British Pathé releases catalogue of historic films on YouTube

18 Apr 2014

A scene from the newsreel documentating the handover of Collins Barracks in Dublin to the Irish armed forces. Image via British Pathé

Pathé News, one of the oldest newsreel film companies in the world, has put up its 85,000 video collection online, featuring some fascinating looks at the 20th century.

Available to view for free, the stylised clips, more commonly known as British Pathé, were often displayed before cinema screenings up until 1970 and gave viewers an insight into stories they may otherwise would never have seen.

Many of the clips that feature have become legendary in their own right, including the Hindenburg air blimp disaster in 1937 and the crowing of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

While a small number of clips have been available on YouTube for three years, this latest series of uploads now places all available film online.

“This archive is a treasure trove unrivalled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten. Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that,” said Alastair White, general manager of British Pathé.

The archive features dozens of clips relating to Ireland, including Irish sporting highlights, and the first years of its independence from Britain.

One clip that will be relevant to Irish viewers shows footage, with a modern narrator, of the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921 and the handing over of Collins Barracks in Dublin to the Irish armed forces from the British army.

In 1930, the Irish Army was filmed training in The Curragh, Co Kildare, with the line, “The horse still lives in the Irish Army.”

The ‘Irish National Festival’, or St Patrick’s Day to everyone else, was also filmed in 1930 and 1931, once again documenting the Irish Free State Army as it marches through College Green in Dublin.

The declaration of Ireland’s move towards a republic was also documented in 1949 outside the General Post Office in Dublin, with scenes of then-President Sean Kelly and the Irish Army (again) celebrating the news.


Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic