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Miserable Strangers

song from the feature documentary 'From Scotland with Love'

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The song 'Miserable Strangers' is taken from the archive film 'From Scotland With Love', a 75-minute film from Director Virginia Heath with a score by Scottish musician and composer King Creosote. Made entirely from films from the National Library of Scotland's Moving Image Archive, 'From Scotland with Love' is journey into Scotland's collective past.

The film explores universal themes of love, loss, resistance, migration, work and play. Ordinary people, some long since dead, their names and identities largely forgotten, appear shimmering from the depth of the vaults to take a starring role. Brilliantly edited together, these silent individuals become composite characters, who emerge to tell us their stories, given voice by King Creosote’s poetic music and lyrics.

The film was produced by Faction North, Crossover, National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive in association with BBC Scotland and Creative Scotland.

Logged-in users can watch the whole film in our new Screening Room facility by following the link on this page.

Questions & Activities


Why are they "miserable strangers?"

Why did so many people leave Scotland?

Why is the grandmother coming?

How much did the trip cost as a percentage of annual income?

How did families stay in contact in the past?

Why do people come to Scotland today?


Research how many people emigrated from Scotland between the 1600s and 2000s and make a graph or bar chart that shows how the numbers have changed over time. Research the various reasons why people emigrated and try to determine whether the reasons have changed. How many waves of emigration were there?

How many places in America and Canada are named after places in Scotland? Can you find the name of towns in your area in another country?

Discuss in class how many students have relatives who emigrated from Scotland or immigrated to Scotland.

Research immigration into Scotland and plot a similar graph or bar chart showing how the numbers have changed over time and produce a pie chart showing where most immigrants have come from. Discuss why some people think that people SHOULD and SHOULD come to Scotland today. Debate this in class.

Reading exercise:

Practice reading the lyrics as a poem.
Discuss what types of images you'd use if you were to set the 'poem' to archive images - and try to storyboard each line. Then watch the visuals to the song with the sound turned down.
Now read the lyrics out loud to the images from the song.
Finally watch the song as it was recorded.

NB. To hear the filmmakers talk about the making of ‘Miserable Strangers’ follow the link to 'Dreaming Without Sleeping - the Making of 'From Scotland with Love' – 00:31:15 - 00:32:31

Lyrics to the song 'Miserable Strangers' by King Creosote:

I'm done with being brave
And oh how we slaved to pave our way
And only to be dropped upon this quay
And only to be press-ganged overseas

Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end
And these miserable strangers will be the making of our friends
They've been dropped upon this quay
Just the same as you and me

With each step forward there's two looks back
Are you so bewildered inside
But you know we'll have the new life that we talked of loud and proud
Hack them high and hold them dear

For we'll soon forget these faces in the crowd blurred by our tears
And yet we'll miss them year on year
So let's pull ourselves together like the others
We'll throw our hats into the air
And try to raise a hearty cheer

And at the back of my mind and I was always hoping I might just get back
At the back of my mind and I was always hoping I might just get back
Always hope that I might just get back
At the back of my mind I was always hoping I might just get back
At the back of my mind I was always hoping I might just get back
Always hoping that I might just get back
Always hoping that I might just get back