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Beres Laidlaw. Image courtesy of the Irish Film Archive.

Beres Laidlaw



Biographical Notes:

Beres Laidlaw (neé Murphy) was born in April 1931 and was a native of County Meath, Ireland. She married Thomas K. Laidlaw in 1953 and she the family resided at Somerton House, a large Georgian era mansion and 130 acre estate in Castleknock, Dublin, which features in some of her films. Also often appearing in her films are equestrian activities and events at the Royal Dublin Society. The Laidlaws were an equestrian family with longstanding ties to RDS, with the Laidlaw Cup bearing the family’s name. Laidlaw had four children, often seen in her home movies and travelogue films. The family sold Somerton House in the 1980s and Laidlaw retired to Balrath in County Meath. She died on 3rd December 2018. In 2013, Beres Laidlaw herself deposited a collection of 16mm, 8mm and VHS films made by herself, her father-in-law Robin Laidlaw and a family friend, Lord Milo Talbot de Malahide, with the latter two having made most, if not all, of the 16mm donated films. The period covered in the collection ranges from the 1920s to the 1980s.
One key challenge in understanding Laidlaw as a filmmaker is that the collection deposited in the Irish Film Archive contains some films with ambiguous authorship. For example, some were shot before she was born, and a number of the 16mm films are listed as having belonged to Lord Talbot de Malahide. For the most part, however, we can understand the 8mm films as having been shot by Laidlaw, although she does sometimes appear in them herself. For example, holiday films featuring the family occasionally have shots of her with the children. ‘Roll 20 ¬- Family Holiday 2’ exemplifies this family authorship where it seems that Laidlaw and her husband switch between acting as filmmaker and being filmed. Upon depositing the collection, however, Beres Laidlaw attached her name to it and, upon viewing, it is clear that most of the 8mm films do indeed represent her work. In a note provided from to the Irish Film Archive when she deposited the collection, Laidlaw says:
“I had a wee Brownie box camera when I was at school in Drogheda Grammar School. I was fond of animals, and took photos of people and animals. After our marriage I lived at Somerton, Castleknock, on the stud farm with horses, tillage and Fresian cows, etc. We had four daughters and I experimented with the 16mm camera and projectors, not very well, but I enjoyed the bits which came out! Then I changed to 8mm, which was easier.” (IFA Laidlaw Collection Overview, 2013).
This interest in people and animals is apparent in the films that can be attributed to her. She also choreographs scenes for the camera, often shooting the family as they walk towards her, or directing the action and their movements. Though appearing to be traditional home movies on the surface, a number of her films also exhibit postproduction work, in-camera and external editing, as well as the use of intertitles and title cards.

Bibliographic Resources:

-Anon. 1984. Some Ways of Raising Money. The Lifeboat. Volume XLIX Number 488.
-Davies, Joan. 1981. The Lifeboat. Volume XLVII Number 476.
-Healy, Alison. 2013. From a bang to a whimper as Ireland loses the Aga Khan trophy to Britain. The Irish Times, Aug 10, 2013. [Online] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/from-a-bang-to-a-whimper-as-ireland-loses-the-aga-khan-trophy-to-britain-1.1489859 [accessed on 30th Nov 2022].
-Laidlaw Collection Overview. 2013. Irish Film Archive. Personal note accompanying deposit provided by Beres Laidlaw Sept 2013.
-Laidlaw, Beres Caroline: Death. 2018. Family Notices. The Irish Times. [Online] Available at: https://notices.irishtimes.com/death/laidlaw-beres-caroline/54492126 [accessed on 30th Nov 2022]
-Reynolds, Tony. 2019. History of Castleknock: Laidlaw Family. [Online] Available at: https://reynoldshistorycastleknockblog.wordpress.com/tag/laidlaw-family/ [accessed on 30th Nov 2022].
-Treacy, Morgan. 2013. Leopardstown Racecourse Killavullan Stakes 26th October. [Online] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/leopardstownracecourse/10588809434 [accessed on 30th Nov 2022].
-Weddings: Mr T.K. Laidlaw and Miss B.C. Murphy. 1953. Irish Times, May 1, 1953. Page 5).