Film footage from bygone era shown to audiences in the Western Isles

Footage shedding light on island life between 1977 and 1981 is to be screened at community venues.

Previously unseen footage of the Western Isles from more than 40 years ago has been shown to local audiences for the first time.

The Cinema Sgìre project created hundreds of hours of film between 1977 and 1981, mainly on Uist and Barra, with the aim of putting islanders at the heart of their own video content.

Because of technical issues the half inch tape was stashed under a bench then latterly a school for more than 40 years.

However over the last two years, much of the footage has been digitised and shown to local audiences in South Uist.

Father Colin MacInnes was involved with filming and interviewing when the project initially started.

He said: “I got a very quick lesson on which button to press.

“Then I went to South Uist to film with scholar Ishbel Macdonald and filmed with her in that rather picturesque setting and the council loved it!”

The footage shows scenes of everyday life at the time from children playing on school field trips, to fishing, crofting and even a royal visit to Stornoway from Her Majesty the Queen in 1979.

Mary McInnes also took part in the 1970s and remembers the opening of Lochdar Hall.

She said: “The scissors we used to cut the ribbon by the door also had to have a ribbon on them and we bought special scissors for that!

“We had to persuade people to be filmed, but it was fun and now we have this amazing archive.”

One of the founding members of Cinema Sgìre was former cameraman-turned-politician, Michael Russell.

He said: “When we began looking through the film one of the first thing I saw was my wedding to Cathleen, which was filmed as part of the project.

“This project was really about expressing the views and the creativity of Island life and to have footage in Gaelic for Gaelic speakers.”

Despite the passage of time, those behind the project believe the scenes will resonate with islanders.

Mike Russell added: “People are really keen to see what they looked like then.

“But I actually think people will want to look at the issues they confronted then and whether those issues have been resolved like the issues of depopulation for example.”

Preserving a part of history through film, the archive will go on tour across the isles over the coming months.

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