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A Sermon in Stone (clip 1)

The restoration of Iona Abbey

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A 'hip' 1960s documentary with pithy narration that tells the story of the origins of the Iona Community in Glasgow in the 1930s and the restoration of Iona Abbey. This film commences by bemoaning the secular nature of society in the 1930s and the need to bring humanity and spiritualism back to Glaswegian society. The answer they came up with was first to found the Iona Community in Glasgow, then recruit men and women to rebuild Iona Abbey with the support of shipbuilder James Lithgow. This first clip documents the challenges faced by ministers and stonemasons in rebuilding the Abbey. Notable shots from this clip include: streets and back closes in Glasgow in the 1960s; workforce leaving Fairfield's yard, Govan; a mass meeting of trade unionists in the 1930s; shot of a union march in the 1930s; cemetery in parish of Govan, with c/u details of gravestones; a betting shop with drunken young man swaying in the doorway; children playing in back courts; a ruined building in country, converted to camp site for city dwellers by volunteers; a waterwheel; a seagull; sea spray; shots of Iona Abbey from boat; shot of boat in 1938; unloading material for the first huts for the workers involved in the restoration of the Abbey; stonemasons rebuilding the Abbey; boats are unloaded; salvaging jettisoned cargo from Mull in 1946; and unloading a donation of Norwegian timber in 1950.

Questions & Activities


  • How many patterns can you see in the film?
  • Why do you think the filmmakers used both black and white film and colour?
  • What do you notice about the sound and the voice over?
  • What is a sermon?
  • Do you think the Jazz music is appropriate to the film?
  • Why do they have a skull and crossbones on the gravestones?
  • What is a farrier?
  • How have children'€™s pastimes changed since then?
  • What was the graffiti made of and why is this?
  • How many contrasts can you see? (urban/rural)
  • Why did they have to pay for the dentist?


What is a sermon?

List the patterns you can see in the film and how are they used.

How many metaphors for stone can you identify in the film?

What building materials were used and why?

Write the story form the perspective of one of the volunteers or the islander.

Research Iona and the Iona Community.

John Smith was buried on Iona - research who John Smith was, his life and work.

Which religions are connected to the Scottish islands and why?

Visit Govan church and look at the headstones.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-002-067-C
Resource Rights Holder Courtesy of The Iona Community / National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 0473
Date 1966
Genre Documentary
School Subject Religious and Moral Education, Art and Design, English, Politics
Who Lord Macleod of Fuinary (Narrator)
Where Govan, Iona
Event Construction, Building
Attributes Black and White, Colour, Sound
Clip Length 7:23
Film Length 34:13