Episode 15: Brian Desmond Hurst and A Letter From Ulster with Allan Esler Smith

In this episode, we caught up with Allan Esler Smith to talk about Brian Desmond Hurst, a Belfast-born acclaimed filmmaker responsible for ten wartime movies.

Podcast Embed

'A Wee Bit Of War' by Allan Esler Smith / Scott Edgar

Released on by WartimeNI

Running Time: 41:23

  • Family History
  • Social History
  • Irish History


  1. Brian Desmond Hurst and A Letter From Ulster

Brian Desmond Hurst was an acclaimed film maker born in Befast. Having served in The Great War, he emigrated, studied art, and learnt the art of filmmaking under the wing of John Ford. Throughout the Second World War, Hurst made many documentaries and movies including the beautiful 'A Letter From Ulster' in 1942. Allan Esler Smith, curator of the Brian Desmond Hurst estate joined us to talk about the archives, Hurst's early life, and a handful of those wartime epics.


Hello, and welcome to 'A Wee Bit Of War', a podcast dedicated to telling the stories of Northern Ireland during the Second World War. I'm your host, Scott Edgar, and in this episode, we're taking a somewhat festive trip to the flicks with Allan Smith. Allan is the nephew of Brian Desmond Hurst, a Belfast born acclaimed an accomplished director of feature films and documentaries, both during and after the Second World War.

Scott 00:38
Allan, welcome to the podcast. We’re delighted to finally have you join us.

Scott 00:44
We had originally planned to record something on location earlier in the year, but plans went awry, and now with a cold chill in the air… but that means a warmer podcast session for all involved. That cold air, however, also signifies that it’s almost Christmas. That’s where we’re going to start this episode with perhaps Belfast greatest festive film gift to the world.

Allan 01:07
Well, Scott, thanks very much indeed for the introduction. And yes, let’s just jump straight in there. So, it’s not me that’s saying this, it’s not you that’s saying this, let’s go to Leonard Maltin, America’s top film critic. He said sometimes the stars just align and make a great film. And that’s exactly what we have with a film called ‘Scrooge’ but in America, they call it ‘A Christmas Carol’. It’s got Alastair Sim putting in the absolute performance of his life. It’s a proper Christmas story so don’t start mentioning ‘Die Hard’ and all the other things that are thrown at me at this time of the year, I’ve had enough of that. It’s a proper Christmas story. It’s set on Christmas Eve. It’s a story of a miserable, money-driven fool who finds redemption. And it’s that charting of the whole redemption and Sim’s performance that gives you a great Christmas film. But also, and not a lot of people know this, it was both produced and directed by a boy from East Belfast, who used to pick bread up off the street. And that’s where we’re going to start the story.

Scott 02:32
Now that boy in East Belfast was Brian Desmond Hurst, and you have a great knowledge of all things to do with Brian. For those listeners who don’t know you, what is your connection to what I, and some others, would call Ulster’s greatest movie maker.

Allan 02:53
So, we’re getting the news out there. It hasn’t always been an easy process of getting that message out there but people are starting to buy into and understand and actually love this very flamboyant, very lavish film director that came out of East Belfast. So his name Brian Desmond Hurst. And my job is, I’m the administrator of the Brian Desmond Hurst estate so I look after his literary archive and estate. But it also means that I’ve got a job to do in helping publicise the news about Brian, and remind people that he came from Belfast. He was born and bred in Belfast. And he’s one of our world class artists. Now, it’s easy for me because – the formal bit is – I administer the Brian Desmond Hurst Estate and all that stuff. But actually, Brian’s my uncle. Technically, great-great-uncle, but to us and family, he was just uncle Brian – a man who came to our house and filled our heads with wild stories of Hollywood, and Roger Moore, and John Ford, and all of these stories… uncle Brian, but I look after the estate and want to shout a little bit more back home about what he did and what he achieved.

Scott 04:16
Well, we are going to help you with that on this episode. We’ll be shouting both, both throughout Northern Ireland and across the world with this episode, and hopefully everyone will know a little bit more about Brian by the end of it. We know him as Brian Desmond Hurst, but that’s not a name that you’ll find in birth records anywhere. You’ve touched on a couple of little facts there, but can you tell us a little bit more about Hurst’s early life in Belfast?

