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December 2021

Object Title:  Billboard

Object Number:  1995.4.279

Introduced by South Georgia Heritage Trust Director Sarah Lurcock

Billboard for a Christmas and New Year Festival of Fun


The hundreds of men working at Leith harbour whaling station over the Christmas period in 1959 were going to have some light entertainment at the station cinema. A varied programme of mainly films were advertised on this hand painted billboard.

The Leith cinema was the largest of the five whaling station cinemas on the island. The building was a Nissan hut-like structure; curved corrugated iron sheets formed a long half tube with a stage at one end. It was quite separate from the rest of the whaling factory at the south-western end. Most of the men lived in the communal barracks in the centre of the station, so the walk to the cinema was possibly enough to make the whalers feel they really were “going out”.

The Christmas festivities were to start on Christmas Eve with a showing of the lively musical ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’. On Christmas Day there was a double bill, starting with a rather misleadingly label of “Cowboy” (presumably a western). They wrote the film name incorrectly, it was actually ‘Ruby Gentry’, and there is little evidence of it being a traditional western. It does feature guns, but it is more a torrid tale of romance, desire and disaster. If the men hankered for a more traditional “cowboy” then they would be better served with the showing of the film ‘Destry’ two days later.

Film poster for Ruby Gentry


Many of the men working at the Leith were Scottish. The company that owned and operated the station were based near Edinburgh, Scotland. The whalers would have been looking forward to some lively and live entertainment on New Year’s Eve with ‘Gus Rankin and his stars’ in their ‘Hogmanay Revels’.

This photo of a whalers’ entertainment is from earlier, 1950.
Image credit


The billboard is in surprisingly good condition considering it was in the now abandoned station for 35 years before being rescued in 1995. It was brought in to the South Georgia Museum by some of the people working aboard the British Antarctic Survey vessel RRS Bransfield.

The billboard is now on display in the Ringdal Room beside a huge old projector with film reels, and fittingly an old paper Christmas decoration hangs above it. The bottom of the billboard has festive greetings:
“We extend heartiest of Season’s Greeting to all our Patrons and wish them Happiness and Prosperity in 1960.”

The kino (cinema) projector from Grytviken