Richard Catlow (Editor Burnley Express & News
In years to come, when people look back on 20th century Burnley,
I believe Sam Hanna will stand out as the outstanding figure
of the age.
History makes famous those who were ahead of their time and,
just as much as a Stanley or a Livingstone, a Marie Curie or
a Louis Pasteur, Sam was just that.
At a time when everyone took Britain's old crafts for granted,
Sam saw that they were dying out and took steps to record them
Britain has few more remarkable people than this teacher from
Burnley who, in the days before the second world war, would spend
his spare hours meeting, befriending and filming folk like charcoal
burners, basket makers, wheelwrights and cloggers. Before the
first colour film was shown in Burnley's cinemas, Sam had made
the changeover from black and white to colour in his filming.
The result is that for many of these old trades the only way
people will ever be able to watch them being carried out is by
seeing one of Sam's films.
In education nowadays the use of visual aids is commonplace.
But when this teacher introduced them to Burnley to bring
his lessons to life the authorities told him he was wasting
his own and his pupils' time! This battle against the 'powers
that be' is a recurring theme in Sam's life.
Yet many readers today will remember Sam's lessons as among
the most formative experiences of their lives. It was Sam's determination
to bring his lessons to life that led on to his craft films.
For instance, his film on the clogger starts with the making
of the clog blocks from alder wood, the making of the irons and
the processing of the leather, before coming to the clog making
Sam's investigations took him through the Ribble Valley and
into southern Lakeland long before these areas became the haunt
of tourists. A constant support to him at all times was his wife,
Edith, who died not long ago.
Since those early years, Sam's films have been shown worldwide
and have created a growing following. They're not just part of
Burnley's heritage, they belong to the World as well.
But side-by-side with his craft films, Sam was also filming
great occasions in Burnley life, from royal visits to the Home
Guard, making us one of the most fortunate towns in the country
in this respect.