Allan 04:44
Yeah, no, I think that’s important, Scott. So we’ll just drill down into that. So he was born Hans Moore Hawthorne Hurst, 12th of February 1895, 23 Ribble Street, just off the Newtownards Road. So, the old houses in Ribble Street are long gone. There is a 23 Ribble Street there, it’s not that house though, the old houses have gone. But as you walk down the Newtownards Road, you got a real spirit of Brian’s upbringing. So he lived in… I’m just trying to get all the names here because there’s a lot of them and you’ll have people listening to this podcast that are living in those streets, and going hold on, hold on, this this guy was from here? So, umm Tamar Street, Finvoy Street, Welland Street, Connswater Street, Armitage Street… He was pre East Belfast. He went to school in what is now the Conn Club. As you drive down the Newtownards Road, you’ll see it there. If you look on the side of that, you’ll see public elementary school, i.e. the New Road Public Elementary School. That’s where he was schooled – just across the road from Ribble Street, actually. If you go a little bit further into Connswater Centre, and go to the back of that towards the carpark you’ll find an old linen factory, the Bloomfield linen factory to be precise. The walls are still there. That’s where he worked. So he was pure East Belfast born, bred, schooled, worked… Bored, August 1914, you’re bored in Belfast, what do you do, Scott?

Scott 06:20
Well, like many from East Belfast, young Hurst signed up to go to war.

Allan 06:27
That’s it. So, emm signed up with a fairly unique battalion. Now, I’m not a military person, so I don’t completely get this but I guess you’ll have a lot of listeners that do understand this. But he joined the 6th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, quite a unique battalion because it recruited both in Belfast and to Dublin and was therefore very cosmopolitan in its mix and outlook. So, it was Protestant, Catholic fighting side by side, Belfast man, Dubliner fighting side by side. Service battalion, so trained up, put on a ship, long story very short, end up in Gallipoli, end up in an area near the farm, right up in the hills. And on the 6th August, they had a roll call, 25 officers, 750 other ranks. On the 10th August, they had another roll call, 2 officers, 396 other ranks at that roll call. So that’s 377 dead, wounded or missing in one night, possibly two nights of conflict. So when we get into these numbers, in today’s terms, you just shake your head, don’t you? So it’s a service battalion. They’re thrown in and in one night, they’re wiped out. And there’s probably a book in this great story, in this chronicle, chronicling all of their lives, but for me, warfare can destroy men. But I think there was something there in the cosmipol-, cosmopolitan nature of this battalion, that horror of warfare that was a spark for a bit of creative genius that subsequently we saw. Now, I can’t prove that, you can’t prove that, but on this occasion, we certainly see something sparked a bit of genius to take a linen worker, a humble private rifleman, and then things started to change for him. He survived Gallipoli, came back to Belfast, and things started to change.

Scott 08:48
And those things started to change with that, let’s call it that that spark of creativity. And after The Great War, Hurst emigrated, I believe, first to Canada, and after leaving Belfast, he learned the film trade under the guidance of another world renowned filmmaker.

Allan 09:09
Well, that’s it, and it was a hard story to put together. And one of the things we were able to do in the estate was gather together everything possible to do with Hurst. And I started to do that in 2009. When I was appointed administrator, one of the things that we had was his memoirs, and in those memoirs, we were able to see, I was here I was there, and this is what happened. So you’re right, Scott, he went from Belfast to Toronto, and studied art, and he then went to Paris and studied art, and then went to New York and studied art. It’s for the best part of five, six years, maybe longer, maybe, maybe into the seventh year. So a pure working-class artist, and I think that’s going to resonate when we start to talk about the films, because a. working-class background, b. an artist with a painterly eye. And he he sometimes paints pictures with film. And we then get into the film side. So he was in… hitchhiked across America, was in Hollywood. He was painting. Paintings were in a local shop. John Ford admired it, didn’t buy it, came back the next day, and the story was that Charlie Chaplin had bought it. So Ford asks: who was that young painter? The shop owner explained that it was a young Irishman, who I think at that point was painting and constructing golf courses and living around Laurel Canyon in Hollywood. And makes contact and it was that lucky break, Scott? No more, no less. So Ford enquired, met Brian, they then… So, Brian had now called himself Brian Desmond Hurst. And people ask me why did he change his name from Hans Moore? Well, I guess Hans wasn’t a great name to have after the First World War. Brian, Brian Boru, Irish regal, Desmond, King Desmond of Ireland. Knowing what Brian was like, it was probably as simple as that. He liked that, he liked the styling around Brian Desmond. So, Ford was introduced to this young, young man, and took him on as a painter in his art department in Hollywood. So that’s, that was his lucky break to getting getting into films. From there, he went in front of the camera, and was briefly and there’s a few films where we can pick them out as an extra. Interestingly, one of them is actually side by side with another extra who goes by the name of John Wayne. The stories as you penetrate into them, we’ve got the film, we’ve got them side by side, he was there, no ifs, no, no buts. And then moved behind the camera and film direction, first assistant director and built up his film making pedigree. Circa 1932, he comes back from Hollywood having learned the trade, sets up in London and starts to make his own films.

