William MacQuitty

William MacQuitty
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1 Nov 1991
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Born 1905 in Belfast. Early career in colonial banking. Entry into films as a self-taught documentary maker in 1940. Joined Sydney Box on On Approval in 1942/43. Independent producer including A Night To Remember. Founding Managing Director of Ulster Television in 1959.




Transposed from the interviewees own hand amended ‘dot-matrix’ print out, with minor corrections where necessary. DS]


Born Belfast, Northern Ireland 15th May 1905. . Son of James MacQuitty a proprietor and managing director of the Belfast Telegraph and Allied publications. Married Betty Bastin, economist, author, vice-chairman of Ulster Television. Three children, Jonathan, Jane and Miranda. Educated Campbell College, Belfast. Interests: archaeology, travel, bee-keeping, skin-diving, flying: founder member of Lahore Flying Club, 1927. Clubs: Garrick and Hurlingham.


Career: Special Constable, City of London. Five years, Punjab Light Horse; Merchant Banker; Underwriter at Lloyds; Farmer; Film Director and producer; Photographer and Author.


Films: [This list omits some credits listed by the British Film Institute, and contains others not listed by the BFI] Documentaries for the forces during the war and The Ministry of Information: A Letter from Ulster (director: Brian Desmond Hurst). US troops in Ulster, 1942. 19 Metre Band, 1941, [about] BBC’s service to India,(self) with Sir [William] Beveridge, Megan Lloyd George, Dr Narayan Menon, Leon Goosens, Dr. Edith Summerskill 1943. Simple. (self); Silage 1944. Out of Chaos (Director: Jill Craigie BEHP Interview No 363]): artists recording the War including Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash and Lord Clark 1945. The Way We Live: rebuilding of the Blitzed City of Plymouth. 1946 (Jill Craigie).


Feature Films: Blue Scar. Emrys Jones in a Welsh mining drama 1947. Jill Craigie

Happy Family: Stanley Holloway in Festival of Britain comedy 1952. Muriel Box

Street Corner: London police thriller, Peggy Cummings, Anne Crawford 1951.

Beachcomber: Somerset Muriel Box

Maugham’s Vessel of Wrath. Robert Newton, Glynis Johns, Donald Sinden, 1953. (Box)

Above us the Waves: British midget submarine attack on the Tirpitz. John Mills, Donald Sinden, John Gregson. A favourite film of Winston Churchill. Ralph Thomas 1954.

The Black Tent. Desert war in Libya, Donald Sinden, Donald Pleasance, script Bryan Forbes, story Robin Maugham 1955 Brian Desmond Hurst.

A Night to Remember. Authentic account of the sinking of the Titanic, by Walter Lord, script by Eric Ambler. Kenneth More headed a vast cast but the ship was the star. Many awards 1957. Roy [Ward] Baker. {BEHP Interview No 103].

The Informers. Scotland Yard thriller with Nigel Patrick, Colin Blakeley, 1958. Ken Annakin.



Founding Managing Director of Ulster Television, 1959-60. Deputy Chairman 1960-75.

Originator of the first adult education programme in the UK, Midnight Oil.



Abu Simbel, MacDonalds & Putnams, 1965. Originator of the plan to save the temples by enclosing them in a skin which would leave them secure under water. Fry, Drew architects; Ove Arup, engineers.

Irish Gardens*, with Edward Hyams. MacDonalds, 1967.

Buddha. Nelson & Viking, 1969. (forward by Dalai Lama).

Great Botanical Gardens of the World*, with Edward Hyams. Nelson & MacMillan, 1965, reprinted 1985.

Persia, the Immortal Kingdom*, Mitchell Beazley & New York Graphic Society, 1971. Commissioned by the Shah to commemorate the country’s 2,500 anniversary.

Tutankhamun, the last journey. Nelson, Sphere, Quartet & Crown, 1972. Sold half a million copies and cover picture of funerary mask was used as a poster for the exhibition.

Princes of Jade*, Nelson and Sphere, 1973.

The World in Focus. Bartholomew, 1974 (U.S. 1975). Foreward by Arthur C Clarke.

Island of Isis. MacDonald & Scribners, 1976.

Joy of Knowledge Library, Mitchel Beazley, Random House Encyclopedia 1977. Major contributor.

The Wisdom of the Ancient Egyptians, Sheldon Press and New Direction, 1978.

Rameses the Great, Master of the World, Mitchell Beazley and Crown, 1978.

Inside China*, with Malcom MacDonald. Heinemann and Little Brown, 1980.

The Glory of India*. Collins, 1982. (foreward by John Masters).

*As photographer.



Founded the MacQuitty International Collection, which contains more than a quarter of a million photographs taken by the author and his family over the past 60 years. As well as illustrating his books, the library is used by publishers world-wide.



Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain; Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society; Hon MA, Quenns University Belfast; Hon. Doctorate, Occidental University of St Louis, Missouri.




A Night to Remember. Golden Eagle Award; The Christopher Award; The US National Board of Review Citation; The Californian Motion Picture Council Certificate of Outstanding Merit.