A letter from Ulster (1942)
Allan Esler Smith's 2012 publication in conjunction with NI War Memorial commemorated the 70th anniversary of the US troops arrival in Ulster and Hurst's only film made in his Ulster homeland. With a foreword by former Joint Chief of Staff, General John W Vessey the booklet quickly sold-out but is now available to download and read, please click here


"Everyone here should see this film... Over half-a-century later A Letter From Ulster still delivers- historically and artistically"

Mike Catto  www.culturenorthernireland.org Aspects festival film review 22 September 2011


Brian's homeland movie A Letter From Ulster (1942) saw Brian and lifelong friends Terence Young (scriptwriter) and his fellow Ulsterman and assistant director William (Bill) MacQuitty (who went on to direct the Titanic movie "A Night to Remember")  creating a film promoting a sense of community between the people of Northern Ireland and the quarter of a million troops from the USA based in Northern Ireland at the time. Tensions between the US troops and the local population were high and there was a need to defuse the situation.

Brian McIlroy in Re-viewing British Cinema 1900 - 1992: Essays and Interviews explained that "Hurst was able to persuade one Catholic and one Protestant soldier to write letters home, explaining their impressions of their stay. From these letters, Terence Young, the scriptwriter, was able to construct a sequence of activities that revealed the different traditions of Ireland". 

The results are magnificent as the soldiers move around the countryside visiting St. Mary's Church in Belfast, Strabane, Carrickfergus Castle, and Derry/Londonderry.  They are also seen unboarding a train at Cultra and on another scene  they almost stray over the border.  During the film a young Ulsterman sings for the Visiting US troops. 

To get a flavour of the the film, scroll down to see the first four minutes. Clip provided by the kind permission of the British Film Institute now acting on behalf of the original Government film maker


Following the back to back screening of Brian's A Letter From Ulster from 21st September to 25th September 2011 at the Aspects Arts Festival in Ireland the newly released 15 minute documentary Revisiting A Letter From Ulster is now exclusively available on this website. Just click play below (best viewed via Internet Explorer- some browsers may not allow you to view the documentary)

"It is a special film and it is important that this part of our military history and your cultural heritage is preserved". General John W Vessey former Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces.

Re-Mastered and re-relased A Letter From Ulster can be viewed by clicking here:


Strabane - Photo Courtesy of the Allan Smith Collection

Derry/Londonderry - Photo Courtesy of the Allan Smith Collection

Above right, the two men visit  Roaring Meg, the most famous of the cannon guns used in the 1689 Siege of Derry.  The name of the City has caused great debate in Ulster with various descriptions such as Derry/Londonderry and even the Gerry Anderson inspired 'Stroke City' and was the UK City of Culture in 2013. 

Rather than worrying about labels why not retrace the steps of the two American soldiers and visit the City and its 17th Century Walls.  Find out more at www.derryvisitor.com

Please also discover more about Carrickfergus Castle and other tourist locations at www.discovernorthernireland.com

Carrickfergus Castle - Photo Courtesy of the Allan Smith Collection
Cultra - Photo Courtesy of the Allan Smith Collection

The film shows rare and historically significant images of Brian's homeland during the Second World War. It is also significant as it is an early showing of Shaun Terence Young's scriptwriting.  Terence was to remain a lifelong friend of Brian and had been given his first credited role in Brian's On the Night of the Fire (starring Sir Ralph Richardson) in 1939 and they also went on to work together on Dangerous Moonlight (1941).

Terence went on to direct Dr. No (1962), From Russia, With Love (1963) and another Bond movie, Thunderball (1965). He remained true friends with Brian for the rest of his life and Terence brought his family to Brian's 90th birthday party at Bafta in 1985.


To help mark this 70th anniversary of the US troops arrival in Northern Ireland  the Northern Ireland War Memorial screened Brian Desmond Hurst's classic documentary A Letter From Ulster during September and October 2012 to support their exhibition on the US troops that trained here during the Second World War. Mrs Sarah Scott who appears in the original film was a special guest at the opening screening.


Mrs Sarah Scott in 1942 filming A Letter From Ulster with a GI (above) and in 2012 with Allan Esler Smith and Ireland and British Lions rugby player Jack Kyle (below)


Photographs from the opening screening event on 6th September 2012 courtesy of Peter O'Hara and Northern Ireland War Memorial