AN amateur filmmaker who spent his life recording the world around him – and showed the movies in a cinema at his home – will star in a new screening this month.

Harry Birrell was given his first cine-camera as a boy in 1928 and, over the subsequent decades, was constantly filming.

There are scenes from his childhood in pre-war Paisley and family holidays to Arran, his college years and early romances in London and Army adventures in Bombay and Burma.
Harry later settled in Giffnock, but the filming never stopped.

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Now a documentary has been assembled from his collection of 400 film reels and personal diaries.

Narrated by Elderslie actor Richard Madden, it captures one man’s cinematic vision of the 20th century and his own journey through it.

For director Matt Pinder, the project began four years ago, while he was working on a BBC series about the history of home movies in Scotland.

He said: “During the research, I kept coming across the name Harry Birrell, who I was told filmed absolutely everything.

“I managed to track down his granddaughter and was introduced to the garden shed where he kept over 400 reels of film.

“The more we uncovered, the more exciting it became. It’s an unconscious history of the world through his eyes that captures incredible moments in history but in a very different way to a commercial archive.”

For Harry’s granddaughter Carina, now an actor, the new film delivers on a long-held dream to help her grandfather’s work reach a wider audience.

She said: “I wanted to do something that would pay homage to him first and foremost but that would also make his archive more accessible.

“I was very young when he died but I remember going to the cinema he built in his house in Mansewood Road and watching films he’d made and thinking it was all very magical.
“I hope others will feel the same way.”

Harry Birrell: Films of Love and War will be shown at the GFT, as part of the Glasgow Film Festival, on Sunday, February 24, and Monday, February 25. For more details, visit