Scott 12:29
And from that moment on, Hurst made many noteworthy films. But as we’re a Second World War podcast, we’re going to focus on a couple of the wartime greats in this episode. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the arrival of American troops in Northern Ireland; a momentous occasion that Hurst committed to film in what critic Mike Catto stated was a film that everyone in Northern Ireland should see.

Allan 12:57
So Mike, Mike is a great film critic, and film historian and everything that he says I listened to very carefully. And he, he when he was a professor and teaching at university used to get his students to watch this film as an exemplar in documentary filmmaking. And the film we’re talking about is called ‘A Letter From Ulster’ – filmed over the summer of 1942. It’s all about the American troops that came across from the U.S. and were training in Ulster. So, Ulster became their home, their training ground. Remember, a lot of these guys were 18-19, away from home, probably for the first time, not just away from America, but away from home, and living and preparing for probably the biggest episode of their lives. And they were here. They were all over Northern Ireland. So, the documentary is probably the first proper Northern Ireland documentary, and it’s called ‘A Letter From Ulster’.

Scott 14:13
Now, some of our listeners may not yet have seen ‘A Letter To (sic) Ulster’. We, of course, in this podcast would heartily recommend that they do so after listening. Can you set a bit of the scene for us just? What’s the overall story? What is the letter concerned?

Allan 14:34
Well, Scott, I’m hoping that, yeah people after this, will jump on and we’ll talk a little bit more where you can see it because it’s just a click and you’re there and you can see it. Very easy to access. So, turning again to Brian’s memoirs, he says that in the early 1942s, spy, German spies in Dublin were putting around that the American forces were acting like an army of occupation in Northern Ireland, and beating up the local Ulstermen. And basically, everything was not fine at all. I just add that Brian, in his memoirs, says after this allegation that the Americans were beating up Ulstermen, Brian added “as if anybody could”. Anyway, we’ll leave that to one side. So his brief was very simple. Now, we just need to penetrate back a little bit further. 1939, the very first war film released was called ‘The Lion Has Wings’, which Brian directed in conjunction with Powell. And that was almost entirely scripted and put together by an organisation that was then, was in its infancy, because they sprung it and started probably two days before the Second World War was started. But it was what became the Ministry of Information. And then in 1940, Brian was making propaganda films for the Ministry of Information. 1942, Ministry of Information has a vehicle called the Crown Film Unit. So, Brian was was already working there, is brought in to make a film to basically show the American back home that their kids were okay and to show everybody in the U.K. that everything was fine in Northern Ireland, the troops were settled in, everybody’s getting along fine. That was the brief. And boy, did he execute it, because what we have is a really, really razor sharp, documentary, and a superb piece of propaganda, because it does exactly what it set out to do. That was the brief. Now, everything has a magic ingredient, just like ‘Scrooge’ had, with Alastair Sim and Brian both producing and directing it, so he could shape it himself. With this, the magic, the magic ingredient was the team. So Hurst had been making propaganda films for quite a while, two years. He brought in a young script writer to basically script out the story. And the script writer, young script writer was his protege who’s Sean Terence Young. You need to drop the Sean, and then you’ll see Terence Young, and then you just check his credit list, and you’ll see that 20 years later, he directed ‘Dr. No’, ‘Thunderball’, ‘From Russia With Love’; so a great cinematic genius was his script writer. And then his assistant on this was a guy called William – or we known him as Bill – but William McQuitty, who was a producer of the first Titanic film, ‘A Night To Remember’. So it’s a great little team that came together to make this with a great script, very clear briefing and the output is superb documentary making.

