Montrose is a coastal town in an agricultural area situated between the Montrose Basin at the mouth of the River Esk and the North Sea, forming a southern hub for the Mearns district. It has a history as a significant port for fishing, whaling and trading and by the end of the nineteenth century it was a significant mill and weaving town. It was well connected with major cities through rail links, and was becoming an attractive tourist resort with golf and beaches. It has two newspapers, the Montrose Standard and the Montrose Courier. The population in the 1911 census was 10,974. Curiously, this small coastal town has also been claimed as the ‘cultural capital of Scotland’ 1 and was at the centre of the ‘Scottish Renaissance’ in the 1920s and 1930s as the home of a number of writers and artists, including C.M. Grieve, aka Hugh MacDiarmid, who, as a Town Councillor, played a significant role in Montrose cinema in the 1920s.
Throughout the period, Montrose has a consistent interest in the development of cinema, with engagement from both civic authorities and the local press whose coverage of the cinema is extensive. The Burgh Hall was a major and significant venue throughout the period, and by 1920 it was joined by the King’s Playhouse and the Empire Picture House.
The first recorded cinematograph exhibition was in the Burgh Hall on 15 February 1897 by the Modern Marvel Company and their Zoegraph. An exhibition by Wiliam Walker & Co, again in the Burgh Hall, in September 1897 brought the following detailed comment:
It was in the cinematograph exhibition, however, that the greatest interest seemed to centre. The exhibition of "living" and other pictures was the best of the kind ever seen in Montrose. Messrs Walker have brought what may be termed the "lantern" art to a degree of excellence which leaves little to be desired and , through their enterprise in connection with the newer cinematograph, they have gained a reputation in this regard which is unrivalled in the north. During the summer, Messrs Walker have been busy securing cinematograph views of interesting local events, and the results of their efforts proved a source of much interest to the audience on Saturday. Amongst the exhibits were pictures of the Gordon Highlanders at bayonet exercise, and a march past of the 1st Aberdeen Volunteer Artillery. Nothing could excel the faithfulness of the representation of the Barrach Square scene, every movement of the soldiers being reproduced with absolute exactness. At the close of the exercise two volleys are fired, and the smoke effect on the screen is really marvellous. There were two or three views of the London Jubilee Procession at various points, and the appearance of Her Majesty evoked loud cheers. One or two incidents in the Greco-Turkish war were also shown, the exhibition of Turks scaling walls, blowing up Greek defences, and shooting down the defenders forming a highly realistic picture. Other pictures served as supplementary scenes to a cinematograph view. For instance, the London Fire Brigade was seen galloping to the scene of an outbreak. The next view, which was not a "living" picture, depicted the burning building, and by means of the skilful manipulation of slides, the fire was shown at various stages of its progress. ... During the exhibition Mr Burwood Nicholls played selections on the piano in keeping with the pictures, which contribute largely to heighten the effect.
Montrose Review, 1.10.1897
There were occasional visits by a number of touring companies - Poole's Royal Myriorama, Burnett's Highland Cinematograph and Concert Company, Lely's Ltd. Cinematograph Carnival and Pictorial Festival, Dr Ormonde and Family, Bendon's High-Class Bioscope and Touring Company — but what is distinctive throughout the 1900s is the regular return by the two leading companies native to the North-East: Walker & Company's Royal Cinematograph, and Calders Famous Cinematograph and Grand Concert, both with their origins in Aberdeenshire. These two companies would alternate throughout the year at the Burgh Hall, each visiting four or five times. Walker and Calder toured extensively, and it is interesting to note how regularly they return to home ground in the North-East. The one other local visitor was Peter Feather, an optician and photographic dealer from Dundee, whose ‘Animated Panorama' showed his 'Extensive series of magnificent animated pictures illustrating Life In Dundee' with an impressive list of subjects including the ‘phantom ride’, Tayport to Dundee in Front of an Engine (1897).
Throughout the 1900s, most cinematograph exhibitions were held in the Burgh Hall. An interesting innovation, however, appeared in 1907 when Dove Paterson, an elocutionist and exhibitor in Aberdeen, took the cinematograph to The Links for an open-air exhibition.
