Video: Rare footage of Edinburgh in the 1930s

A rare piece of footage showcasing Edinburgh life in the 1930s has proved a big hit online.

Produced as a short film by director Marion Grierson, who ran the film unit of the UK tourist board in the 1930s, the footage was intended to attract would-be visitors to Scotland’s Capital and would have been shown to British cinema audiences nationwide.

Having lain undisturbed for more than 70 years, the footage has now been made available to a global audience as part of an ambitious drive to digitise more than 10,000 titles selected from the BFI’s National Archives.

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The footage has proved to be a bit hit online. Picture: Edinburgh (1934), BFI National Archive

The film features a number of street scenes, with the economic contrast between the Capital’s Old and New Towns visibly greater than it is today.

Humble fish wives and local school children fill the cramped and dilapidated-looking closes of Edinburgh’s High Street, while on the other side of the ‘Nor’ Loch’ divide we catch a glimpse of fashionably-attired ladies and gents dodging double-decker trams and automobiles.

Edinburgh, Castle, St Giles Cathedral and John Knox House are among the familiar landmarks that look a little odd in their antiquated surroundings.

The footage has proved to be a bit hit online. Picture: Edinburgh (1934), BFI National Archive

Since going live last month, the footage has been viewed more than 600,000 times on Facebook alone, attracting 7,000 reactions and almost 8,000 shares.

Ros Cranston, Curator at the BFI National Archive, explained that the Edinburgh film was one of Marion Grierson’s earliest and most fascinating works.

“Edinburgh was one of her earliest films, released in 1934, and is a silent film. Her films beautifully combine visual - and later sound - techniques with wit and penetrating observation.

“It’s a fascinating record of changing urban life in Edinburgh – I love the street scenes in particular, from the hats people wear to the expressions on their faces as they go about daily life. There are facets of Edinburgh life which have disappeared and others which are new – such as changing modes of transport. Everyone will notice different things in the film.”

The BFI National Archive holds a number of films of Edinburgh and other locations in Scotland across the decades. Many of them are now digitised and can be viewed here.

The full 10 minute version of Marion Grierson’s Edinburgh film can be viewed here.