‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’ ebook is out now

The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons

Thanks to the encouragement and help of my blog followers and Arthur Ransome enthusiasts around the world, I have managed to put my diaries, letters, old photographs and documents together into a 70,000-word memoir.

s&A book launch 2013 005

“Sometimes extraordinary things do happen to ordinary people. Little girls can find themselves becoming film stars. Long ago, and quite unexpectedly, I found myself appearing in the EMI feature film of Arthur Ransome’s book Swallows and Amazons, made for a universal international audience. I played Able-seaman Titty, one of the four Swallows. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I became Titty for a while, wearing thin cotton dresses and elasticated navy blue gym knickers, which the camera crew soon referred to as passion killers. The book was written in 1929 and although the film adaptation was made in the early 1970s it had an ageless quality and has been repeated on television year after year, typically on a Bank Holiday between movies starring Rock Hudson or Doris Day.

I got the part of Titty because I could play the piano. Although I had no ambition to be an actress, at the age of ten I was cast in a BBC dramatisation of Cider with Rosie. They needed a little girl to accompany the eleven-year-old Laurie Lee when he played his violin at the village concert. I plodded through Oh, Danny Boy at an agonising pace.

‘Do you think you could play a little faster?’ the Director asked.

‘No,’ I said, flatly. ‘These are crotchets, they don’t go any faster.’

Claude Whatham must have remembered my crotchets, for two years later, in March 1973, my father received a letter. It arrived completely out of the blue, from a company called Theatre Projects.

We are at present casting for a film version of SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS which Mr Whatham is going to direct. We were wondering if you would be interested in your daughter being considered for one of the parts in this film.


From ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’ by Sophie Neville

Preview copies of the print version of 'The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons'Preview copies of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’  at the Cruising Association dinner at the Water’s Edge Bar and Restaurant, Mermaid Marina on the River Hamble.

“This heart-warming memoir is illustrated with colour photographs, most of them taken at the time by Sophie’s family, and contains links to behind-the-scenes home movie footage for readers with browser-enabled tablets. It delivers a double helping of nostalgia for both fans of the era of Arthur Ransome, and the groovy times of the early 70’s.” ~ from the Amazon Kindle description

Map of Derwentwater by Sophie

Also available for other reading devices on Smashwords

Thanks to those of you who contributed comments, questions, and aspects of local history on this blog. I would love to know what you think of the book!

If you would like a copy but don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle app.

Sophie Neville on the pontoon during the filming of 'Swallows and Amazons'
Richard Pilbrow, Denis Lewiston, Claude Whatham, David Cadwallader and Sophie Neville aged 12 playing Titty ~ photo: Daphne Neville

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

37 thoughts on “‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’ ebook is out now”

    1. You must let me know what you think. It was more difficult to format that we ever imagined. At this stage we can still make changes so do let me know if you see any typos or mistakes. Do you have a colour screen? We have certain limits with the Kindle version that we can go beyond in print, hoeer on the free Kindle app that I downloaded on my Iphone I can receive the behind-the-scenes footage, colour photos and maps – which is quite amazing.

  1. Wow! This is like Christmas coming early. Any chance of a paper version? I am going to have to go and get myself a Kindle or something 🙂

    1. If you go to my Book Page and scroll down a bit we give you the links to download a FREE Kindle App on your lap top, iPad or any other device. I have one on my iPhone which accepts all Kindle Fire has to offer. It’s amazing. You can play the behind-the-scenes footage I have added to the eBook in full colour. Let me know if you have any problems. Give it time to download.

      1. Thanks, all sorted now. My first downloaded e-book thingy, I almost feel like I have made it to the 21st century now… 🙂 Super excited to read the book – got to go.

    1. Yes, I have preview copies available for reviewers – however I am hoping someone will offer to publish it with colour photos, so am not retailing these just yet. It would be wonderful to offer it as a full colour coffee table book, but we have to be sure it will sell. The advantage of the Kindle copy is that you can play the behind-the-scenes footage shot by my father, which is intriguing.

    1. It’s amazing to have video links, isn’t it. Dad was able to borrow his company’s 16mm Bolex. I rather wish he’d handed it to our cameraman but somehow the home-movie style has a quirky charm of it’s own. I remember it as being quite a thing for fathers in the early 1970s.

      Miraculously this behind-the-scenes cine footage survived and was transferred from 16mm to DVD by the BBC when they made ‘Big Screen Britain’. They didn’t have the budget for any feature film footage.

  2. Sophie, thank you so much for thinking of us across the pond! Will be a great Christmas present for my dad, who introduced me to the S&As. And a couple of other U.S. fanciers. Three million cheers!

