The Western Isles

About the film

A snapshot of life in the Outer Hebrides, The Western Isles shows the traditional manufacture of Harris Tweed and the dramatic homecoming of shipwrecked sailors.

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  • Release year - 1941
  • Director - Terence Egan Bishop
  • Production company - Merton Park
  • Screenplay - Terence Egan Bishop
  • Cinematographer - Jack Cardiff
  • Composer - William Alwyn
  • Editor - C. Beaumont
  • Sound recording - Charles Tasto
  • Performers - Bean Ailein (The Mother), Somhaisle Mac ’Ille Mhoire (The Father), Ian Mac Néill Ghiolais (The Son), Kitty Macleod (Caitriòna Nicleòid) (The Daughter)
  • Running time (minutes) - 14 mins 19 secs

Original description

The story of Harris Tweed during the war

'Off the Atlantic coast of Scotland lie the Outer Hebrides. The film records the courage and endurance of the islanders. For centuries these fishermen, farmers and weavers of Harris Tweed have fought Atlantic gales. The return of survivors from a torpedoed ship is shown.'

(Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1942-43)

Did you know?

  • The sinking of the Atlantic Queen and the survival of its crew is supposedly based off a real series of events where the S.S. Richmond Castle was torpedoed in the Atlantic Ocean, and crewman Angus Murray led the survivors return to the UK in a lifeboat. Curiously, however, the sinking of the S.S. Richmond Castle occurred in August 1942, after The Western Isles was released.
  • Severe bad weather hampered the initial filming of The Western Isles, and extra funding was required to account for this.
  • In December 1941, the Ministry of Information stated that The Western Isles should not be distributed abroad, as it was counteractive to war effort. The Minister of Information, Brendan Bracken, personally wrote to the British Council, claiming that the film was living proof of statements that "the British are frivolous, or that they are fighting the war to perpetuate a way of living long since outmoded, or that they have lost the intellectual, moral and industrial lead which they once held." The British Council distributed the film nonetheless.

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