Greg McCarron
27th August, 2022

As the UK celebrates 70 years of the Queen’s reign, Shetland Film Archive present a selection of films featuring royal visits to Shetland, made by James Thomason. While the then Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) popularised Fair Isle knitting in the 1920s, it wasn’t until 1960 that the first reigning sovereign (Queen Elizabeth II) set foot on Shetland. This visit was bookended by a solo visit by Prince Philip in 1953 and one by the Queen Mother in 1961 – quite a busy decade for royalists in Shetland! These films are filled with all the usual pomp and pageantry, but also Shetlanders proud to show off their skills, heritage and livelihoods. It is great to see these events captured in colour, as ‘professional’ news film coverage of the time recorded the proceedings in black and white.

Even for the more republic-inclined viewer there’s lots to enjoy in these films. Fashions and ‘Sunday best’ outfits, well kent faces and places, can all be spotted. In particular, the opening of the new hospital by the Queen Mother reminds us how modern and life-changing this facility was for the people of Shetland.

These films were made by well-known Lerwick businessman James Thomason (1905 - 1988). Filmmaking was of great interest to Thomason, and even though it was a ‘hobby’, his work is technically accomplished, carefully edited, and includes beautiful title cards. James Thomason was often asked to make films for special occasions and it is believed the Lord Lieutenant Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence asked him to make a number of these films, and provided him with the necessary permissions and timetable that allowed him to plan his filming, and be in the right place at the right time!

With thanks to Janie Thomason and family for permission to show these films, and for providing information about their creation.


  • Prince Philip Opens King George V Playing Fields – Lerwick – 1953
  • A Visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip – Shetland – 1960
  • Queen Mother Opens Gilbert Bain Hospital – Lerwick – 1961

Running time: 1h


  • 2:30PM Thursday, 1 September 2022
  • 2.30PM Friday, 2 September 2022
  • 6:45PM Friday, 2 September 2022
  • 3:00PM Saturday, 3 September 2022

Screenings are free but tickets are required, and can be purchased on the Shetland Arts website.

If you enjoy these screenings please consider a small donation towards our running costs.

During Screenplay films will start at the advertised times with no ads or trailers - please ensure you take your seat in plenty of time.

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