For over sixty years Sam Hanna was active in
his hobby and lifelong passion, cinematography. His filmmaking
activities date back to the 1930s, covering more than half a century
of ancient crafts and local events surrounding the town of Burnley,
(Lancashire, UK). Filmed by Sam Hanna himself, the collection
vividly brings to life those bygone days when things were so different
This unique film archive contains priceless material,
including films of long-forgotten crafts such as brushmaking,
clay-pipe making, coopering, tanning, hay creel making, corn dolly
manufacture, clock making and his personal favourite, charcoal
In 1957 Sam was at Turf Moor (Burnley Football
Clubs home ground) to capture unique colour footage of the
Manchester United Football team, famously known as the Busby
Babes. This is the only colour material of the team before
the tragic 1958 air accident in Munich, Germany, which killed
five members of the team, including the legendary Duncan Edwards.
He also recorded the visits of several members
of the royal family to Burnley from the visit of King George VI
and Queen Elizabeth II in 1945 through to the Silver Jubilee Celebrations
of 1977, the visit of Prince Charles in 1984 and the return of
the Queen in 1986.
Lancashire Life - December 1987
THE YOUNG television
cameramen, and the even younger press photographers
from the local newspapers, no doubt looked askance last month
during the royal visit to Burnley. Who was this old man filming
the Queens visit? What right had he to be there? The fellow
ought to be in an old folks home not out here pointing
a camera at the royals.
Well just to put them in the picture, Sam
Hanna is well old enough to be enjoying a quiet retirement. Yet
at 84, he is still active in his hobby arid lifelong passion,
cinematography. The Queens visit to Burnley was far from
the first he has ever covered. In 1945 he filmed his own father
being presented to King George VI (I believe you worked
for 60 years in the pit, said the King. It doesnt
seem to have done you much harm. It didnt do
me much good, either, replied Mr Hanna senior).
To people who know about film-making, the retired
Burnley Grammar School arts and crafts teacher is a legend. His
films of old festivals and ancient crafts filmed over a period
of some 60 years, are now historic records of major importance.
His film-making activities go back to the
1920s and there is still no sign of him hanging up his cameras.
He still retains a keen eye for a new subject, even though his
unique film archive already contains priceless material, including
films of long-dead crafts such as brushmaking, charcoal burning,
clay-pipe making, coopering, tanning, corn dolly manufacture
and clock making.
Sam Hanna began his working life alongside
his mother in the textile mills of Burnley. ' It's the only time
I have ever got the sack, ' he said with a chuckle. 'It all ended
when I changed the cogs on a loom to make it go faster. The trouble
was, it churned out material more suited to bandages than sheets!
At that time he was a boy of 12, working as
a half timer. At 13, he became indentured as a furniture designer
and cabinet maker, something which was later to lead to him becoming
a teacher of handicrafts. His neat home still contains some fine
examples of his cabinet-making skills.
Clearly the young Sam was inventive. Later
years were to see him patenting a number of photographic devices,
putting into practice ideas which had begun to germinate in the
1920s, when as a teacher, it occurred to him that film might
have an educational value. He found it difficult, fore example,
to explain to the boys of his woodwork class how lumberjacks
could float millions of logs down river from the forests to the
sawmills. The boys only experience of a river was the murky
Brun which winds its sluggish way through Burnley, a mere jump
wide. A short film easily demonstrated this point.
Just as he was far ahead of his time in using
colour Film Sams wartime colour record of the 29th Battalion
(Burnley) Home Guard is believed to be unique
so was his educational thinking premature,
at least in the eves of Burnleys education chiefs. The
cinema, he was told, was for entertainment and had no place in
the classroom, it had yet to occur to them that both could be
combined to the advantage of education.
Nevertheless, in his own quiet way, Sam Hanna
persevered, making short films which assisted him in teaching
his pupils how to handle, for example, a chisel or a plane. Such
pioneering did not endear him to authority. Enthusiastic individuals
are never the easiest of people for officialdom to live with.
Indeed, over 50 years later this Lowry of film-making,
as he has been called, still remains unhonoured in his own town.
Sam has the rare distinction of having had
one of his films accepted as a gift for Prince Charles, when
he was young. This is recorded in a letter from Clarence House,
proudly framed, thanking Sam for the film Red Squirrel.
His films of local events cover more than
half a century and include the Burnley Hospital Carnival of 1932;
the Fourth round Burnley v Luton cup tie of January, 1945, which
Burnlev won 3-1, at a time when practically every man on the
terraces wore a cloth cap, and the last Burnley tram which ran
on May 7, 1935.
There is the Hon. Rachel Kay Shuttleworth
and historian Walter Bennett digging up Roman remains near the
Long Causeway in 1951; film of the local VE Day celebrations;
the Festival of Britain; the Coronation and events such as mayor-making
and local elections.
In Clog Making Sam shows how the wooden
soles were shaped from the tree; the clog-irons fashioned in
the forge, and hints of the shape of things to come, as the workers
introduce labour-saving gimmicks which, at the end of the day
were to produce mechanisation, automation and subsequent redundancies.
Fascinating sidelights also creep in, such
as the blacksmith whose hand was non-too steady because he had supped too much ale last neet. That word sup
is now fast disappearing, along with the craftsmen who produced
barrels made from special timber which, we are earnestly assured,
helped to improve the taste of the now gone Masseys beer.
He worked by time-honoured methods, with traditional tools and,
as he so nicely puts it, the squint o th eye
and the wrack o th mouth.
Sam Hannas films bring back to vivid
life the days when things were so much different from those of
today. Thank goodness that someone was around who had the skill
and imagination to capture a glimpse of it. Let us hope that
someone has the foresight to purchase this unique collection
and preserve it for posterity before it is too late!
Lancashire Life - December 1987