Instead of games this year, there will be quite a novelty in the evenings at dusk in the shape of an al fresco cinematograph entertainment by Mr. Dove Paterson, Aberdeen. The programme will include many new and up-to-date pictures, but the newest and best will undoubtedly be a series of pictures entitled "A Cruise with the Channel Fleet between Montrose and Aberdeen", showing along with the cinematograph pictures many local scenes, and ending with a carnival of the fleet at Aberdeen. Lord Charles Beresford and his handymen will be depicted in a fine series of views specially taken by Mr Dove Paterson, who is himself and expert photographer. Among other films will be a number of coloured ones from Paris and America. An open-air cinematograph will be a novelty in Montrose, and it may be expected that many will avail themselves of the opportunity after they have viewed the floral feast inside the marquees.
Montrose Review, 19.07.1907
In late 1908, entertainment at the Burgh Hall was substantially undertaken by the Oriental Cinematograph Company, directed by George Melvin, an exhibitor from Arbroath, and his Saturday Evening Entertainments largely displaced the cinematographs and concert parties of Walker and Calder. Characteristically, Melvin was a good citizen and made regular donations to local charities, hosted benefits, and recorded local events and local daily life as ‘local topicals’. By the end of 1910, following the 1909 Cinematograph Act, the Burgh Hall was fire-proofed, but the expense of fire-proofing (£36) was offset by the significant return which the entertainments made to the public purse. Alongside, and sometimes in conflict with Melvin’s Entertainments, the Hall was still used by other public bodies and touring variety shows, and hosted local and national political meetings.
At the end of 1910, the Skating Rink on Mill Street was converted to permit cinematograph exhibitions, and a Grand Opening was announced for 23 December, ‘Under the patronage of the Provost, Magistrates and Town Council’.
The conversion initially allowed The Rink to be open for skating on Mondays, Tuesday and Wednesdays, and for cinematograph exhibitions on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Rink was now managed by the Picture Palace Company under the direction of Bailie James Davidson. By October 1911, The Rink is further converted into an ‘up-to-date hall’, and is now advertised as The Picture Palace.
George J. Melvin of the Saturday Evening Entertainments in the Burgh Hall died at the age of 47 in 1912, and the Oriental Cinematograph Company was taken over by his son, George S. Melvin, who gave up the licence early in 1913. The Licence to entertainments in the Burgh Hall passed in March 1913 to Arthur Dean, who in turn was succeeded by Arthur Swann early in 1914. Following extensive discussion at the Town Council, Swann’s licence was granted, in consideration that he avoided showing films of an objectionable nature, and, in particular, that he avoided films that centred on murder and/or insanity (Hamlet was excluded). In October 1914, the Town Council noted that Mr Alexander Swann had failed to fulfil his part of the contract and the contract was now offered to Mr James Davidson (Baillie Davidson) on behalf of Montrose Picture Palace Company. In October 1915, however, the second year of the Great War, the closure of the Burgh Hall as a place of entertainment was announced by the Town Council: 'At the close of the public business of the September meeting, the let of the Burgh Hall to the military authorities for £12 per month from September to February inclusive and £7 per month from March to August inclusive, was agreed to….' (Montrose Review, 15.10.1915).
Meanwhile, on 1 October 1915, the Montrose Review gave an extensive report of the opening by the Lord Provost of the King’s Theatre on Hume Street, ‘justly described as the most artistic and up-to-date picture house in the provinces.’ The Provost welcomed Mr Maxwell who assured the audience that, as a large company, they would be able to acquire the best in pictures and variety, and that ‘nothing would be shown in that hall which would offend in the slightest degree the tastes of the most fastidious.’ John Maxwell, a Glasgow lawyer and founder with Arthur Dent of Waverley Pictures, was to become a major figure in British cinema first with his ownership of Scottish Cinema and Variety, and in 1927, with his development of British International Pictures at Elstree. The architect for the King’s Theatre was Richard Henderson of St Vincent Street, Glasgow, and the report noted that ‘not only is the mind gratified by beautiful surroundings, but physical comfort is secured by 1000 tip-up chairs, finely upholstered in moquette and leather. There are no wooden forms; everyone present gets a comfortable tip-up chair,’
Throughout the war, cinema continued in Montrose in the newly-built King’s Theatre (now marked on Hume Street by the Picture House family sports bar) and in the Picture Palace on Mill Street in the converted skating rink.