Scott 18:10
It is an absolutely superb documentary. We mentioned earlier there about what you call Brian’s painterly eye. One of the beautiful things about this film for me is the stunning scenery and the absolutely beautiful backdrop that Ulster provides throughout. A lot of, a lot of people that listen to our podcast do enjoy a bit of a then and now comparison. So can you give us any inside information as to where the film was shot?

Allan 18:40
So um, yeah, we’ve got it all. We’ve worked out pretty much everything. And as you go through it, you’ll see it. So in the early stages, we’re up in the Bellarena Estate, which is very close to Limavady. That’s where they, you see at the start, then they cross over to some artillery training, which is in the Sperrins. The unit were then moved down to Tynan Abbey in Armagh. A lot of the training that you see is around the grounds of Caledon and Tynan. And they, at that stage, there’s quite a lot of, there’s there’s some kids that are brought in to help the Americans in a baseball game, and a few people have contacted me to say, that’s my Uncle Jackie, and so on, and so forth. So they bring in, in some locals. There’s the inevitable straying across the border incident where the Americans in their little Jeep go across the border and they’re told that they’re, they shouldn’t be where they are. And that again, is down near Tynan.

Don 19:50
I was out on a peep, getting the lay of the land […] came to navigate for me. Hmm, I’ll say he did.

Don 19:59
Can you tell me if this is the road to Enniskillen?

Farmer 20:01
Aye, it is.

Don 20:02
And, how far is it?

Farmer 20:03
Well, if you keep on going the way you’re going at the moment, it will be about 200 miles by way of Dublin but, on the other hand, if you’d like to turn, and go back into Ulster there, you might find it’s only about five.

Don 20:13
You mean to tell us that we’re in the Free State?

Farmer 20:14
Aye, ye are.

Don 20:40
Hello there, Sergeants.

R.U.C. Officer 20:40
Hello boys.

Don 20:41
This is Northern Ireland, isn’t it?

R.U.C. Officer 20:43
Yes, that’s right.

Don 20:44
There don’t seem to be any boundaries around here.

R.U.C. Officer 20:46
No, it is a bit difficult. Sometimes I near don’t know where I am myself.

Don 20:50

R.U.C. Officer 20:52
Good luck, boys.

Allan 20:50
The guys at the end are then, they kind of do a what I’d call a Northern Ireland Tourist Board advert. So, the premise of the story was two guys, Don and Wally that have to write at home and tell their mum, hence a letter from Ulster, that everything’s fine. So the two of them jump into their Jeep and they do this most wonderful tour. And I defy the current tourist board to do something better 80 years later. So they go to Strabane, they go to Derry/Londonderry, they go to Carrickergus, they go to beautiful scenes of St. Mary’s Church in Belfast, and they say they go to Coleraine. But the train buffs out there, if they watch the Coleraine railway station, they will really scratch their heads. And Scott, between you and I, it’s actually Cultra. So em. But em, really good pan across, and it was again, just to show the folks back in America that, look at this lovely, a. their kids are okay, they’re training well, and b. look at this lovely environment that they’re in. And what I kind of think today is, you know, there’s 300,000 troops went through Northern Ireland in the Second World War. Just think about the number of grandkids there are now. There must be 2 million mustn’t it. So, in the film that I’ve actually got a little template to go, hold on, granddad or great-granddad was here, and he was there, and anybody coming back can follow that. So I think it’s worth a really good watch by anybody that watches your podcast.

