More than 30 people showed up for the The Saltire Society's annual Scottish Film Festival on November 28th at the Woody Tanger Auditorium of Brooklyn College's LaGuardia Library. The event, cosponsored by the Brooklyn College Film department is now in its 8th year,

Woody Tanger Auditorium

The Woody Tanger Auditorium

The evening was presided over by Prof. John Beatty of the Brooklyn College film department and current president of the New York branch of the Saltire Society.

The discussion dealt with the romantic depiction of Scotland in film, something which is rejected by many and approved of by others. The two films shown, I Know Where I'm Going! and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie are certainly not the "hyper-Romantic" films like the 1954 American made Brigadoon.

Michael Powel and Emric Pressburger's I Know Where I'm Going (1945) with Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey revolves around a woman's interest in marrying an industrial magnate who has rented an island in Scotland and is romantically waylaid by storms on her way to her wedding. Because of the delay she encounters a Scottish soldier also trying to reach the island and as that relationship grows the environmental forces become more and more turbulent climaxing a dramatic scene at the Corryvreckan - the huge whirlpool off the coast of the islands of Jura and Scarba. Of note in the film are the remarkable shots of the ceilidh and the Scottish countryside.

Ronald Neame's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) with Maggie Smith deals with a highly unorthodox school teacher in an very conservative girl's school in 1930's Edinburgh. The film deals with her involvements with both her students and the men in her life. The role won Maggie Smith an Academy Award for her portrayal of the remarkable teacher.

The talk dealt with the depiction of Scotland from without and within. I Know Where I'm Going! takes an outsider's look at Scotland, depicting the Highlands replete with a curse, kilts, pipers, a really beautifully filmed ceilidh, the wild scenery of the Western Isles and the Spirit of the highlands depicted by a wild Diana-like huntress. We get to hear a few snatched of Gaelic as well. While none of these things is out of place in the Western Isles (of then or now) but the inclusion of them as a representation of Scotland is what gives the film its romantic bent. The natural forces mimic the internal turbulent state of the lead character, Joan, who "knows where she is going" (or does she?), culminating in a terrifying boat trip on a storm swept sea near the thundering whirlpool known as Corryvrekan. Her ultimate "redemption" and rejection of the urban through contact with the mystical mist shrouded Highland is typical of this kind of film. Despite its heavily romanticized view of the impoverished Highlands during WWII, the film has enormous power and beauty.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, written by Edinburgh born Murial Spark is not set in the wild Highlands, but rather in the cultured urban center of Edinburgh. In the film Jean Brodie romanticizes many things from Scottish history to the more contemporary world of 1932. She is a magnificent teacher able to inspire her students and link aspects of the curriculum to life itself. Her discussion of her lover's death in Flanders interwoven with lines of Burns' poetry is classic. What is questionable is that she seems to have little understanding of world (The Egyptians do "not believe in God but in Allah"). Her exhortation of her students to political positions (she favors Franco and Mussolini) lead to problems. It is possible to see Brodie as symbolic of the person who romanticizes Scotland and in effect embodies the tartanry position. Parallels with Dead Poets Society are inevitable.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie        I Know Where I'm Going

For information on the Saltire Society (in Scotland) you can comsult their web iste:

For further information about the New York branch, their web site is



Pictish Art Pamphlet

The pamphlet “Pictish Art” was written by W. MacLean © 1969 with illustrations by the author. It was printed by John G, Eccles Longman, Inverness and was published by An Comunn Gàidhealach with whose kind permission we publish it here.

These pamphlets have been scanned and therefore are large image files.

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