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Orkney 1959 (clip)

A trip round Orkney by car

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An amateur film of a trip around Orkney by car much of which is filmed from a moving vehicle. The film has the effect of a Phantom Ride from the point of view of the driver. This clip includes shots a car being loaded onto the ferry at Scrabster Pier; Stromness - driving through narrow streets; landscape and coastline scenary; Ring o' Brodgar standing stones; shots travelling through the main street at Finstown; a ruined cottage with a woman with a pram and children. Driving through Kirkwall and then on to Skara Brae where men are seen cutting the grass. General shots of Kirkwall. The car crossing the Churchill Barriers with views of the First World War blockships that were sunk to prevent entry to Scapa Flow. Exterior and interior shots of the Italian Chapel. Swans with signets. The Broch of Gurness and then ruins of a Second World War coastal watch post at Yesnaby.

Questions & Activities


  • Why do you the filmmaker made this film?
  • Would this film make you want to visit Orkney? Why?
  • What places can you spot that he travels to or through?
  • Why were the Churchill Barriers built and who built them?
  • Who built the Italian Chapel and why?
  • How does the effect of filmming from the car make you feel?
  • The remains of the military buildings on Orkney are part of history in the same way that the Broch of Gurness is. Why do you think the wartime ruins should be protected?


English / Geography: Make a list of all the historic sites visited. Plot these on a map and try to idenfity the route taken.

Debate: Orkney's wartime ruins should be preserved and accessible. Debate for and against.

History / Second World War: Find out who built the Churchill Barriers and why they were built? Why did they also build the Italian Chapel?

Home Front: What other films do you know about prisoners of war involved in civil engineering for the enemy. Discuss whether it is ethical to use prisoners of war as labourers.

Media Studies / Social History: In the early days of film, early filmmakers would also shoot films from moving vehicles - these were called Phantom Rides. Have a look at the other Phantom Ride film on this website (Glasgow Trams 1902) and compare and contrast with this film of Orkney from 1959. Do you think this is an effective way of making films?

Media Studies / Music / English: Create a soundtrack for the film (this could be a 'soundscape' based around ambient sounds, or a narrating voice over).

Media Studies: Some of the shots in this film seem out of order. Re-edit the film putting the shots in the correct order for a continuous journey.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-002-531-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 7348
Date 1959
Genre Amateur
School Subject English, Geography, History, Social Studies, Media Studies, Music
Subject Matter World War 1, World War 2, Conflict, Tourism
Who James Anderson (filmmaker)
Where Orkney
Attributes Colour, Silent
Clip Length 10:34
Film Length 21:32