A film about Perth poet William Soutar that has lain unseen in the BBC vaults for 34 years is to receive a screening in Perth. The Garden Beyond, last broadcast in 1977, will be shown in the Soutar Theatre at the AK Bell Library onThursday April 28th – the 113th anniversary of Soutar’s birth.
The 55-minute drama, originally made for the BBC Omnibus programme, focuses on the 13 years Soutar spent bedridden at his parents’ home in Wilson Street, Perth. It was an exciting political and cultural time in Scotland, with a resurgence in nationalism and the second world war in the offing. The film explores Soutar’s relationship with two friends: the dynamic poet Hugh MacDiarmid and Soutar’s classmate Jim Finlayson, both Scottish nationalists but with very different political perspectives.
MacDiarmid gave Soutar his first big break as a poet, but later felt threatened by his popular success. Finlayson was an artist and for many years Soutar’s closest friend, but they fell out over Soutar’s decision to become a pacifist, and were only reconciled shortly before the poet’s death at the age of 45, from tuberculosis.
The film was shot at Balbirnie House, near Glenrothes. Soutar was played by Bertie Scott, MacDiarmid by Henry Stamper and Finlayson by the young Bill Paterson. It made broadcasting history as the first BBC commission from a Scottish independent production company. Part-funded by the Scottish Arts Council and the Perth-based Gannochy Trust, it was broadcast once, shown at film festivals in London and Leipzig, and then forgotten.
Hugh MacDiarmid, then 85, read the script and pronounced it excellent, though he complained about the scene that shows him taking Soutar’s last cigarette!
This month’s screening has been organised by the Friends of William Soutar Society. Douglas Eadie, who was born in Perth and produced and wrote the screenplay, will introduce the film and answer questions afterwards.
The Garden Beyond, The Soutar Theatre, AK Bell Library, Thursday April 28th, 7.30pm. Free admission and refreshments afterwards in the Café.