Before the lockdown we organised a panel session to celebrate the life and legacy of Oscar Marzaroli and launch our exhibition publication. Whilst it wasn’t possible for the event to take place in the gallery, over the coming weeks we will share the recollections and anecdotes on Oscar Marzaroli from photographer Alan Crumlish, creative designer Alistair McCallum, bookshop proprietor Jennie Renton, archivist Carole McCallum, film and photography historian David Bruce. This week we are sharing the recollections of film producer Paddy Higson.
Remembering Oscar – Paddy Higson
Paddy Higson and Clare Grogan in 1983, photographed by Oscar Marzaroli
Memories of the Oscar Marzaroli I knew and loved
I think Oscar gave me my first ever production management credit - on a short film for the Highlands and Islands Development Board in 1973 – with the singularly prosaic title Highlands and Islands – A Royal Tour. It may sound a touch dull, but if you read the crew list, you will understand that the making of it was anything but! Charlie Gormley was the producer and Oscar the director and it was filmed – as far as I remember over two or three days when Prince Charles was supposedly visiting the “industrial innovation” of the Highlands and Islands. He was piloting his own helicopter: we had a PLM helicopter piloted by the legendary John Poland, and a Loganair charter plane as well. We leap-frogged each other to shoot footage of the prince looking at a fish farm, then a deer farm, a Harris weaver, eating Orkney fudge and so on….. I had totally forgotten about this film until Malcolm Dickson asked me to write this, and I looked up the Moving Image Archive to see when I had been in Lewis with Oscar. I found and watched the film again. Like many of these films it was a bit of propaganda – with some lovely landscape footage of the highlands…. But what was best for me was the memories it brought back of friends now dead, Oscar, Charlie; Marty Singleton, David Peat, as well as Louis Kramer who I spoke to last week (he is in shot in the film recording the sound of a goat!) and also Iain Leslie – why is it that the sound guys always get into shot? I remembered Oscar’s wonderful tales of Lewis – an island that he loved… one of his stories was of a time when he wanted to shoot a scene of crofters going into church on a Sunday; at that time you took your life in your hands if you did any work on a Sunday. Oscar was determined, but got the fright of his life when a woman cursed him for breaking the Sabbath. He always maintained that he wasn’t touching his camera when the tripod fell over and the magazine broke open.
Oh for the Friday evenings in the Halt Bar, when architects and film makers chewed the fat until closing time – you would see Peter McGurn, Andy Macmillan, Isi Metzstein, Charlie Gormley, Mike Alexander, Mark Littlewood, Eddie McConnell, my own late husband Patrick Higson, me and many more. Oscar would come in, tweak my ear, and ask if that was our bread-snappers sitting in the car with coke and crisps… you wouldn’t get away with that now but I had only gone in for a pint….to be sociable! - Paddy Higson