WE happened to stumble across a recording of an episode of Songs of Praise which was filmed on Portland in November 1984 and broadcast in February 1985.

It was posted on the video sharing website YouTube by Portland historian Stuart Morris.

More than 30 years have passed since the recording in All Saints Church, Easton, Portland, and the programme, presented by Geoffrey Wheeler, provides a fascinating glimpse into the past; and for many now, a vivid trip down memory lane.

The video opens with organ music, accompanied by sweeping shots of the island, Portland Bill lighthouse, and Chesil beach.

Geoffrey, who presented the programme for 20 years, goes on to discuss Chesil beach, the 1979 floods and the Cove House Inn’s collection of photos chronicling it.

Before the first hymn, Geoffrey discusses Kimberlins. Portlanders most likely already know about Kimberlins - Portland slang meaning ‘stranger’.

The programme goes on to explain that Portlanders weren’t considered to truly belong until their family had lived on the isle for three generations.

The video says: "Today about 12,000 people live on the island - most of them Kimberlins."

The interludes between hymns contain plenty of fascinating videos about Portland, alongside an assortment of stories from islanders.

The hymns are sung by a sizeable crowd and are interspersed with video footage of the isle.

The crowd is bursting with faces that many will recognise; Hilda Swinney, once the Echo's Portland correspondent, features in one of the interludes.

She speaks about producing the island pantomime in her spare time and is seen in costume singing with a pantomime dame and a pantomime horse.

Scots-born Hilda said in the footage: "I firmly believe that any ability there is to make people laugh, to help them in any way, to use that ability to the fore is or may be a miniature song of praise.

Of Portland, she says: "Most of all I like the people. It's the best community I've ever been in."

In the Songs of Praise programme's second report on Portland, it mentions the now closed naval base and Portland stone which was used to build St Paul's Cathedral after a visit from Sir Christopher Wren to the island.

Another famous visitor, Geoffrey Wheeler reports, was Charles Wesley, who brought Methodism to the isle and preached on the street. There is also footage of the 800 year old remains of St Andrew's Church at Church Ope Cove

Former Portland stonemason Herbert Young is interviewed in the programme.

He tells Geoffrey: "Being a Portland stonemason is something to be very proud of. You take Portland out of London, there won't be a lot of London left. You could bring a stranger to Portland and they either love it or detest it. It's all according to how you view it. To me, Portland has given itself to beautify other places."

Geoffrey also tours Portland Harbour in a torpedo recovery vessel and meets Commander John Calley, the Queen's harbourmaster at Portland.

Pam Stone, who organised classes at the Portland Youth Custody Centre is interviewed.

She said: "I thoroughly enjoy my work and it might sound daft but I feel that this is the fulfilment of a career."

We also see Christopher Brown, the Rector of All Saints, shopping in the Co-Op in Easton and talking about the importance of the shop as 'the centre of the community'.

He said: "Sometimes people are much more open over the biscuit counter than they are elsewhere."

The comments section of the YouTube video contains fond recollections of All Saints and links to points in the video where people have been spotted.

The video can be found by searching on YouTube for '1985 Songs of Praise from Portland Faces from the past.' It provides an enlightening snapshot of life on Portland in a bygone era.


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