The Burgh Hall re-opened as a place of variety and cinema on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in March 1918, but there was continuing discussion by the Town Council about its best use. In August 1918, a letter appears in the Montrose Review from ‘A Townsman’ recommending that Montrose Town Council should follow the example of Clydebank and, instead of leasing the Burgh Hall to outsiders for cinematographic entertainment, the Council itself should run it as a municipal enterprise - in the same way that they took civic responsibility for bathing pools, golf and libraries. Municipal cinema was a growing idea which had been discussed by a number of small towns from Stornoway to Huntly, and was taken up as a municipal venture in towns such as Clydebank, Dunoon and Kirkintilloch. The principle was that Burgh Halls were a civic asset which, rather than being leased out to external companies, could be managed for the benefit of the community, returning any profits to the public purse. This benefit could be interpreted both as financial and as, potentially, cultural and moral, improving the taste of the community rather than renting it out to profit-makers, and keeping the customers off the street and out of the pubs. The idea was particularly attractive to the growing number of Councillors who were affiliated to the Independent Labour Party, and owes something to Keir Hardy’s idea of the Common Good, supported by a Common Good Fund which could disperse income from such activities to the welfare of the community. It was, of course, deeply unpopular with commercial exhibitors as a form of civically protected economy which competed ‘unfairly’ with commercial companies. Montrose already ran a Municipal Dairy, instituted during the war to ensure the provision of supply, so the idea of a Municipal Cinema ‘had traction’. On 14 March 1919, the Montrose Review reports from a Town Council meeting that
Honorary Treasurer Davidson [Bailie James Davidson, that is, of the Picture Palace Company] said the Sub-Committee were unanimous in their recommendation to carry on next season's entertainments. They went into the thing very fully and carefully, and they considered that as long as entertainments were to be held in the Burgh Hall, the Town Council should have control of them. ... If there was profit to be made out of picture houses, there was no reason why the Town should not have a share of it.
Councillors also argued that it was right that they should have some control over the content of shows at the Burgh Hall. Bailie Milne argued:
With the present demand for harmless recreation, it was advisable for [the Council] to provide it, and to prevent the people wandering about the streets, a prey to agitators. Keep the people amused and enjoying themselves, and there would be far less trouble with them.
The idea of a municipally controlled cinema was controversial, and the letters columns and editorial commentary doubted the capacity of the amateurs of the Town Council to compete with the professionals; suggestions are made that the Council should instead restore the Picture Palace on Mill Street which was now derelict; or should invest in a Municipal professional football team. The Town Council, however, boosted by the £311 returns that the Municipal Dairy had made to the Common Good Fund, went ahead, and the Burgh Hall Municipal Cinema opens at the end of August 1919.
By mid-October, the Review reports that the profit from the first six weeks was £293 which was enough to offset the costs of renovation. In July 1920, Bailie Davidson, who had responsibility for running the Municipal Cinema at, it was insisted, no financial benefit to himself, gave a detailed financial account, showing that in the period from September to 1 May, the end of the financial year, total receipts were £2923 7s 10d, and after film hire, employment costs, advertising etc., there was a credit balance of £949 14s 7d. ‘(Applause)’ The Town Council was delighted, and James Davidson was heartily congratulated on the success of the venture. By the beginning of 1921, there were reports of the continuing success of the venture which was now being used as a model by other Town Councils.
A few months later, the picture was a little less encouraging. It was reported that the Municipal Dairy, which had lost £900 over three years, was to be closed. There were occasional expressions of regret in the editorial comment and the letters column that the use of the Burgh Hall as a cinema deprived the community of a public meeting place, particularly in the year of an election, and of a civic space for other forms of local entertainment. There was also little evidence that the programming of the Burgh Hall Municipal Cinema was different in kind to that of its commercial rivals. The competitive environment was made more challenging by the opening in September 1920 of a new cinema on Castle Street, the Empire Picture House, apparently under the management of a major exhibitor chain, Scottish Cinema and Variety (the precursor to ABC Cinemas), now owned by John Maxwell. Montrose now had three cinemas, two owned by major circuits, competing for a finite audience in an unfriendly climate for the cinema.
There were also legal challenges. In 1921, a successful case was launched by Dunoon Picture House Company against Dunoon Town Council for launching cinematograph entertainments funded by rates, and the statutes only permitted such entertainment from public funds as ‘music by bands, concerts or otherwise’. They did not, it was argued, permit entertainment in competition with commercial companies. The argument from Montrose was that the Municipal Cinema was not funded by rates but through a separate account, the Common Good Fund, which was self-sustaining. Nevertheless, a lawyer’s letter was received by the Town Council in December 1921 regarding the legality of the Municipal Cinema on behalf of the Empire Cinema. (The King’s Theatre distanced itself from this, and declared its friendly relations with the Municipal Cinema). Perhaps in response to the legal challenge, in February 1922, Bailie Davidson resigned from the Council to take up the role as ‘independent’ manager of the Burgh Hall Municipal Cinema at a salary of £4 10s per week, Davidson’s move from ’honorary’ manager as a Town Councillor to ‘paid servant of the Council’ may have been promoted to emphasise the distance between the Town Council and the cinema. His place on the Council was filled by the co-option of C.M. Grieve (Hugh MacDiarmid), who was then editor of the Montrose Review.
