Our days off whilst filming Swallows and Amazons in 1973 ~

Sophie Neville in Bowness, Cumbria
Sophie Neville, Simon West, Suzanna Hamilton and Stephen Grendon in Bowness in the summer of 1973

When I see press photographs like this one I sigh with resignation. Why were our lives presented to the world thus? It was of course just because they asked us to pose in a pony and trap to add interest, but the ice-creams? It must have been taken the day we went exploring Rio. Our real time off from filming was spent quite differently.

23rd June - my diary


Why did they make me take school exams, when I had the responsibility for a feature film on my shoulders?  My friends later wrote to asure me that the  exams were quite easy, but they were an added stress and a bore.

The letters, these little notes scrawled by friends at school, were a great support. It’s funny that Catherine wrote to me as Titty – none of the others did, but nicknames were a great thing, as was the fact that they were thinking of me that long summer term.

Suzanna had a blast of a day. Her diary is, as ever, quite different from mine.

23 June - Suzanna's diary

23 June - Suzanna's diary page two

One of the secrets of the film is Lesley Bennett, who played Peggy, was actually older than Kit Seymour, who played her elder sister Nancy Blackett. I don’t think it mattered in the least. Claude Whatham, Ronnie Cogan and Gareth Tandy came to Kit’s Birthday tea with the actor Ronald Fraser, who as Suzanna noted, was a little bit drunk. This can only mean he’d been drinking all day. It was a foreshadow of things to come.

Meanwhile I had more letters to reply to. My friends were wonderful, but it was up to me to keep my relationships in the best possible order. Returning to school after the filming was slightly daunting – but I had so much to catch up with that I was soon busy and fully integrated. I made a point of not talking about the film at all unless I was specifically asked. This wasn’t easy, as I was bubbling over with stories, but I knew that it wasn’t on. Almost anything that I said about ‘Swallows and Amazons’ or even the Lake District, could have been construed as braggish. I did not care to imagine the consequences of this. As it happened I didn’t have to.

You can read more about what we got up to whilst making the movie in these books available from all the usual places. There is now also an audiobook on ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’.

'The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) by Sophie Neville'
Different editions of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) by Sophie Neville’

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

11 thoughts on “Our days off whilst filming Swallows and Amazons in 1973 ~”

  1. It’s great to have your and Suzanna’s diaries side by side, day by day – love it! And our views about R Fraser are confirmed….. I can’t BEAR his patronising performance in the film. Hee hee.
    Actually, I was going to ask – what did your schoolmates think of your being in a film? I’m sure lots were thrilled and supportive, but did you get any flak?

    1. In answere to your supportive comment of 1st June ~ We have started to format these entries for an e-book – I am going to have to type up the diaries. Will everyone want them word for word – or edited extracts?

  2. The letters are great, it must have meant so much to you to receive them. Shame about the exams though!

        1. I can’t remember but Mrs Causey didn’t ‘know modern Maths’ and I ended up in the second stream for the next 3 years, which was a shame as the teacher wasn’t any good. Luckily I was moved into the first stream for my O’Level year and avoided ignominy.

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