A Sense of Freedom

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A Sense of Freedom
DVD cover
Directed byJohn Mackenzie
Written byPeter McDougall
Produced byJeremy Isaacs
StarringDavid Hayman
Jake D'Arcy
Sean Scanlan
Hector Nicol
Fulton Mackay
CinematographyChris Menges
Music byFrankie Miller
Rory Gallagher
Release dates
  • 17 February 1981 (1981-02-17) (UK)
  • 18 October 1985 (1985-10-18) (US)
Running time
81 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

A Sense of Freedom is a 1981 Scottish crime film directed by John Mackenzie for Scottish Television.[1] The film stars David Hayman and featured Jake D'Arcy, Sean Scanlan, Hector Nicol, Alex Norton and Fulton Mackay.[2] It is based on the autobiography of Glasgow gangster Jimmy Boyle, who was reputed to be Scotland's most violent man.[3] Due to non-co-operation by the Scottish Prison Service in allowing a film crew access to their property, Hayman's scenes in prison were filmed in Dublin's Kilmainham Jail.[4]

A harrowing tale of a habitual and brutal criminal. Boyle repeatedly resisted attempts by the Prison Service to dampen his temper. He was brutally assaulted many times by Prison Officers.[5] He also assaulted many staff including a brutal attack causing an officer to lose his eye.[6]

The film received a BAFTA nomination for Best Single Play.[7]

The music is by Frankie Miller and Rory Gallagher.[8]


  • Jimmy Boyle - David Hayman
  • Rab - Jake D'Arcy
  • Jada - Sean Scanlan
  • Malkie - Alex Norton
  • Piper - John Murtagh
  • Chief officer - Roy Hanlon
  • Inspector Davidson - Fulton Mackay
  • Bobbie Dougan - Martin Black
  • Uncle Jodie - Hector Nicol
  • Barman - Frank Welshman
  • Boyle's mother - Katy Gardiner
  • Archie - Billy Jeffrey
  • Judge - David Steuart
  • Prison officer - Ken Drury
  • Prison governor - Gerry Slevin
  • Prison governor - Ron Paterson
  • Prison governor - Hugh Martin
  • Special unit officer - Jackie Farrell


  1. ^ "A Sense of Freedom (1981)". BFI.
  2. ^ "A Sense of Freedom (1985) - John Mackenzie | Cast and Crew | AllMovie" – via www.allmovie.com.
  3. ^ "STV Player". STV Player.
  4. ^ Balkind, Nicola (19 October 2013). World Film Locations: Glasgow. Intellect Books. ISBN 9781841507194 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "Glasgow gangster turned writer Jimmy Boyle: 'I would be dead now without books'". the Guardian. 20 May 2016.
  6. ^ "How Jimmy Boyle went from violent gangster to leading artist". www.scotsman.com.
  7. ^ "BAFTA Awards". awards.bafta.org.
  8. ^ Matthews, Simon (28 January 2021). Looking for a New England: Action, Time, Vision: Music, Film and TV 1975 - 1986. Oldcastle Books. ISBN 9780857304124 – via Google Books.

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