Second Sight

a film by Alison McAlpine

Imagine a cinematic nonfiction ghost story, a mystery and an evocative personal tale.

Handsome and gallant, with a ready smile, eighty-year-old Donald Angus MacLean invites us to discover the truth about ghosts on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. A man of the church and a lover of women, he takes us on a journey full of spectres, ghost cars, premonitions and the “second sight”. The film is also a personal story of his daily rituals and his poetic musings on life and death which reveal his love for his late wife, Nina. Rich in humour, Second Sight features the last generation of a Scottish Gaelic oral tradition who grew up without TV and electricity, extraordinary characters who are no longer with us.  Haunting landscapes and soundscapes as pure as nature reveal a magic, real isle full of spine-tingling ghost stories and unforgettable islanders.

Running time: 51 minuntes

Format: 16mm and Digital, 5.1 Sound Sound

Genre: Documentary

Language: English and Gaelic

Produced by Second Sight Pictures

© 2008 Second Sight Pictures. All Rights Reserved.


Press Kit   Purchase

  1. Second Sight **** John Griffin, Montreal Gazette

    Alison McAlpine’s glorious hour-long tribute to the great characters and laid-back way of life on the remote Scottish Isle of Skye has a misty-twisty Gaelic quality uniquely appropriate to the subject of ghosts. Thanks to introductions by vital 80-year-old Donald Angus MacLean, we meet a group of individuals who claim to have had personal contact with those beyond the pale…

  2. Second Sight: Hot Docs 2008 Festival Highlights Philip Marchand, Toronto Star

    A quietly beautiful study of old men in the Isle of Skye telling stories of uncanny phenomena such as a “ghost car” …The windswept landscape, the play of sunlight and shadow, and the evocative score in itself creates a mood conducive to second sight. Read More

  3. Second Sight, Rating 9/10 Brooke Smith, Toronto Screen Shots

    Through the wit and charm of near-80 Donald Angus MacLean, filmmaker Alison McAlpine explores the oral tradition in northern Scotland on the Isle of Skye. Donald “Angie” is quite a character, an entertaining rogue with an eye for the ladies and an ear for a good story. A former preacher, Donald drives around the town in his red car (his name written across the trunk), his dog in the passenger seat, visiting a few of the island’s even more entertaining characters… Read More

  4. “Ones to Watch” at Hotdocs 2008 Guy Dixon, The Globe and Mail

    One of the three films recommended by Guy Dixon

  5. Very Hot Docs: Hot Docs festival’s excellent film experiences Ben Kempas, DOX, Documentary Film Magazine

    Second Sight is a film about loss and death. In its own magical way, the film captures many old men telling us about encounters with ghosts…The film evolves into a powerful poem…a beautifully-crafted visual layer of landscapes and journeys…

  6. Second Sight **** Ross Miller, BlogCritics Magazine

    …Although the film follows Donald (one of the most endearing cinematic characters – real or fictional – to grace the screen in ages) as he talks to various people about ghostly visions, that’s not what’s at the heart of the film. It’s really about the nature of life and how the end of it is inevitable…a beautifully told tale…from the claims of ghostly visions down to the intimate daily routine of an old charmer who would make a routine trip to the shop a fascinating watch…with beautiful, elegant landscapes and peppered with the interesting characters that Donald comes across, this is a gloriously encapsulating motion picture told with admiration and love for the place in which it’s set.

  7. Mill Valley Film Festival: Second Sight Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle

    For residents of the remote Isle of Skye, seeing dead people isn’t all that extraordinary. At least that’s the implication of this delightful documentary by Canadian Alison McAlpine…The filmmaker mixes footage of the gorgeous and haunted Skye landscape with supernatural lore gleefully recounted by the island’s older inhabitants, such as the octogenarian ex-preacher Donald Angus MacLean, who introduces us to some of his equally idiosyncratic friends… Read More

  8. Second Sight (TVOntario, 10pm on Human Edge) John Doyle, Globe and Mail

    …a gloriously good, gorgeous documentary… It’s about storytellers, ghosts, apparitions and the haunting, haunted landscape… It’s stunningly good.

  9. DOCUMENTARIES: SECOND SIGHT Henrietta Walmark, Globe and Mail

    Alison McAlpine’s gorgeously introspective film, as wispy yet persistent as the mists hugging glens and moors, is the perfect autumn tale. With charmingly whimsical Donald Angus MacLean holding court, Second Sight is a story of ghosts, longing and leave-taking that is as potent as the primordial Isle of Skye…

  10. Slamdance winners announced Michael Jones, Variety

    …The jury also singled out Alison McAlpine’s docu “Second Sight”…Special Jury Mention (for Documentary Features).