Scott 22:43
And we occasionally get get emails from people in America with all those stories of you know, my grandfather, or great-grandfather was in Northern Ireland in 1942 or 1944, and they were at, you know, this place, that place, emm can you tell us any more information? So, we’d encourage anyone watching the film, if you’re, if you’re in America, you know, feel free to get in touch with us and let us know if your ancestors or your family members ever sent home a letter from Ulster. Although using some poetic licence, ‘A Letter From Ulster’ was a documentary and perhaps one of the first made in Northern Ireland,

Allan 23:24
Yeah, that’s that’s what I’m told by folks that know about this. I think there might have been some, some what you call information shorts. For instance, you know, how to make silage in two easy steps. But in terms of a 40-minute documentary, a full documentary, this is the pathfinder. This, this sets the way for, you know, all our great documentary makers that have now followed. For me, though, it’s not just a documentary, because Brian in his memoirs kept talking and talking and talking about the, real thing about film is, film is a piece of art just like painting or poem or a song. He wants the world to see his work as art. So, sometimes I don’t compartmentalise it into, you know, a documentary or whatever, I just call it film, film art. Now it’s a bit of a lone voice because I keep, I keep, I feel I have to keep pushing Brian’s message. It’s kind of, it’s part of my estate duties but I passionately believe that film is art, and when I look at the sort of documentary makers that we’ve got coming out of Northern Ireland now, emm, yeah, I probably will mention a few names, people like Alison Miller, people like Brian Henry Martin, there’s a whole host of them, but, but we’re doing, you know, great stuff now and I think everybody would want to call it not just a documentary, but it’s their art. So film is art. So, I feel feel quite strongly about that.

Scott 25:06
I would certainly agree that that film is art. And in particular, these film’s, Brian’s films are wonderful pieces of art. Did this particular film received the attention it deserved? How was it received in the United States?

Allan 25:24
Well, in his memoirs, Brian said he received a personal commendation from the President of the United States for this piece of work. And, we know that it was certainly shown throughout America. I interviewed 10, eh, 11 years ago, General John Jack Vesey. He was a humble Sergeant in Ulster in 1942. He went on to become President Ronald Reagan’s, Head of his Chiefs of Staff. So, in one way, arguably the most powerful military man in the world, and I was able to have a chat with him. And he just raved about this film. He talked about it being a real rock for everybody that was at home. His colleagues and friends he can see on it. So that came from a real passionate man who wanted me to know this, and took the time out to let me know this. So I felt really honoured to speak to him and to hear that. So, we know that it was really well received in America. They knew their boys were fine. They knew that they’re being trained. And as far as I can tell, in in Northern Ireland, and maybe we’ll come on to that in a second, in a second, it was well received as well.

Scott 26:48
Well, yeah, let’s, let’s come on to that. Because next month, we’ll mark the 80th anniversary of the premiere of ‘A Letter From Ulster’ in Belfast, and that was a rather grand affair. What can you tell us about that night in January 1943.

Allan 27:03
So the fact that we’re talking now, and you said at the start, you know, maybe it’s a bit of destiny that we’re talking now, because we’re bringing in ‘Scrooge’ and Christmas, but we’re also right on the cusp of the 12th January 1943, is when this little documentary was shown, and they made a real fuss of it. So, it was shown in the Imperial Cinema in Belfast, that’s where it had its premiere. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was there. The Colonel Dierking, I think his name was who was the General Officer Commanding of all the U.S. forces in America was there and Basil Brooke. So some of the greats came out to see it on its premiere. And then it was cascaded throughout Northern Ireland. So we’ve got an opportune time, which is the 80th anniversary coming up of, arguably Northern Ireland’s first documentary, and probably one of the greatest still 80 years later documentaries. So, it’s great that you’ve given me this platform to talk about it, and hopefully, more people will, will get to see it and Mike Catto may finally get his wish, which is everybody in Northern Ireland should see this film.

Scott 28:23
Well, if we could get both everyone seeing this film and everyone listening to this podcast, I think that would be a wonderful outcome from this evening. ‘A Letter From Ulster’ wasn’t Hurst’s only wartime film, and this year, talking of those small coincidences, this year also marks 80 years since the siege of Malta, another event which inspired perhaps one of the greatest war films of the 1950s.

