They were recorded a year apart. They are both attempts by David Wills OBE, to record a narrative for a silent film made in 1943 at Barns Hostel and School in Peebles, Scotland, one of the earliest therapeutic communities for children in the United Kingdom. The film, remastered with David Wills' final version of narrative, was later released for viewing by Concord Films.
The first is a reel to reel tape, recorded in 1972. The second is on audiocassette, recorded in 1973, and far more polished. He had had more time to think about what to say, to become more familiar with the recording of his own voice, and perhaps responded to feedback.
The reel to reel was given to the Archive in 1990 by former Trustee Robert Laslett. The audio cassette is one of a number of tapes which were simply inherited when the Archive was formed in 1989 as part of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Collection. They have emerged and been identified during the ongoing programme of digitisation of the audio-visual collections, and are brought together here for the first time.
These recordings are remarkable instances of early oral history by one of the leading pioneers in the therapeutic care of children, about one of its earliest successful experiments: Shaping, reflecting, changing the memories, caught in flight through the magic of the technology.
"The film that you are about to see is, in more than one sense of the word, a bit of a museum piece...It is thought to be the very first visual record, apart from still photographs, of a special boarding school for maladjusted children..."
"The film you are about to see is thought to be unique, in being probably the first visual record ever to have been made of a school for maladjusted children..."
Image above: David Wills with children on steps of Barns House.
Image below: The opening pages of the 1943 Barns Hostel and School Annual Review