Kiss The Water – the practical magic of Megan Boyd

Special screening of documentary at Timespan – next to the river where so many of her flies set the salmon dancing

Whether it is by accident or design, the general release of Kiss the Water coincided with the opening of the River Helmsdale, and while the nearest cinema to this Sutherland village may be Thurso, come Friday locals, visitors, the film’s producers Karin Swan and Andrea Calderwood and some of the people who appear in the film, will beat a path to Timespan for special screenings.

This will be my first film of 2014 and to add to the occasion, Kiss the Water has been widely reviewed and discussed in the media. Only this morning on Midweek, fly fisher  Lilla Rowcliffe who is featured in the film, talked about fishing and this remarkable fly-fishing lure creator.

Here’s a wee bit about the film:

Megan Boyd’s entire world, her life, livelihood,  longing and  love was wrapped up in her mysterious fishing  flies – bits  of exotic feather, fur and fancy tinsel spun around a tiny metal  hook. Her expertise at tying enchantingly delicate fishing flies put her work  in museums  and the hands of collectors around the world and prompted Queen Elizabeth   II to award her the  British  Empire Medal. She died in Golspie in 2001 at the age 86.

Going around Helmsdale, it’s clear that Megan is remembered with great affection and tickets for Friday screenings are all but sold out. It seems ironic that I’m writing this in the kitchen of my great-uncle, Willie Mackay’s house. He died in 1973 but as a ghillie on the River Helmsdale and before that at Achentoul Lodge near Kinbrace, he would have known Megan.

There was always the whiff of tweed, pipe tobacco and the river about his person; sometimes I think I can still smell it when I open the door to this house. And did I, who grew up to be a nosey journalist, ever ask him about his days on the river; not once.

In my uncle’s bookcase are titles such as –The Story of Suez with a dedication to from Antony Nutting who describes himself as ‘Willie’s pupil’; Memories of a Highland Gamekeeper; and shelf after shelf of explorations – from Eskimo Summer to Gold Hunting in Southern Australia. What tales he could have told me.

The film stems from director Eric Steel (The Bridge) reading Megan’s obit in the New York Times, then coming over and talking to everyone connected with her and retracing her footsteps, and everything else it must have taken to turn this untold story into a cinematic delight. That’s what sets directors apart from mere mortals.

Mark Kermode reviews Kiss the Water

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