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The Health of a City (clip 3)

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 features elderly people reminiscing and talking about young people; homes for the elderly; maternity and child welfare and shots of young mothers being taught how to look after their babies; medical examinations at school and day nurseries for those children missing parents; shots of children climbing ropes and exercising in the gym.

Questions & Activities


  • Why do old people say the same things about young people today?
  • In 1904 how many young children per thousand died in a year?
  • Why did children's height vary so much between households?
  • Are these differences still the same today?
  • Which public health initiatives are schools till involved in today?


We know that this film was substantially re-edited by John Grierson to present a more positive vision of the city. Download the footage and re-edit it to focus more on problems than solutions. Ask why more is not being done. To do this you may want to research mortality figures from the 1960s and the reasons why people continue to die.

Make an updated public health film that looks at the medical problems we face (both physical and psychological) today in the deprived areas of our towns and cities.

Using this film as a starting point, research and write a feature article about the health issues facing your town and what efforts are being made to tackle them by local or national government. Could more be done? And if so, what?

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-301-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 2241
Date 1965
Genre Documentary, Sponsored
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 9:14
Film Length 26:00