In June 1922, the Council noted a downturn in attendance at the Burgh Hall and rumours circulated that shows had been cancelled and money had been returned due to poor attendance. The Council denied this and established that the lowest attendance had been 67 (in a seating capacity of 838), though it bemoaned the fact that the ratepayers who owned the cinema were not supporting it sufficiently. It was noted that the downturn was happening across the country, and the Provost declared ‘We are not downhearted.’ (Montrose Review, 16 June, 1922). By April 1923, however, it was apparent that the Municipal Cinema was consistently losing money for the Common Good Fund (later to be revealed as a loss of £2170) and the Council reluctantly agreed to close the Burgh Hall as a Municipal Cinema, and to lease it on a five-year basis to the best offer. Unsurprisingly, the best offer was from former-Bailie Davidson, who promised a greater return to the Council than either Scottish Cinema and Variety Theatres, Ltd. or Empire Cinema Company, both of whom were simply trying to protect their commercial interests.
Montrose Review, 22 June, 1923
The Burgh Cinema opens in June 1923 under the direction of Davidson for the Montrose Burgh Cinema Company, Ltd., initially advertising a mixed programme of variety and cinema but increasingly, as variety declines, offering a film-only programme. It was still available to the Council for public events and local entertainment, and continues alongside the King’s and the Empire throughout the early cinema period.
Though it only ran for a little less than four years, the Montrose Burgh Hall Municipal Cinema was part of a social experiment which appeared in Scotland, England, and parts of Northern Europe which attempted to find a social role for cinema as a component of a financial and cultural common good at a time when the place of cinema had not yet finally been decided. The experiment was significant but short-lived and, as the cinema business grew, the public purse could not compete with commercial enterprise and burgh halls could not compete with the new super-cinemas, the demand for luxury and the arrival of sound.
The Scottish Renaissance and Councillor Grieve
‘If modernism is often associated with urban centres — Paris, London, Dublin, New York — then Scottish modernism is strikingly eccentric. The Orkney and Shetland Islands and small coastal towns like Montrose were more important to its nurturing than Glasgow and Edinburgh.’
Robert Crawford. ‘Country Lear’, Times Literary Supplement, 6 November 2009
In the 1920s, Montrose was the home of the novelists and poets Violet Jacob, Marion Angus, Fionn MacColla, and the artist Edward Baird. The poet and suffragette, Helen Cruikshank was born there and retained a connection. Willa Muir was also born there and visited regularly with her husband, Edwin. Lewis Grassic Gibbon, who grew up in Stonehaven before moving to Welwyn Garden City, and whose work is associated with the neighbouring Mearns district, also visited. Somewhere at the centre of this cluster was Hugh MacDiarmid, the pen name of Christopher M. Grieve, born in Langholm but living in Montrose from 1919 till 1929 when he moved to Whalsay in the Shetlands. It was in Montrose that Christopher Murray Grieve adopted the name Hugh MacDiarmid (Fionn MacColla was originally Thomas Douglas MacDonald and Lewis Grassic Gibbon was originally James Leslie Mitchell), and it was from Montrose that he edited The Scottish Nation, published A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, and participated in the formation of the National Party of Scotland in 1928. The NPS became part of the Scottish National Party in 1934, but only after MacDiarmid has been expelled on account of his Communist sympathies (he was later expelled from the Communist Party for his Scottish nationalist sympathies).
From 1919 till 1929, Grieve/MacDiarmid was the reporter and editor of the Montrose Review, and for part of that time from 1922 till 1924 he was a local councillor — the only Socialist on the Council, he claimed (and Councillor Grieve was often quoted by editor Grieve in the columns of the local paper).
Montrose Review, 29 August 1924
According to his biographer, Alan Bold, almost anything that appeared in a local paper such as the Montrose Review was probably written by its editor. The interest, then, is that the Montrose Review gives some hint about the response of MacDiarmid/Grieve to cinema in general, and to municipal cinema in particular.