Allan 28:51
It’s a great film, and it’s very personal film from me as well. So not only did Brian direct this. In fact, he was almost not going to direct it, and John Ford called him up and said, look, this is right up your street. You’ve got to do this. Of course, of course, Ford was a great wartime film director with ‘Midway’ and what have you, so he was propelled into doing it. So, the other personal point for me is my father-in-law was on a an aircraft carrier built in Belfast called the H.M.S. Formidable and he was on the Malta convoys, and we’ve got telegrams back from him so helping get supplies through and save Malta. So, the backstory is, it’s it’s real David and Goliath stuff. Is this little island, one of the most bombed square miles in Europe, in the whole of the Second World War, and that took an absolute pasting, but the people didn’t give up. The R.A.F. that were based there didn’t give up, and the Navy and importantly, the merchant navy didn’t give up and tried to get supplies through. So it’s pretty much a story of the Navy, the Air Force and the merchant navy. It’s a very human film. So, I’m told by film critics that the one thing that Brian keeps bringing to his war films is humanity. And that’s not surprising when you consider that roll call of his battalion. They were slaughtered, Scott, you know, they were decimated in the worst possible way. So his war films aren’t blood and gore and flash and bang. It’s tenderness, it’s humanity, it’s a story. Malta Story is a great one because it’s the story of the little man fighting back. But the stars aligned on this one because he had an A-list cast, so you got Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins – went on two years later on another war film called ‘A Bridge Over The River Kwai’. But anyway, well, we’ll focus on Malta Story and, and also, Anthony Steele was with those two, posters up behind me. I think it’s a great little film but then again, it’s not just me. There was a survey last month, top 10 war films from the 1950s, and there you go, Malta Story in there. So great to see that it’s still being recognised, still shown on TV, still shown in streaming services. Really pleased about it. And again, for folk from Belfast, and around to know, this, this guy from here, did this stuff. I think it just makes people sort of step back a bit and think, yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s good. We can be proud of that.

Scott 31:54
And, I’m living in East Belfast at the minute, and I know that if anyone’s living in that area, if you go down to the Strand Cinema, which is just off the Newtownards Road there, there’s a blue Ulster History Circle plaque commemorating Brian Desmond Hurt’s work up on the wall of the cinema. So, his, he is being remembered and his films have been critically acclaimed, you know, he’s got great, great fans among other filmmakers but do you think the films receive the credit they deserve, and what would you say is the enduring legacy of Brian’s work?

Allan 32:36
I think, Scott, if I’m absolutely honest, if you go back twenty years or so ago, the appetite just wasn’t there for the Brian story. You know, the film might be shown occassionally on, on B.B.C. 2 on a midweek time, and, and his story had almost gone. But, getting the estate together and getting the archive together, and starting to tell the story in the two books – I’ll mention those in a second – I think, I think, people are coming back and saying hold on, yeah, number 1. film is art, number 2. when we watch his films, we see, we see that painterly eye, and we also see those kind of John Ford, Fordian elements. So he does a lot of framing of pictures, you know, through a, through a doorway just like Ford had done. He really uses close-ups very sparingly but to underline important points, and so, I think, we’re getting that he was a great filmmaker. I think, we’re getting that he made over thirty films over four decades across three continents. I think, we’re getting that he’s arguably the U.K. – one of the U.K.s greatest conflict conflict film directors. Another point, Scott, we’ll need to talk about ‘Ourselves Alone’. Now, that’s great if you can get it on D.V.D. Banned in Belfast, brilliantly banned in Belfast, but sold out in London and Dublin. That’s a whole different podcast. 1936, we’ve got ‘The Lion Has Wings’. We’ve got, we haven’t even talked about ‘Theirs Is The Glory’, where he took 120 veterans back to Arnhem within a year of them taking a heavy defeat. So, the legacy is continuing and building. Emm, the Directors Guild of Great Building plaque put up in Queen’s Film Theatre. It was only the fourth they’d put up. Emm, the first two included David Laine and Michael Powell. So, Brian was the fourth. So, the legacy is there. When the, they opened the Titanic Film Studios, one of them is named the Hurst Sound Stage. I don’t think a lot of people know that, that there’s a big plaque in there. It was opened by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, and one of them is called the Hurst Sound Stage. So, we’re getting there. Emm, Scott, if I may, just a couple of things. We took Brian’s memoirs, and told the story of all his film life, all his film writing; ‘Hurst On Film’, just published last year. £1.49 on Kindle. So, we’ve done this. The paperback in more expensive because it’s lavish. It’s got a thousand pictures in it. It’s 600 pages, but it’s out on Kindle, £1.49. Young filmmakers, students, people interested in just, there it is, ‘Hurst On Film’ available on Amazon. And, the other one is just for the military fans. ‘Theirs Is The Glory’. It charts Brian’s ten war films, published by Hellion, a military publisher, available on Amazon. I think it’s £15. Emm, David Truesdale, who’s a military author, very, very knowledgable, very accurate, and then I wrote it with David by bringing in the film archive stuff. So, ten war films that he made and that’s in, in, in that book. So, we’re getting there, Scott, and I think it’s a great story, and then that’s before we even get into the personal life of Brian, which is just an amazing story as well – from rags to riches, and then actually, he just blew everything in the end as well. If somebody enjoyed it, emm, he gave it away. He had a very fine art collection, and if somebody admired one of his pictures, he gave it to them. That’s the sort of man he was.