  11. Second Sight *** (out of four) Jennie Punter, Globe and Mail

    The mist-heavy hills of the Isle of Skye and the ghosts that haunt them provide the sights and stories in this dark, cinematic docu-poem about death. Magically capturing what feels like the last ember of a vibrant culture, the film focuses on the eccentric, engaging Don Angie MacLean, a self-styled ghost-story collector and widower with a fetish for filing cabinets. With original music by John Gzowski, performed by the Madawaska String Quartet. Screened with the short Ex-Voto For Three Souls (Mexico). Cumberland, Apr. 18, 7 p.m.; Royal, Apr. 27, 7 p.m.

  12. Ghost Stories… the 3rd Annual Guth Gafa Film Festival Danielle DiGiacomo, IndiePix Weblog

    …A work of languid and patient beauty, the film is about elderly men who live on the Isle of Skye in Scotland… Though ostensibly, the hook is that all of these men have “second sight” (the ability to see ghosts), it is a much larger meditation on dying – corporally, culturally, and linguistically. It was an unexpectedly beautiful and emotional film, with lessons about letting time take itself, rather than grabbing it and hijacking it for oneself.

  13. Hot Docs Guide: Second Sight*** Guy Dixon, The Globe and Mail

    The film is as much a meditation on aging and the passage of time as a glimpse into the ghost stories of Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. Our guide is an 80-year-old widower and preacher, whose idiosyncratic ways match those of other old folks in the area, who tell their wide-eyed stories as if they happened yesterday…There’s the astonishment in their faces, the lovely cadence in their words… like the apparitions they profess to have witnessed, the people of Skye stay with you for days after watching the film.

  14. Second Sight Transcends Simple Ghost Stories. Poet’s First Film. John Griffin, Montreal Gazette

    An intimate documentary set on Scotland’s magnificent, mysterious Isle of Skye… it’s about ghosts. More specifically, it’s about the passing of the last generation raised in Gaelic without TV or electricity and entertained on long North Atlantic nights by oral tales passed down over centuries. Even more specifically, it’s about those people whose “second sight” allows them to cross from the world of the seen to the spirit world, people introduced to McAlpine by one man, an outsized character of 80 years named Donald Angus MacLean. It is a grand tale, told with restraint and love, and set against some of the most rugged, awesome and phenomena-friendly landscape on Earth…

  15. The Ghostman of Skye, BBC Two Wonderland Damien Love, Glasgow Herald

    …a memorable, genuinely haunting film… Alison McAlpine weaves an extraordinary spell… (A 40 minute version of Second Sight, The Ghostman of Skye was Pick of the Day or Critics Choice in every major U.K. newspaper).

  16. SECOND SIGHT is a beautifully made film Jan Rofekamp, Films Transit

    SECOND SIGHT is a beautifully made film with great wisdom, integrity and profoundness. It is also a living proof of the necessity of recording oral history. A timeless film.

  17. SECOND SIGHT is cinematic storytelling Naomi Boxer, TVO Documentaries

    SECOND SIGHT is cinematic storytelling in its most elegant, quirky and profound form. It moves you and stays with you.

  18. Pick of the Day and Critics’ Choice The Observer (31 October 2009)

    The Ghostman Of Skye

  19. Pick of the Day The Guardian (October 31, 2009)

    Wonderland BBC Two: The Ghostman Of Skye

  20. Pick of the Day The Independent (October 31, 2009)

    Wonderland: Ghostman of Skye

  21. What to Watch The Daily Telegraph (October 31, 2009)

    Wonderland: Ghostman of Skye

  22. David Charter’s Choices The Times (October 31, 2009)

    Wonderland: BBC Two, Ghostman of Skye
    …tonight’s haunting film. Against a backdrop of lowering clouds and fierce countryside, an elderly islander on Skye chronicles stories of strange encounters with the dead… as the ghost stories combine with fond memories of his late wife, the film develops into a hypnotic meditation on love and death.

  23. Pick of the Day Daily Mail (October 31, 2009)

    Wonderland: The Ghostman of Skye****
    There are ghost stories aplenty-along the lines of The Car That Wasn't There, The Ghost Child, The Dark Shape On The Road – but they are incidental to an atmospheric evocation of the weirdness of the Isle of Skye, and, above all, to the portrait of the 'ghostman' himself, Donald Angus Maclean, who is collecting the local ghost stories. A former missionary, Maclean recently lost his beloved wife, and clearly his fascination with the 'other side' is tied up with his grief. ‘It could be,' he says, 'that the beyond is not nearly as dark as we take it to be’… as Maclean focuses more and more on his own death, and on his past happiness with his wife -it becomes intensely moving.

