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The Health of a City (clip 2)

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 held in the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive 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 reveals a day in the life of 1960s Glasgow and the health issues facing the public health authorities. Shots include: the Clyde Docklands; meat and fish markets; a laboratory; nurses and midwives; supermarket shopping; chimneys belting out smoke across the city; details of the 1957 'Mass X-Ray Campaign' in the UK which led to the drop in the incidence of TB (tuberculosis); Kelvingrove Park, the fair at Glasgow Green; a blind man walking across a bridge and a social group for blind people; beggers in the street; dances at the Barrowlands and a restaurant.

Questions & Activities


  • Who was this made for and why?
  • How are men and women shown in different ways in this film?
  • How many different types of health problems are identified in the film? Which developments shown in the film do you think have improved health?
  • How are the beggars in the film presented. Is begging still a problem?
  • How is the scientific activity in the film shot to create the impression of advanced technology?
  • What different types of housing do you see in the film?


Research what caused tuberculosis (a.k.a. TB), how it spread and how it was and is still treated?

How do X-Rays work?

Compare the health campaign presented in the film with, for example, the government Swine Flu campaign. Design your own public health campaign (e.g. handwashing, healthy eating, AIDS).

Look for examples of bias and exaggeration in the film.

Discuss how place is represented in the film.

Read Edward Morgan's poems 'Glasgow Green', "Glasgow Sonnet' and 'In the Snack Bar', then compare these to the film's presentation of life in Glasgow.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-299-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 2241
Date 1965
Genre Documentary, Sponsored
School Subject Health and Wellbeing, Media Studies, English, Technologies, Science
Who Derek Williams (director), Films of Scotland (sponsor), Glasgow Corporation (sponsor), John Grierson (associate producer), Templar Film Studios (production company)
Where Glasgow
Attributes Black and White, Sound
Clip Length 8:28
Film Length 26:00