‘Look, John! Steamer ahead!’ ~ Near disaster whilst filming ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in 1973

Ronnie Cogan having a cigarette and a drink with one of the Supporting Artistes. Terry Smith the Wardrobe Master is going below in the background. photo: Martin Neville.

It was a glorious day to film on Windermere. Conditions were perfect. My father had been asked to appear as a Extra in the scene in the film of Swallows and Amazons when the the crew of Swallow narrowly miss colliding with a steamer, that transports tourists up and down the lake, on their voyage to Wildcat Island. He was the tall dark native in a blazer and white flannels aboard the very elegant Lakeland steamer, The Tern. A lovely way to spend a sunny morning in the Lake District.

MV Tern on Windermere was built in 1890 with a steam engine, converted to diesel in the 1950s, and is still operating today.

Simon West, Suzanna Hamilton, Stephen Grendon and I were in the Swallow, which at the start of the day was attached to the camera pontoon so that Claude Whatham, our Director could capture the dialogue on film. In the script Roger is down to say, ‘Steamship on the port bow’.  I think what came out was, ‘Look John!  Over there – Steamer ahead!’

The screenplay of David Wood’s 1973 adapation of Arthur Ransome’s classic book ‘Swallows and Amazons’ set in the Lake District in 1929

My mother had been obliged to go to Bristol as she presented a weekly programme for HTV with Jan Leeming in those days, so Dad must have been in the dual role of chaperone.  A sailor with years of experience racing on the Solent he took a keen interest in all our sailing scenes.

Three men of Cumbria who were happy to have short-back-and-sides haircuts in 1973 on the deck of the MV Tern on Windermere in 1973 ~ photo: Martin Neville

And the next day… 

‘Carry on Matron’. I wonder what near disasters they had on that film.

You can read more in the ebook ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons (1974)’ available from Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iTunes and all other online retailers:

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

13 thoughts on “‘Look, John! Steamer ahead!’ ~ Near disaster whilst filming ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in 1973”

  1. This episode must have been terrifying at the time. Every credit to everyone aboard for keeping their cool.

              1. I love steam boats, and traction engines, and steam railways. I used to go to all the traction engine rallies up here; and my poetry reciting grandfather started off on the Midland Railway in steam days and eventually became an engine driver.

  2. My father maintained that steam engineering would have advanced to more efficient realms if it hadn’t been for the combustion engine. It’s so powerful and extraordinary.

    1. I think he was quite right. The steam engine is much simpler and easier to maintain, as well.

        1. They do, usually annually. But mechanically it’s a much simpler engine, and the rest of the maintenance is nothing like what a petrol or diesel engines needs.

Leave a Reply to davidbutters937hotmailcom Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: