This evocative and transporting film, only recently rediscovered after nearly fifty years, is a half hour documentary made by students from the University College London Film & Television Society. The film was shot in December 1972 and edited the following year. The film features Isaac Moar, Mary Ritch, Jack Rendall and Tommy Moar who are interviewed about life in Hoy. Several other islanders appear in the film including Basil and Maisie Groat with children Angela and Charlotte, Euan and Errol Mackay, Jack Spence and his grandchildren Brenda and Paul, Eric and Leslie Sinclair, Alec Robb, and sisters Alice and Jeannie Nicholson. The old Hoy Head is seen calling at Moaness Pier with Albert Kirkpatrick, Andy Sutherland and Davey Learnmonth on board.
The film came to light after one of the sound recordists on the student crew, Peter Shirley, made a return visit to Orkney in 2021, his first trip back since the film was made.
Peter shared his recollections of his first journey to Hoy in 1972: ‘The crossing over to Stromness on the old St. Ola was on its first sailing for several days, having been unable to venture out because of the stormy late December weather. That boat corkscrewed through the very heavy seas. I think that is what we see in the middle distance in the film’s opening sequence, but from the land, of course. Then there was the friendliness and welcome of the folk on Hoy. Our activities were pretty much confined to the North Parish. We were met on arrival after crossing over from Stromness on Ginger’s boat, by Isaac Moar, who couldn’t have been more helpful.
Another memory was being invited to a Hogmanay party at the big farmhouse. Some of us were walking over from Rackwick that afternoon and a small van stopped and asked if we wanted a lift back to our hostel. Burdened, as we were with equipment, we of course said yes, and were shown into the back of the van which was crammed full with crates of whisky. “It’s for tonight’s party” was the explanation. And so it turned out. Somehow, after seeing in the New Year at the farmhouse, we managed to find our way over to the Dwarfie Stane, where I fell asleep inside it.
I especially recall going to Rackwick and meeting Jack Rendall in his house. Such a quiet and thoughtful man, at that time the only person left living in Rackwick. So good to know now how his life improved and that he married. The other filming memory was how little daylight we had at that time of year and that we really had to work hard in the few hours each day when there was light enough to film’.
Peter contacted film archivist Robert Coren who liaised with the current UCL Film Society Archive and made an enhanced digital copy of the film and secured the permissions for it to be able to be shared by the Hoy Heritage Centre.
The film’s producer and editor Phillip Normington plans to come to Hoy in Spring 2022 to attend the premiere of the film. It was shown as film rushes to the islanders in 1973 but the finished film has not been shown in Orkney. Phillip said ‘It’s been positively heart-warming to hear from Peter Shirley about how much interest there’s been in our film about Hoy. It’s been lingering in an archive for many years and I often wondered if it would ever be seen again.’
Hoy Heritage Centre would like to thank UCL Film Society Archive for allowing us to share the film, and to Peter Shirley for bringing the film home aided by Tourist Guide Pat Long, Phillip Normington and film archivist Robert Coren.
The film was directed by Marie Hoy. Intriguing.