In Memory of

Donald Angus MacLean

(Dòmnhall Angaidh MacGilleathain)

Lachlan Mac an tòisich

Iain Moireasdan

Iain Ailig MacFhionghain

Effie Nicillinnein

Iain Mac Anndrais


And With:

Lachlan Mac Gilliosa

Frang and Peigi Wood

John McDiarmid

Hamish Murray

Liondsaidh Màiri Chaimbeul

Màiri Anna NicFhionghain

Lachlan Robasdan

Seonag NicAnndrais

Ronnie Muir

Chrissie Coran

Ceit NicDhiarmaid

and the people of the Isle of Skye

Executive Producers






Additional Cinematography/Camera Assistant






Additional Videography




Sound Editors



Re-Recording Mixers



Special Thanks







Foley Artist


Location Sound Recordings



Mix Assistant/Operator


On-Line Editors





Graphic Design


Production Managers








Consulting Producer


Additional Editing


Legal Counsel


Film and Video Post Facility


Audio Post Facility


Produced and Directed by


Thank you

Cairistiona Primrose

Oighrig Keogh

M & D MacLeod Ltd

Jim Hardie

Al Macuilis;  Fearless Films

Amoghavira Dharmacari

Lou Solakofski and Kirk Lynds

Peter Mettler

Peggy Gale

Liondsaidh Màiri Chaimbeul

Joanne Rourke

Kemp Archibald

Andy Binnington

Jennifer Baichwal

Nick de Pencier

Roland Schlimme

David Wharensby

Peter Gibson

Goethe Institut Toronto

Iain MacLeod

Steve Munro

Long and McQuade

Louis Kramer

David Lee

Bronek Korda

Iain MacAuley

John Morrison

Original music recorded by John Gzowski

with the

Madawaska String Quartet

Sarah Fraser Raff

Rebecca van der Post

Anna Redekop

Amy Laing

Gaelic Psalm singing by

Donald MacSween, Scotland

Tech Consulting/Assistant Editing

Michael Bonini; Tim Hagen

Carbon Computing; Avril Jacobson

Ian Morehead;; John Sanders

Jim Blockland; Peter Sabat

Thank you

Seirbheis Nam Meabhanan Gaidhlig

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

Té Bheag Gaelic Whisky

Apple Canada- Edited with Final Cut Pro

Kodak Canada

LACIE Canada

Produced with the Financial Participation of

Canada Council for the Arts;

HIE Skye and Wester Ross ;

Ontario Arts Council for the Arts;

TV Ontario

Produced by

Second Sight pictures inc

Produced with the support of

Necessary Illusions Productions

A Canada/Scotland production


©second sight pictures inc 2008

The Ghostman of Skye

In 2009, Commissioning editor Nick Mirsky commissioned this forty-minute version of Second Sight.

Synopsis: The Isle of Skye is marked out by its beauty, and by reports of ghosts. With deceased wife Nina fresh in his mind, Donald Angus Maclean collects the island’s ghost stories.


BBC Wonderland   IMDb


Directed by Alison McAlpine


John Walker
Kim Derko

Camera Assistant and Additional Cinematography

Jeremy Lyall


Alison McAlpine

Additional Videographers

Jeremy Lyall, Kim Derko, Emma Davie


Donald Angus MacLean
(Dòmnhall Angaidh MacGilleathain)

Lachlan Mac an tòisich

Iain Moireasdan

Iain Ailig MacFhionghain

Effie Nicillinnein

Iain Mac Anndrais

Lachlan Mac Gilliosa

Frang and Peigi Wood

John McDiarmid

Hamish Murray

Liondsaidh Màiri Chaimbeul

Màiri Anna NicFhionghain

Lachlan Robasdan

Seonag NicAnndrais

Ronnie Muir

Chrissie Coran

Ceit NicDhiarmaid

and the people of the Isle of Skye.

An Dà Shealladh

In 2005, BBC ALBA (Scotland) commissioned this 30-minute Gaelic version of Second Sight.


BBC Alba   IMDb


In this archive documentary Dol Angaidh MacLean, a retired missionary and storyteller, explores tales of ghosts and second sight. We hear of a dark shape taking up the road, the drowning of a child foreseen just hours before it happened, lights and visions and the ghost car of Skye.

Directed by Alison McAlpine

Videography and Sound in Gaelic: Alison McAlpine

Full Credits: see Second Sight

“****Glorious… intimate… a grand tale with a misty-twisty Gaelic quality.”

– John Griffin, Montreal Gazette

“…a gloriously good, gorgeous documentary…It’s about storytellers, ghosts, apparitions and the haunting, haunted landscapes… it’s stunningly good.

– John Doyle, Globe and Mail

Pick of the Day” or “Critics Choice” in every major U.K. newspaper

“Delightful… The filmmaker mixes footage of the gorgeous and haunted Skye landscape with supernatural lore gleefully recounted by the island’s older inhabitants, such as the octogenarian ex-preacher Donald Angus MacLean, who introduces us to some of his equally idiosyncratic friends…

– Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle

“…it’s magical…a beautifully crafted visual layer of landscapes and journeys…”

– Ben Kempas, DOX, European Documentary Film magazine

“…a memorable, genuinely haunting film…Alison McAlpine weaves an extraordinary spell…”

Damien Love, Glasgow Herald