A Family History Collection



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Eileen Mackay Higgins Antwis - Amateur Film Maker


High resolution DVD copies of these films , which are of a better quality than the youtube version, are available on request

Eileen Mackay Higgins.  1924 - 1989.


My mother, Eileen, made many cine films between 1958 and 1978 using her clockwork Paillard Bolex 8mm camera.

The film had to be wound into the camera in complete darkness - she carried a black velvet draw string bag for this, so was doing it 'blind', by touch alone. Half way through the film had to be turned over and reloaded, also in the dark. The camera had no automatic features. She had to use a light meter and then set the camera aperture. There was no automatic focus so that had to be adjusted as she filmed.

The camera was clockwork and slowly wound down. She had to judge when to stop filming and re-wind.

When the film was sent away for processing, they cut the film down the centre so the 2 sides ran one after the other. To edit, Eileen had to cut out the bits she didn't want and splice the ends back together using the little editor in the picture below. The film ends have to be trimmed and the emulsion carefully scraped away on one end. Then glue brushed on and the 2 ends spliced together in the editor.

Over the years the glue has dried out so the splices have parted. I have re-trimmed and re-spliced the joins. The film is brittle and snaps requiring splicing. I have used her splicer to do all this. I remember so well, as a child, standing by her as she did this. Now I am doing it and I feel she is at my shoulder as I work.

The film is threaded into the projector through all the little cogs. It has no rewind facility so when it snaps, goes out of focus, starts to flicker etc I have to unload it, repair it, re-wind it, re-thread it and start again. At times my patience is sorely tried!

I have filmed the films using a modern movie camera. The quality is not as good as the original - I am no professional!. They have to be uploaded to Youtube or Vimeo in a small file size which reduces the quality still further. Large file size, better quality versions on CD are available - just ask!


















Most of the films were of her family.

She and her husband Peter Antwis belonged to a Social Club called the Good Companions Club in Rochester, Kent. She and her friends formed a Drama Group and a Film Group here in the late 1950's.

The one surviving film that she made with the Film Group is the short silent  'Returning The Empty'




Made in 1958 this film features Eileen Antwis as Mother, Tom Davies as Father, Peter Antwis as The Man In The Street and Mark Antwis as the baby.

It was filmed in the villages of Borstal and Snodland near Rochester, Kent.

I clearly remember this film being made. The Phone Box Scene caused some problems - it required careful editing to hide the finger holding down the cradle to cut the line as Tom dialled 999.

The running sequence was taken from the window of a moving car - the black Jaguar which is parked on the pavement causing Tom to run out into the road.

This scene was filmed over and over before it was right. Tom was utterly exhausted!

The film had lots of splices - the glue in most had crumbled away with age and the film was in many pieces. I used my mothers splicer to repair them and I was transported back to when I was 8 and standing by her shoulder as she did it.





Having served in the WAAF through the 2nd World War, Eileen was a passionately anti-war.

She was one of the earliest members of CND,  The Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament. She went on the first CND Aldermaston To London March at Easter 1959 and this is her film of that March.

She went on many of the marches and became very involved in CND activities. I remember her going to the House Of Commons for tea as part of a delegation. At the height of the Cold war,she was chosen to go to Russia with a delegation but, in the end, they did not take her as she had very small children and, at that time, there was a very real risk of arrest and imprisonment as a subversive in Russia.




Eileen lived in Cambridge after WW2 whilst her husband Peter was at Cambridge University. Her first two children Paul and Gillian were born there. Baby Gillian was buried in Fen Ditton Village Cemetery next to the Church. Eileen's ashes were scattered on the grave when she died.

Their first home was The Hut on an abandoned army camp. They and many others squatted there as there was no housing to be had during this time of acute housing shortage after the bombing during the war.

This film shows a return visit to Cambridge around 1957 with Paul and their 2nd daughter, Sandra. They are with their friends Peter and Ann Wakefield and their little boy, Phillip.




This was one of the last films Eileen made. Her camera was, by now, 20 years old and this shows in the poor quality of the film.

She and Peter and their 4th child, Mark are on holiday in a hired boat on the Norfolk Broads, with 2 of Eileen's 4 sisters-Betty and husband John Benjamin, and Christine and husband Wally Appleyard





This is the only footage I have so far found featuring Eileen's mother, Victoria Rose Higgins nee Fitch.

It was taken in 1971 and features Eileen's husband Peter; her sister Christine and Christine's husband Wally (wearing glasses); her daughter-in-law Sandra; 2 of her grandchildren Penny and Simon and her son, Mark.





This film features Eileen's son, Paul playing football in the 1950's.

The skill of this film is that she manages to keep Paul centre screen throughout the film. Not easy whilst holding the camera to the face and viewing the limited field of vision visible through the little eyepiece - no screen on the camera in those days! No built in light meter or automatic focus either.





This film features Eileen's son, Mark Formula Ford Motor Racing during the late 1970's.

The camera was 25 years old by this time and beginning to show it. Better quality versions available on CD.







mums editor mums camera2 mums projector mums camera1 eileen mckay higgins.1945 victoria rose fitch.1917

Victoria Rose Higgins nee Fitch

Eileen Mackay Antwis nee Higgins

Click here to view film "Returning The Empty Click Here to view film CND 'Aldermaston March' Click here to view film 'Return To Cambridge' Click Here to view the film 'Holiday In Norfolk Broads' Click here to view the Film 'Grandma Victoria Rose Higgin's Visit' Click here to view film 'Paul Antwis Playing Football' Click here to view the film 'Mark Antwis Motor racing' Click here to view the film Ten Tors. Girls Team. 1965

Ten Tors is an Annual endurance walk.  Teams of six walk 35, 50 or 60 miles across Dartmoor. To complete, the team has to walk the distance including climbing ten tors (hills) over 2 days and spend a night under canvas on the moor.

This film is of Eileen's daughter, Sandra Antwis and her friends Vivien Bunn, Sandra Delbridge, Susan Lampard, Linda Shilston and Doreen Eldridge all from the Medway Towns in Kent and all 14 years old.