His response to the Municipal Cinema was almost entirely pragmatic and financial, and, while he recognises the impact of cinema on local entertainment, he shows very little interest in cinema itself as a cultural form. In a ‘Round the Town’ report which appears shortly after he became editor in 1919, there is a report — almost certainly written by Grieve — that the Municipal Cinema had made a profit of £293 in six weeks. 'Incidentally,’ says the reporter,
the figures show how profitable a "spec" is a picture house and they explain why new Cinemas are being put up in spite of the cost, which is such a handicap on house building. And they further explain why Jews (who never take up anything in which there is not money to be got with little risk and less work) are so very largely in the movie business.'
Montrose Review, 17 October 1919
The point about Jews and their financial interests is repeated in an editorial comment in February. MacDiarmid/Grieve’s anti-semitism is widely recognised and explains his early interest in Mussolini (his interest in Lenin notwithstanding) and his promotion of Social Credit economy. It is scandalous, and there is little evidence of it being commonplace in Scottish local press, though it may have been more commonplace in everyday discourse, and in intellectual and political discourse. Keir Hardy, voted ‘the greatest Hero of the Labour Party’ at the 2008 Labour Party Conference wrote in 1891:
Wherever there is trouble in Europe, wherever rumours of war circulate and men's minds are distraught with fear of change and calamity, you may be sure that a hooked-nosed Rothschild is at his games somewhere near the region of the disturbances.
Labour Leader, 19.12.1891
From the evidence of the Montrose Review, Grieve’s interest in cinema is as a business rather than as a cultural form, and he approaches it from a local perspective at a time when it is becoming increasingly a global industry. His initial reservation above is that the costly business of building cinemas or converting buildings into cinemas, usually by entrepreneurs from Glasgow or beyond, is carried out at the expense of local investment in social housing, and this insistence on the local is a constant refrain in the Montrose Review’s engagement with municipal cinema and in MacDiarmid/Grieve’s interventions on the Council. Early in the life of the Municipal Cinema he is arguing that though the films are good there are too many of them, and the programme of films should be reduced to allow space for an orchestra, ‘possibly composed of ex-soldiers’, offering ‘good music’: ‘local singers might occasionally be engaged to give variety to the entertainment. There is plenty of talent in the town.’ (Montrose Review, 21 November, 1919) When the Entertainment Committee recommends that a charge of £5 be levied for political meetings in the Burgh Hall, Councillor Grieve protests that this was 'exorbitant and contrary to the purposes for which the Burgh Hall existed.' (Montrose Review, 12.01.1923) When the Council was faced with bids to take over the lease of the Burgh Hall, Councillor Grieve was in a minority who wanted to award the contract to Scottish Cinema and Variety Theatres, precisely because they wanted to buy the Burgh Hall out of the business of providing cinema entertainment in order to remove competition from their other venues. This would have returned the Burgh Hall to public use for local entertainment. ‘Montrose’, argued Councillor Grieve, ‘was practically the only town in Scotland where it was impossible to provide philharmonic and amateur dramatic entertainments for it was not worth while getting up these entertainments unless the organisers could have the Hall for two or three consecutive nights.’ (Montrose Review, 18 May, 1923)
In his decade in Montrose, then, MacDiarmid/Grieve directed his suspicion not at films as entertainment or at their claims to be a new form of art or popular culture, but at a cinema which had become a global (and, implicitly, Jewish) business, standing in the way of locally-produced entertainment, local talent and local politics. At a time when Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury circle in London had adopted cinema through the London Film Society, when James Joyce, from his base in Trieste, opens the Volta, first purpose-built cinema in Dublin, and when the forms of cinema and its manipulation of time and subjectivity informs their writing, the Scottish modernists give little sign of its impact. MacDiarmid/Grieve shows little sustained interest and poses commercial cinema instead as a global intrusion in local culture and entertainment. With respect to cinema, it is perhaps too tempting to triangulate the metropolitanism of Woolf and the Bloomsbury set in London, the cosmopolitanism of Joyce (and Beckett) in Dublin, Trieste and Paris, with the insistence on the local - a kind of political parochialism sometimes concealed behind the the guise of Leninist internationalism - of MacDiarmid in Montrose.
Footnote: Montrose Studios
On 11 June 1920 a report appears in the ‘District News in Brief’ column of the Montrose Review:
Dundee has been chosen as the scene of a new cinema drama, "The Greater Riches", the work of a local author Mr Gordon Crystal. The exclusive rights to produce the work have been secured by a Dundee Syndicate, and already the first part of the film has been successfully photographed.