Scott 36:47
He sounds like an absolutely wonderful man, and I think we’ll definitely have to have you back on the podcast to talk more about Brian’s personal life and some of those ten war movies as well. Now, Allan, you’re often found educating and informing people on all things Brian Desmond Hurst. Once people have listened to this podcast, once they’ve, eh, bought the, bought the books from Amazon or their independent local book sellers if available, were can our listeners keep up with you, with any news from the estate, and just as importantly, where can we watch some of these wonderful films?

Allan 37:27
Okay, well, the go-to spot for anything information-wise on Brian, if there’s an event happening, or there’s literally anything happening, is the Brian Desmond Hurst Legacy Facebook Page. So, if you simply go on to that, give a post a like, you’ll then get notification from it, or check back in every now and again. Beyond that, there are several… I’d love, I’d love to say more at the moment, but I’m sworn to secrecy, but there’s several things that are happening next year around the Hurst story and around film is art, and it is worth it. Maybe we can come back and talk about it when that comes to fruition but I can’t, I can’t say anything more at the moment. So, the go-to space is the Brian Desmond Hurst Legacy Facebook Page. Accessing his films, so, if you want to go in and follow up this podcast, ‘A Letter From Ulster’. Just go into YouTube, Google ‘A Letter From Ulster’. We’ve remastered it. We put it up there. Enjoy it. It’s there. It can be seen. Once you’ve seen that, stay with YouTube and go into ‘Revisiting A Letter From Ulster’, and that’s where I made a documentary about ten years ago and we walked, we walked the steps that Don and Wally did, and went to the places that they went to to show it now. So, you know, if we’ve got those two million grandchildren from the American servicemen out there that want to see it, so ‘Revisiting A Letter From Ulster’ on YouTube, and then when they come over here, they can follow the steps. Other than that, lots of his films are now, so the Wikipedia entry and Brian’s filmography is correct. Off the back of that, you can find most of the films now on D.V.D. or streaming devices, and D.V.D. on either Amazon oe eBay, and you can start to pick them up, and follow them through, and see a little bit more of his film art. So, his work started in 1934 and he finished in 1963, so emm, there’s a good spread there. But, Scott, for me, you know, I, I, I just can’t thank you enough for giving me an opportunity here to share with you a little bit more about the history and the news, and if I’ve only got one message for folk to take away, just please remember Brian’s kind of epitaph, which is, film is art, and should be viewed as such, and should have just as equal prominence in the world of art as pictures, songs, and paintings, and, and, and, if we do that then the job is done.

Scott 40:20
The job is done indeed. What an absolutely fantastic message to wrap up this episode with. Emm, Allan, I can’t thank you enough for joining us, and, yeah, I wish you all the best with those events and things that you have planned next year, and we hope to chat to you again about those soon. Thank you very much.

Allan 40:42
Thanks, take care, and goodbye. Thanks.

Scott 40:46
Subscribe to ‘A Wee Bit Of War’ on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favourite shows. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your co-workers. Break all the rules of the Official Secrets Act, and why not leave us a review to help others find the podcast. Thank you for joining myself and Allan Smith, and I look forward to your company again next time for another wee bit of war.

Archival film footage: Copyright Quartertoten Productions. Used with kind permission of the Brian Desmond Hurst Estate.

© 2024 WartimeNI | Design & Development: Scott Edgar | Hosted by: Big Wet Fish