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She Blazed a Trail (clip)

The life of Church of Scotland missionary, Mary Slessor

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This biographical documentary made in 1963 examines the life and times of Church of Scotland missionary Mary Slessor. It looks at her lowly origins, her work in Africa and the lives she saved through religion and hospital care. This clip features a dramatic reconstruction of her early life in Aberdeen and Dundee and takes the viewer on a journey to Africa to follow in her footsteps.

Questions & Activities


  • Where might you see Mary Slessar's face every day?
  • How might Mary's background and family circumstances have led her to choosing the life she did?
  • How many different documentary techniques are used to tell Mary's story?
  • Do the reports of Calabar that Mary reads back in Dundee turn out to be true?
  • Did the missions make Africa a better place?


Moving Image Education / Media Studies: What documentary techniques are used to construct this documentary. Research the life of a local personality and plan (and make) a documentary about them using the techniques that you think are most appropriate.

RME: Mary writes in the margin of the bible: "God and one are always a majority". Discuss what Mary meant by this and what this enabled a missionary to do.

Economic History / Geography / Business Studies / Social History / Creative Writing: Research a worker's life in the jute mills of Dundee and write a journal entry of a jute weaver working in one of the mills.

Early Years / Technology: Compare and contrast the two weaving styles shown in Dundee and 'Old Calabar'. Try weaving using different materials in class.

History / Citizenship / International Education / Fair Trade: Analyse how Africa is presented in this film from 1963. Research how people viewed Africans in Victorian times and compare that with how we view African countries today. Tie this into your Fair Trade project and other charitable work in schools, e.g. Child sponsorship, Comic Relief and Make Poverty History.

History / English / Drama: Research and the life and work of Mary Slessor. Create a short piece of creative writing/play detailing her life and why she should be remembered today.

History / Gender: Research which other women and men feature on Scottish banknotes today (Clydesdale, Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland). Briefly research their contribution to society and present your findings in a multimedia presentation / illustrated talk describing their importance to history. Compare how many men feature compared to how many women and present your findings on a graph or chart.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-349-C
Resource Rights Holder Courtesy of the Church of Scotland
Project Ref 4133
Date 1963
Genre Documentary, Drama Doc, Historical, Sponsored
School Subject Religious and Moral Education, Geography, History, English
Subject Matter Citizenship, Tropical Rainforests, International Education
Who Church of Scotland (sponsor), Gateway Films (production company)
Where Aberdeen, Africa, Dundee
Event Working life
Attributes Colour, Sound
Clip Length 10:24
Film Length 30:17
References Dundee City Council - Local History Centre - Mary Slessor Education Scotland - Scotland's History - Mary Slessor The Mary Slessor Foundation