"AN SGOTH" (59’)
Eolas for BBC Scotland
A year following traditional boatbuilder, John MacLeod, making the last Lewisian “Sgoth”.
Winner ‘Best Documentary’ at the 1996 Celtic Film & TV Festival.
Camera/Director: Sam Maynard
One of the good things about working in Gaelic language television is that they occasionally commission some really unexpected programmes and “An Sgoth” was one such jewel.
John MacLeod was a traditional boat builder, as was his father and his father’s father, but he had never built the big ‘Lewisian Sgoth’, a massive 27ft, open sailing boat. In fact, such a boat hadn’t been built for two or three generations and there were no plans written down explaining how to do it. However, the knowledge had been passed down through generations of the MacLeod boat builders and John wanted to see if he could revive the tradition.
Director, Sam Maynard, followed the process from John going over to the mainland to choose the trees to the launch some 14 months later. I had the privilege of being involved from the outset and travelled up to Stornoway four times through the build to keep the edit going.
Before his television career, Sam had been Scottish Press Photographer of the Year two or three times so he has always produced great footage. We took the decision to try and tell the story as visually as possible and not rely on lengthy voice-overs or interviews. I think the visit to the blacksmith really epitomises what we set out to achieve in telling the story and I took great delight in cutting that sequence.
The music, by ‘The Penguin Café Orchestra’, was instrumental in dictating the gentle pace of the film and provided the basis for sequences that marked key stages of the construction. It also allowed me to build towards the emotional climax where the boat is launched and we see John MacLeod pass the tiller to his apprentice, Angus.