes in public health provision does this film focus on?
  • What does the film suggest is at the "root of all sanitary reform"?


Research the causes of disease in Nineteenth Century cities and the different causes of death and disease. Look at the changing statistics and investigate whether the claims made in this clip for how disease was combatted are true.

Research which diseases still present a problem in the modern city. Investigate the causes and pathology of these diseases and try to evaluate the different measures used to combat them. You may also want to research the role and activities of modern public health workers. Who are they, what are their qualifications, what resources do they have at their disposal and how are their efforts co-ordinated.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-297-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 2241
Date 1965
Genre Documentary, Sponsored, Educational
School Subject Health and Wellbeing, Social Studies, Biology, Geography, Sciences
Subject Matter Political Literacy
Who Derek Williams (director), Films of Scotland (sponsor), Glasgow Corporation (sponsor), John Grierson (associate producer), Templar Film Studios (production company)
Where Glasgow
Event Appointment of Medical Officer
Attributes Black and White, Sound
Clip Length 6:24
Film Length 26:00