Seawards the Great Ships

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Original title Seawards the Great Ships
Country of production United Kingdom
original language English
Publishing year 1960
length 29 minutes
Director Hilary Harris
script Cliff Hanley
John Grierson
music Iain Hamilton

Seawards the Great Ships is a British documentary - short film by Hilary Harris from 1960. He focuses on the shipbuilding industry on the Clyde in Scotland .


The film begins with the launching of several large ships such as the British Queen and Jamaica Planter . This is followed by annotated landscape photos of the Clyde and the surrounding area, emphasizing the importance of shipbuilding there. The film introduces different types of ships that are being built in the region. The heavy industry is mentioned. This is followed by shots of Glasgow , trains delivering steel, scenes from steel production and workers in a shipyard.

The focus of the film is the manufacturing process of a ship. First, the tasks of ship architects in a design office are examined in more detail. The focus changes several times to workers at various machines that process steel into ship parts. The design of ships with diagrams and testing using ship models in a test basin are also shown, followed by the assembly of the individual ship parts in the prefabrication and the transport of the parts onto the stacks. There follows a scene with shipyard workers having a (posed) dialogue during their break. Afterwards, the final assembly of a new ship is shown, the dismantling of the wood piles and finally the christening and launching of the British Trust . Necessary reworking on board the ship and the first departure from port follow.

Finally, the commentator reports on the possible areas of application for the ships built on the Clyde.


The making of the film Seawards the Great Ships , which portrays shipbuilding on the Clyde very positively, coincides with a time when the economic downturn in the shipping industry in this region had actually begun. The short documentary was funded by the business organization Clyde Shipbuilders' Association, the Films of Scotland Committee and the UK Central Office of Information. Among other things, the Clyde Shipbuilders Association made it a condition of sponsorship that recognition should be given to the entire location, not just individual companies. Therefore, footage was taken from all 23 shipyards on the Clyde. The shooting took a total of two years.

The film was produced by Templar Film Studios from Glasgow. John Grierson wrote the treatment for Seawards the Great Ships and chose the young American Hilary Harris (1929–1999) as director, whose mostly experimental work he had previously seen at festivals. Cliff Hanley wrote the commentary on the film, which was read by Scottish actor Bryden Murdoch in his native dialect and in English by Kenneth Kendall . In total it was translated into twelve languages. The dialogues from shipyard work also follow a script. As a cameraman, Bob Riddell-Black (1919-2002) may have worked on Seawards the Great Ships . The film achieves a special aesthetic through some abstract to surreal camera shots made of angles and shadows, which when assembled together make the depicted machines and metal parts appear as a kind of art.

After completion, the short film was sold along with the drama Once a Hero , which was also released in 1960 . Its premiere took place on May 1, 1960 in Glasgow. Then Seawards the Great Ships ran at various film festivals and received several awards. In 1961 he was nominated for a BAFTA Award . In 1962 he won an Oscar in the Best Short Film category . It was the first Oscar for a film made by Scottish filmmakers.

The British Film Institute distributes Seawards the Great Ships on the two-part DVD compilation Tales from the Shipyard .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Seawards the Great Ships (1960) Retrieved January 17, 2015.
  2. Jack C. Ellis: John Grierson: Life, Contributions, Influence. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale 2000, ISBN 0-8093-2242-0 , p. 309.
  3. a b Full record for 'Seawards the Great Ships' Scottish Screen Archive. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  4. ^ A b Ian Aitken: The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film. Routledge, 2013, ISBN 978-1-136-51206-3 , p. 820.
  5. Short Film in 1961 Retrieved January 23, 2015.