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  Inside Out North West: Monday January 12, 2004


Sam Hanna using a camera
Sam and his precious camera

One genius Burnley film-maker has left an extraordinary record of life in the North West, spanning over 60 years.

Inside out discovers why Sam Hanna is hailed the Lowry of Film.

Born in 1903 in Burnley, Sam Hannaís lifelong love affair with film began in the 1920s when he bought a cine camera.

His first attempts recorded his family at work, rest and play - often on Blackpool Pleasure Beach. But Samís treasure trove of memories is far richer than that.

"This medium was far better than chalk and talk."
Sam Hanna on film as an educational tool

Wherever he went in Burnley the camera went with him. The results are a fascinating journey back in time. He filmed everything from the master craftsman of the North West to royal visits to poignant football matches.

Watch some of Samís footageÖ

Busby babes, 1957
Burnley FC v Manchester United, just 18 months before the Munich air disaster.

Master craftsmen
The last of the traditional craftsmen who worked in the North West.

Family life
The Hanna family at work, rest and play on Blackpool beach.

Film in schools
Sam talks about the role of his films in education.


Footage and stills © Bob Hanna.

Education tool

Sam soon realised his precious camera could be a vital aid to education.

Sam said in an interview before he died in 1996, "I got a Pathe 9.5 camera and saw the great potential use in education."

But his early efforts didnít endear him to education bosses. He said, "In those days, film wasn't used in education. They thought I was entertaining and not teaching." But Sam lived long enough to see that he was right, and that film is a valuable teaching resource.

Mike Townend, Keeper of History at Burnley Museum says, "Nowadays, people would show these films. Even today, in classes, to get an idea of what life was like in the town. But at that time, teaching was very rigid."

Master craftsmen

Sam would spend hours ensuring he filmed the last of the few traditional craftsmen who worked in the North West.


His first job at 12 years old was at a cotton mill.

Before becoming a film maker, Sam was a furniture maker and a teacher.

He was introduced to the Queen and Prince Charles during their visits to Burnley.

The Queen Street Industrial Museum's Lecture Theatre is named after him.

Sam was married to his wife Edith for over 60 years.

These craftsmen included thatchers, cloggers, charcoal makers and barrel makers.

Many of those skills have long since died out, but can be relived thanks to Samís efforts to ensure they were recorded for posterity.

Busby babes

In the days before video, a forward thinking management team at Burnley Football Club asked Sam to film their game against Manchester United, so they could analyse their mistakes.

It was one of the most remarkable and poignant pieces of footage ever shot by Sam Hanna.

Half of the United team filmed playing with Busby Babe legends like Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, Geoff Bent, and Billy Whelan, would all die just 18 months later in the Munich air disaster.


Leaflet showing Sam Hanna projector
The Hanna projector is promoted via posters

Although Sam died in 1996, the magic of his films lives on.

Burnley recently honoured the 100th anniversary of Samís birth. His cameras are now displayed in the local Towneley Hall Museum.

Mike Townend says, "Samís left us a massive legacy."

"You can read things in books, you can listen to people talking about their history, but to actually see it on film, it's very, very important."

See also ...

Inside Out: North West
More great stories

BBC: Nation on film
BBC Manchester: Busby babes in colour

On the rest of the web
Sam Hanna: The Lowry of film making
Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museums

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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