Yer Old Faither


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Yer Old Faither
"Heather Croall's film will charm Australian and Glaswegian audiences alike." | Photo: courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

in these days when decent quality filmmaking equipment has become affordable to the average person, it's tempting to try and catch all life's important moments on it. This includes recording the stories of ageing relatives who won't be around to recount them themselves for much longer. Documentaries by filmmakers about their parents are getting more and more common, ordinary lives getting the celebrity treatment. Every now and again, the story recorded in such a documentary turns out not to be very ordinary at all.

Such is Yer Old Faither, the story of John Croall, who moved his family from Glasgow to Australia in 1970 because he wanted to live somewhere where it didn't ran all the time. Settling in the South Australian industrial town of Whyalla, he took up a post as an obstetrician and delivered thousands of babies over the course of his career, his skill at managing difficult births credited with dramatically reducing the caesarean rate and saving many lives. He also ran a carpentry business on the side, completely refitted and insulated the family home with recycled materials, and planted literally thousands of trees, stabilising the water table and filling the town with greenery.

Copy picture

People who approach life with this sort of vision are comparatively rare and it's even rarer for their work to be recorded by those with real personal insight into how they lived their lives. This film was made by John's daughter, Heather Croall, and balances her childish affection for her dad with an adult perspective suffused with awe at his achievements. The material she uses was clearly collected over a number of years but takes on more urgent focus towards the end, as his own health begins to fail. John's wife and assorted colleagues hare their thoughts, providing insights which go beyond the personal and reflect on the status of women and approaches to medicine during the latter part of the 20th Century.

The phrase 'yer old faither' comes from a letter written by John, full of humour and emotional blackmail, to his daughter when she was away studying. It's one of several moments when we look beyond John's latter day representation of himself to see how he came across to others. Many people were scared of him, perhaps intimidated by the size of his personality or by the way he snapped at them to stand up straight. Despite his sunny exile, part of him remained distinctly Glaswegian. Fellow Scots will recognise the warmth underlying it all, and also the fierceness with which he pushed to make everything around him better. He comes across as a man ahead of his time, one with whom the rest of the world is just catching up.

Full of wit and vigour, Heather Croall's film will charm Australian and Glaswegian audiences alike. It's a chronicle of a life well lived.

Reviewed on: 26 Feb 2021
Share this with others on...
A documentary about a Scottish obstetrician who moved to Australia and brought hundreds of children into the world.

Director: Heather Croall

Writer: Karin Altmann, Heather Croall

Starring: John Croall, Heather Croall, Gary McNair

Year: 2020

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Australia


Glasgow 2021

Search database: