Amazon, originally known as Mavis, now residing at the Coniston Museum
People come from all over the world to visit Mavis, the traditional gaff-rigged dinghy known to all those who love the Arthur Ransome books as Amazon. She has been lovingly renovated but, still being a bit leaky, is on permanent display at the Coniston Museum in the Lake District. It was in this clinker-built dinghy and another little ship named Swallow that the Altounyan children learnt to sail on Coniston Water in the late 1920s.
In later life they used Mavis to teach their own children and grandchildren to sail. She was kept in Brigit Sander’s (ne Altounyan) boathouse at Slate Quay, which so resembles Ransome’s illustrations of the Amazon boathouse.
Suzie, Taqui and Brigit Altounyan
One of the secrets of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ is that the character of Captain John, was, if anything, loosely based on a the eldest girl in the family. Arthur Ransome obviously needed to balance genders and have two boys and three girls instead of only one boy, as in real life. Taqui Altounyan seemed to take this in her stride, giving him what advice she could. She has detailed this in her memoirs of the family’s lives: In Allepo Once and Chimes from a Wooden Bell – excellent books that have become much sort after.
Roger Wardale, author of many books about Arthur Ransome and the locations he used in his stories, kindly sent me these photographs of Taqui that he took when she was showing him some of the places where she played as a girl.
Taqui Altounyan on Peel Island, Coniston Water
The Lake District, where her Collingwood Grandparents lived, was obviously a special place for her.
Taqui Altounyan pointing to the rocks from which they would jump into Trout (Beacon) Tarn.
These photographs of Roger’s show her walking back in time,
visit Mavis in Coniston Museum
Taqui Altounyan looking at Mavis, who was later renamed Amazon
and go aboard SL Esperance on Windermere,
‘You can sweep up’ Taqui Altounyan in Esperance
soaking up the atmosphere in her cabin.
Taqui Altounyan with Roger Wardale and some of his former pupils inside the Esperance, which was the model for Captain Flint’s houseboat
Very many thanks to Roger Wardale, whose own books can be found listed here.
For more photos of Amazon please click here