The story was picked up in The Bioscope, the leading UK cinema exhibitors’ trade paper, under the headline: 'New Studios at Montrose: Production already commenced’. In his regular Scottish report, Scotty (James McBride) reports:
During a visit to Dundee a week or two ago, I made it a special point to visit Mr C.F. Partoon, a well-known local photographer, whose name has already been mentioned in these columns in connection with motion picture photography. I knew that Mr Partoon had earned more than local fame for his topicals, and I knew he had ambitions to produce something more worth while, but I was scarcely prepared to find that his latest adventure had proceeded quite so far, or that his "plant" was so complete. First of all a good word about Mr Partoon and his connection with cinematography. His connection with the industry goes back to the days when gasbags were used to contain the necessary illuminant, and his function in those early days was to supply the necessary weight to force the gas out of the bag. That's going back some. Since those days, Mr Partoon has had an intimate connection with the exhibition side of the business in Dundee, though he has maintained closer relations with his photographic business. Successful in every branch of "still" photography, Mr Partoon always had a hankering after the movies, and some years ago acquired a camera for the purpose of taking topicals. To this work he found some outlet for his energies, but it was not satisfying, even though he was doing the whole work, taking, developing and printing himself. I have said Mr Partoon was intimately connected with the exhibiting side of the business, and it was while he was so engaged that he commenced to study production, and ask himself the question "Why should not pictures be produced in Scotland as well as in other countries?" Looking at the question from all sides, Mr Partoon came to the conclusion that with proper understanding of the difficulties there was no reason whatever why Scotland should not do its share of production. The difficulties when acknowledged could be overcome, and from what I have already seen I can say that they have been overcome by Mr Partoon, and when the critics and viewers have an opportunity of witnessing the first production to leave Mr Partoon's hands they will agree with me. For his first picture Mr Partoon has been fortunate in securing an excellent story, the author of which, Mr Gordon Crystal, plays the leading part. Mr Crystal, both as an author and an actor, is a discovery but no more so than the leading lady, Miss Betty Willocks, who will charm everyone who sees her work, and for whom there is a very bright future in screen work. The name of the first production is "The Greater Riches", and already most of the outdoor scenes have been filmed amid lovely settings around Dundee. The theme of the story I will not disclose, though I have read the scenario. It is original, not "stunty", and just what is wanted from a Scottish production. The interiors will shortly be commenced at Montrose, where a big studio is in course of erection on the site of a smaller studio already existing. Mr Partoon has purchased the whole property, which has a width of about 50ft and a depth of about 200ft. The new studio will be 35ft by 70ft, and 20ft to the ridges. The roof of the new studio will be glass, and an uninterrupted North light is obtained. Behind the studio sufficient space to stage outdoor scenes is available, while beyond are two cottages which will be used as dressing rooms, etc. There is an excellent supply of electric light, and generators will be installed if found necessary to augment that supply. The technical part of the work is executed at Dundee, where special premisses have been fitted up. The plant, which includes developing and printing (Williamson printer of latest type), is sufficient to turn out 3,000ft of film per day, with art titles complete. From his practical experience as a photographer, Mr Partoon knows the standard expected, and from handling and viewing the first scenes of "The Greater Riches", I should say his ideals have been attained. In conclusion, let me say that Mr Partoon has very pronounced ideas on the subject of motion picture production and photography, and the Trade may look with confidence to his first work, which will only lack one thing, and that is the stamp of amateurism.'
The Bioscope, 12 August, 1920, pp.78-9
A year later, on 8 December 1921, the ever-hopeful Scotty returns briefly to the topic in the Scottish Section of The Bioscope:
By the way, what has come over that company that was producing in Dundee and Montrose? Are the pictures they partly took ever to be finished, or must the venture be written down as abandoned?
The evidence is that ‘the venture must be written down as abandoned’ as an attempt at indigenous film production in Scotland. Though Paltoon is well known as a maker of ‘local topicals’ in and around Dundee, there is no record of a completed and released feature film under this or any other title, and we have found no further reference to a studio in Montrose. We should, of course, be grateful for any information.
Montrose, then, touches many of the bases of film production and exhibition in Scotland, and encapsulates some of the political and cultural issues of the development of cinema in small towns.
1 Alan Riach ‘Modernist Montrose: Scotland’s 1920s capital of culture!’, National, 26.02.2016 .