  3. Wonderful Sophie. I will download it immediately. I grew up reading the Swallows and Amazons adventures and now my 6 year old cannot get enough either. Have you ever thought of coming to Ireland to share your story?

      1. I certainly will. Leave it with me about Ireland. I will put the word about and see if we can organise something. I noticed you spoke at various Sailing and Yacht Clubs around the UK and I thought you might fancy a trip 🙂

        1. Yes, the sailing fraternity do seem very interested but Ransome fans make the best audiences. Children enjoy the talk but are always very polite where-as those in their fifties make an hilarious audience.

          I have a short talk tonight at a yacht club – and expect everyone to be over the age of sixty.

          1. Age is the variety of life lol. Sometimes the kids are actually in their 60’s. My Dad always said youth is wasted on the young 🙂 I will come back to you about the Yacht Clubs. I may have another few ideas as well.

  4. Can’t wait. Only have a normal Kindle though! Probably too late, but Tarq has a big file with dad’s cutting’s, letters etc…..he lives in Bournemouth but you are welcome to borrow it.

    1. Not too late at all. I would love to see any cuttings. People really enjoy seeing the old newspaper and magazine articles on the blog – especially the scathing ones. I live about 30 mins from Bournemouth. Come and see us! It would be lovely to see you again. I must give you a copy of the book – you are in one of the photos and I have written a bit about your Dad. Let me know if you see any inaccuracies or mistakes. I have had to rely on info from imbd, which I know isn’t always fool proof.

      Normal Kindle is fine. You can download a free kindle app – that gives you colour photos and allows movie clips to be played – onto your lap top or any other device. I have one on my I-phone in case I get stuck on the motorway. We have put the link on my Book Page (scroll down a little way).

  5. Got it! and discovered the joys of video clips in the Kindle for PC version. THANK YOU for the acknowledgement at the back – wow…….

    1. Your enthusiasm kept me going.

      I am having a nervous moment about the photos. Those which were taken as slides are sharp but I hope readers realise that most are just vintage snaps. I still have the negatives, so am hoping a big publisher could do something wonderful with them and the diaries.

      1. It’s the vintage nature of the snaps which is so enchanting – don’t worry. One day a big publisher might do something, e.g. surrounding them in some way to look like a vintage photo album, but in their present form they absolutely suit the text.

        1. Publishers might be able to do something with the diaries but I hate it when they go over the top with design. There is one lovely photo taken by a journalist I would like to use. I have a photo of him but don’t know his name. I might be able to find out as the Publicist’s daughter contacted me today saying her brother has an album of their late Father’s clippings. Isn’t that amazing?

        1. Please keep nagging me. The hardback has been full proof-read by the Ransome experts – but I am not sure how long it will take to reach the bookshelves if we include colour photos.

  6. Hi Sophie
    I have just downloaded the book to my Kindle and it’s great – well worth the wait! I didn’t think the photos would work on the Kindle (especially as I have an old one) but they’re fine (or at least good enough for me, especially as all the other websites and YouTube videos are available). I’ve posted a share on my facebook page.

    Looking forward to taking the family to the Keswick version of S&A in a few weeks (they have named the cast now) – no doubt it’ll be a bit ‘alternative’, but good fun I’m sure. I’ll post a review in the new year.

  7. I downloaded this to my Kindle last night having seen it mentioned on Tarboard. It’s wonderful! Well done Sophie. It made my train journey home to Connecticut fly by and I’m looking forward to reading more tonight. AR’s books and this film were a huge part of my childhood and it’s so much fun to get a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how the film was made. Thanks again. Can’t wait to buy a hard copy….

  8. Is it available in print form…?

    I don’t don’t get along with e-books (it kills the enjoment of reading, for me)

    I’d love to read it. I only discovered it this afternoon because I’ve been enthusing about the Swallows and Amazons books to a friend who has never read them and went online to get the film details so I could recommend that too (I have it on DVD at home, but that wasn’t any use while I was at work)


    1. Thank you for your enthusiastic words!

      Yes, I have proof copies with b/w photos and am hoping to be able to bring the book out in print this April for the 40th Anniversary of the premier.

      This one is good as an ebook because I have been able to add a number of home-movie sequences.

      If you know anyone who would like to see the ebook copy I have the link on my website so that you can quickly download an official Kindle app for free. Quite good to have a few books on an Ipad in case you are stuck on the motorway for hours.

  9. I have nearly finished reading ‘The Secrets…’, it’s fascinating. Brilliant book!

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