TAIT, Margaret‡, m. Pirie, born Kirkwall, Orkney, 11 Nov. 1918, died Kirkwall 16 April 1999. Filmmaker. Daughter of Mary Ibister, and Charles Tait, agricultural merchant.
Margaret Tait studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1941 and serving in the RAMC (1943–6). In the late 1940s she developed a passion for film and went to study in Rome (1950–2). Returning to Scotland, she could not find a place in the British film industry, where there were few opportunities for women to direct. Between 1952 and 1998 she made 32 films, of which all but three were self-financed, initially by locum work. In addition to raising the money, Margaret Tait worked as a one-woman crew. Occasionally she had the help of her life-long partner, Alex Pirie, whom she married in 1968 and who is credited as producer on Where I am is here (1964). Margaret Tait described herself as a 'film poet' (Curtis 1999) rather than a documentarian. Her films sometimes seem like a picture of the past (e.g. Land Makar 1981) but her intention was not so much to document as to create visual poems from sound and image. She developed a very singular style, which is being increasingly recognised as a unique voice within European avant-garde film. In 1993, she had the opportunity, aged 74, to direct her first feature film, Blue Black Permanent, based on a script she first started to write in the 1940s. Filmed in Edinburgh and Orkney, 'it is beautiful, ingenious, and extraordinarily sad, all at once' (EIFF Catalogue 2004). She made her last film, Garden Pieces, in 1998, the year before her death. In addition to film-making she published stories and poetry and painted. MJG
• Orkney Archives: the Tait Papers; Scottish Screen Archive. Tait, M. (1959) Origins & Elements, (1960) Subjects & Sequences, (1960) The Hen & The Bees: legends & lyrics. Select Filmography (not mentioned above): (1955) A portrait of Ga, (1956) Calypso, (1958) Happy Bees, (1966) Hugh MacDiarmid – A Portrait, (1966) The Big Sheep. Curtis, D. (1999) 'Britain's oldest living experimentalist … Margaret Tait', Vertigo, 9, Summer; Edinburgh International Film Festival Catalogue 2004; Sandhu, S. 'Edinburgh Reports: unique vision of a film poet', The Daily Telegraph, 23 August 2004; Todd, P. (1999) A deeper knowledge than