CAORA MOR BIG SHEEP, the

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Places:

  • Orkney Islands
  • Sutherland

Subjects:

  • Politics
  • Tourism and travel
  • Agriculture

Genres:

  • Experimental
  • Women film makers

People/organisations:

  • TAIT, Margaret

Decade:

  • 1960s

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1964 | bw | sound

Related biographies

Please read Understanding catalogue records for help interpreting this information and Using footage for more information about accessing this film.

Overall rating:

Title: CAORA MOR BIG SHEEP, the

Reference number: 3701

Date: 1966

Director: d. Margaret Tait

Production company: Ancona Films

Sound: sound

Original format: 16mm

Colour: bw

Fiction: fiction

Running time: 41.02 mins

Description: A picture of East Sutherland in 1966.

Margaret Tait said of this film: "A picture of East Sutherland in 1966. Tourists come north, coach-load after coach-load; and here is the countryside they come to see, dotted with sheep continually nibbling at grass and whin. Then the lamb sales, an open-air auction, after which the lambs are carried south, float after float. Vote, vote, vote, on the posters for a general election, but " Why don't you get your sheep to go and fight for you ? " echoes a voice from the past, at the sight of a recruiting poster at the local Drill Hall. In the glens stand stand roofless houses, as well as more ancient (prehistoric) remains, beside the Highland river.

PART TWO and the seaboard life of today; the railway line along the very edge of that marvellous strip of coast, school sports near the salmon river, crofter's fields where the Cheviot sheep now figure, local buses, electricity, the Highland Games and pibroch contest. Then John N MacAskill plays the "Lament for Donald of Laggan", while a small burn tumbles endlessly seaward, sometimes quietly, sometimes spate, and the film searches the same few yards of it again and again, watching along with the coalman who stands listening to the sound of it as if he could listen to it for ever."

See also Additional Information file at 11/1/455. Paper Archives 4/5/119, 4/11/651, 4/5/92.

The Gaelic is incorrect in the title as written. It should be 'Na Caoraich Mhora'.

The Tait papers are deposited in Orkney Archives. Currently being catalogued. For any enquiries please contact Principal Archivist.

More overtly political, The Big Sheep (1966) describes the landscape of East Sutherland where she practised for a period in the 60s, which was the site of the savage 'clearance' of local crofters by English landlords in the 19th century; now populated by sheep and occasional tourist buses. [Source: taken from an online resource. No longer available. 3/4/2008]
The British Artist's Film and Video Study Collection at http://www.bftv.ac.uk/avantgarde based at Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design holds an artist's file on Margaret Tait.

The British Film Institute National Library http://www.bfi.org.uk holds many of the published articles on her and her work.

In 1979 Margaret Tait was the subject of a BBC Scotland 'Spectrum' arts programme.

Credits: Ancona Films presents Caora Mor The Big Sheep
medley for bagpipes and pibroch [Lament for Donald of Laggan] played by John N. MacCaskill
sc., camera ed. and ed. Margaret Tait
p. Alex Pirie
[m. Trevor Duncan and Monia Liter - Boosey and Hawkes Recordings
sd. rec. Park Film Studios]

Shotlist: opening credits and title (0.19) gvs coastal road traffic in Sutherland including coaches filled with tourists bound for such destinations as 'John O'Groats' or 'Scottish Highlands', shot of car and caravan (1.21) brief shot workmen on road, holding shovels, construction truck passes slowly - possibly towing cement mixer (?) (1.27) gvs tourist buses driving along country roads, cars and caravans in the rain (2.59) shot of sheep grazing, intercut with pans showing landscape, burn and broom, sheep and lambs running about (4.35) lamb suckling its mother (4.55) lambs running about field (5.11) sheep grazing [fast editing] (6.05) sheep are unloaded from lorry and into pen, gvs crowds of male farmers, most are smoking (6.37) gvs open air auction and pens filled with sheep (6.55) unloading the lambs using a wooden walkway, rounding up lambs, gvs farmers standing about (7.43) gvs livestock auction outdoors, including shots of sheep being shooed into pens (10.04) small boys play chases inside sheep pen (10.14) gvs auction, intercut boys playing, there is a small black sheep in among them (11.02) gvs as lorry loads of sheep depart, some of the businesses carrying livestock include 'James Coutts & Son' , 'F&F Moffat' , 'Armstrongs' , 'Redpath Broths Ltd, Livestock Transporter, Wooler', 'S A MacArthur, Livestock Carrier, Nairn - these trucks pass a bus bound for Helmsdale (13.01) c/u poster on tree reading 'Vote MacLennan', shot of pamphlet disintegrating under water reading 'A Liberal Policy to Set the Pace, Mackie', shot of water in burn trickling along (13.36) c/u poster reading 'The Life for a Man of Action with the Queens Own Highlanders' [soundtrack cynically commenting 'Why don't you get your sheep to go and fight for you?'] (13.48) gvs river and pan over to lingering shot empty stone cottages, sheep come out of derelict doorway, ints empty cottage with c/u graffiti that reads 'Donald', gvs highland fields and glen as seen from window - some random rubbish, the sequence ends with camera looking into a cubby hole of stone [the screen fades to black] (16.54) c/u waves lapping on shore PART TWO (17.29) tracking shot from train as it runs along North East coast line (18.43) muddled c/u ground, lifting to reveal gvs stone ruins (18.59) stony beach, pan up to follow train travelling alongside beach (19.31) c/u waves lapping on shore, rockpools and seaweed (20.10) river and surrounding landscape, there are (salmon?) fishermen in shot at start (21.06) gsv outdoor school sports day, girls perform long jump, race on hands and knees, children gather at prizegiving table (22.11) gvs high jump, sack race, egg and spoon race, relay race (23.53) boys pillow fight balancing precariously on wooden trunk, gvs tossing caber (24.23) lone bagpiper participates in pibroch competition, gvs hammer throwing, Highland Dancing display circuit cycling, men saw wooden caber in foreground towards end of sequence (25.48) gvs tossing the caber (26.40) massed pipes and drums (27.14) throwing metal ball over post, the height is then adjusted, shot putt (28.30) gvs Highland Games, bagpiper plays pibroch on platform [John N MacAskill plays the "Lament for Donald of Laggan"], judges listen, gvs playpark and crowds, gvs children playing on swing, a girl puts out chicken feed in troughs and the birds come running (30.02) looking out of window at broom covered hillside, c/u young rabbit and a small butterfly on rock , c/u dragonfly, grass (31.04) a small child and adult feed milk to thirsty lamb using bottle (31.39) gvs sheep on hillside (32.32) iron bedhead left beside road, gvs bedraggled field, a makeshift hut at side of road (32.55) more gvs sheep, open fields and finishing with pan to makeshift hut (33.48) gvs tourist buses on road (33.57) exts croft and electricity pylons (34.14) ints croft, lady feeds meter, coal fire heats stove, a kettle is put on hot plates (34.31) men carry bags of coal on backs and unload in store at croft, the coalman then walks along and stops to gaze at burn in garden, gvs burn running over rocks [much c/u] (40.34) ecs (40.58) [picture ends but sound continues] (41.02)