Film ID:
NEFA 21335



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Set in 1850, this ambitious period drama is based on an old Tyneside sea-faring tale. A single mother and her daughter survive by luring sailors on shore leave to their boarding house to rob and murder. This film received a special commendation in the annual Amateur Cine World (ACW) magazine Ten Best competition. Scenes were filmed on board a sailing vessel at Dunston on the River Tyne and around the oldest locations in Newcastle upon Tyne, including Sandhill. The film was a Newcastle and District Amateur Cinematographers Association (ACA) production.

Credit: Newcastle and District ACA Presents

Title: The House in Docherty Square: A Tale of Old Shields



Mrs McMarg – Edith Turnbull

Her Daughter – Isla Gledhill

1st Sailor – G. R. Hanson

2nd Sailor – G. M. McDougall

Other Sailors – T. Atkinson, L. Bonser, L. Bowes, H. Middleton, J. Nellist, A. E. Nichol


Cameraman – A. H. Gaillard

Make-up – W. Wilkinson

Organisation: I. B. Milne

Titles – L. Greaves

Credit: Produced by J. R. Wrightson

A beautiful young woman is seated amongst sand dunes with a picnic basket. She spies a ship heading for port on the River Tyne. She climbs higher on the cliffs to get a better look, then strolls back to her mother’s house.

Inside a darkened room, an old woman in a white bonnet is sewing. She removes her glasses as her daughter returns home. The two peer through the window, watching as a ship sails by. [A painted backdrop and ship are used.] The ship will bring the opportunity of a new boarder.

The woman instructs her daughter and nods decisively. The two leave the room.

Down on the quayside, the young woman attempts to flirt with young sailors leaving the ship, now moored on the Tyne. She tosses her head contemptuously when they ignore her. A dashing sailor with moustache and sideburns stops to talk. She flirts with him and offers him boarding. The pair leave the quayside and walk to her mother’s house. They pass sailors loitering outside an inn and an old castle building (probably filmed around Newcastle Castle Keep). They arrive at ‘Mrs McHarg’s Boarding House’.

The two are invited in by her mother, who shows the sailor to his room at the top of the house.

Downstairs, the old woman carries a tray of drinks into the dining room. She pours a vial of poison into the sailor’s drink.

The sailor’s sailcloth duffel bag sits on the parquet floor of the bedroom. A china wash jug and bowl sit on a cupboard in front of the bedroom window.

The old woman enters the dining room carrying a candle. She is carrying the sailor’s bag, which she starts to look through. She takes the coins from the sailor’s purse. It is clear she has murdered the young man with poison. She then shows her daughter the attractive purple gown she’s been making for her, which will help lure the sailors to their door.

The old woman turns off the gas light for the night.

Back upstairs in the darkened bedroom given to the sailor, the two women drag out his body, wrapped in a sheet, and dump it into the river.

On board a ship, a sailor smokes a pipe at the railings on deck, chatting to a colleague. The skipper descends to the cabins below, where he chats to a young sailor. The sailor hands him a letter dated May 18th 1840. It is a letter from his father, John McHarg, which tells his son about his birth and origin. The skipper hands the letter back to the sailor.

The sailor and skipper emerge on deck and prepare to take shore leave, the two casting off in a rowing boat manned by a ferryman. They are rowed to a quayside, take leave of the ferryman, and head off to town with their duffel bags. The young woman is again out luring men back to the boarding house down by the docks (a location near Bessie Surtees House on Newcastle's Sandhill is used). John McHarg’s son goes off with the young woman, now wearing her new purple dress.

Back at her mother’s boarding house, the old woman closes the wooden shutters on the windows and lights the gas lamp. Again she lays out drinks and pours poison into the sailor’s glass. She hides the vial inside her dress. She checks the time and invites the young sailor her daughter has brought back to the house into the dining room, where she offers him a drink of brandy. Mrs McHarg and the young sailor sit down and drink together. The sailor starts to feel hot and sweaty, loosening his collar. He gets up but collapses back in the chair. The poison is taking effect. The old woman watches as she sips her drink. He becomes delirious. The old woman smiles, revealing her missing teeth. As the sailor begins to pass out, he takes out the letter to show her. He then dies. Mrs McHarg reaches for the letter and begins to read. She puts on her glasses. As she reads, she suddenly understands she has killed her own son. She begins to cry, heartbroken. The daughter comes in to see what is wrong. She reads the letter as her mother continues to wail, her head in her hands. The daughter understands she has lost a brother. The two console themselves.

Title: The End

Note: An extract from this film appeared in the 50th Newcastle ACA Story production with a commentary that stated “amateur film stock once again became available, and the club ventured into colour.” The film was shot with a Paillard Bolex cine camera.