1 error 2 many – notes for a third edition of ‘The Making of SWALLOWS & AMAZONS’


Guy Willson, a reader from Papua New Guinea, has written to say: ‘I have read your book and I really liked it.  I could see behind the scenes and often read between your lines as well.’

‘When you were making the movie (in 1973) I was on my way to Norfolk Island as a starting point of my adventures in the South Seas; so I never knew of the release of your film until much later when I had children of my own that had reached the age to go ‘avasting’ and ‘timber shivering’, when we were living in Rye in the 1990’s.’

‘Some years ago I restored a 13ft clinker dinghy and after adding a false keel, added a standing lugsail and trailed her up to Coniston for my children to sail… I had in mind an article from Classic Boat on the Swallow, how the Altounyan children preferred Swallow as a boat because they could stow more things in her and she could still sail well.  I had noticed on a drawing in the article that Ransome had given her an extra 2 or 3 inches of false keel and this helped tremendously in reducing her leeway.  I added a piece of oak to do the same thing but gave her an extra 9” aft and planed it down to a feather edge forward so the she would go about a bit easier. Well, it worked and Eaglet would have done the original Swallow proud.’

Swallow on Coniston

Swallow – the 12′ dinghy used in the film

‘If you would permit me a little correction: you described the rig as being gaff rig, but this is not so.  Both the boats, originals and the ones you sailed were in fact luggers.  The nearest thing to a gaffer among the luggers is the Gunter Rig which has jaws at the front of the yard but is hauled up by a single halyard. You can see this in the Mirror dinghy (in truth it is about halfway between the two). However the lug rig of Swallow is known as a ‘standing lug’ and it can be used to go about freely.  After hauling up the sail on its traveller; the peak of the yard is raised by the downhaul line (usually attached to the bottom of the boom).  This tightens the luff of the sail and lifts the outer end of the boom as well giving the best efficiency to the sail.’


A gaff rigged cutter

‘Lugsails were the working sails of England for most boats less than 60ft but they were usually rigged with a ‘dipping’ lug as the mail sail and a standing lug aft.  This dipping lug had to be dropped and the yard hauled round behind the mast every time they went about.  It was a powerful sail and they found their best expressions in the three masted Bisquines which used to raid British shipping in Napoleonic days.  You can still see them at the classic boat events at Douarnenez and Brests, where I took the gaff schooner Soteria in 2006.’


Soteria at Douarnenez

‘If you had had a gaff rig you would most probably have needed a jib to balance it (unlike the American catboats which have their masts right up in the bow, not even a space for the Boy Roger on those! Thanks for writing a lovely book which I will pass on to my daughter.’

Blu-ray X marks the spot
“X marks the spot where they ate six missionaries”

‘You did such a grand job as Titty and I am not really surprised to find that you are a bit of a wordsmith. I am a missionary (uneaten) in Papua New Guinea and we are planning to sail back there in our steel schooner see www.livingwatermission.org  On our return we will be calling in at Erromanga in Vanuaatu where ‘x’ was the spot where two missionaries were eaten.  Recently the descendant of one of them, John Williams, went to Erromanga for a service of reconciliation.’

If you have noticed any errors in ‘The Making of SWALLOWS & AMAZONS’ please use the Comments box to let us know so that we can make corrections! We might be able to bring out a third edition. Readers who already have a Kindle edition will be able to update it free of charge.

'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

13 thoughts on “1 error 2 many – notes for a third edition of ‘The Making of SWALLOWS & AMAZONS’”

  1. I have always thought it odd that in a well brought up family, ‘Susan’ was well short of the words please and thank you. In the scene where she asks to borrow a frying pan there is no please nor thank you.

  2. Over the entire film `mate ` Susan provided a `safe haven ` for a number of family and not so family members of the cast . I think we should remember this , and perhaps not try to impose too many ` pi `standards of which too many people are lacking in the current era .

    1. Susan’s part was difficult to play well. Suzanna Hamilton managed to anchor us without being too Mumsy or over-perfect, doing so with an innate generosity of spirit. I am sure she would have thanked Mrs Jackson for lending the frying pan but I know she was suffering from tonsillitis the day they filmed that scene!

  3. Thanks , Sophie , for filling in the details which could only have been added by someone who was actually present in Mrs Jackson`s kitchen . I am looking forward to the revised book , but `THE NEW FILM ` is a different matter . Why update names , characters etc.? I could go on………

    1. StudioCanal say: ‘It is looking likely that we will be able to go ahead with the special screening for TARS at the Brewery Arts Centre on 25th June which is great. We are just in conversations with the venue now and will be in touch once this is confirmed, with an official invitation for you to send out.’

  4. A family celebration , the 40 th aniversary of our wedding is already booked for that date . There is no possibility for a change , as school holidays , ministers bookings , family holidays etc. are already set in stone .
    I shall be in touch soon , Cheers , Martin

    1. A 40th anniversary is quite an achievement! You could ask to come to the cast and crew screening this Sunday in London but I expect you will have plenty of opportunity to see the new movie at a later date. They actually need people to see it in cinemas on the first weekend of 19th-21st August.

  5. A nice idea , but London is too far for a quick trip . We are all ( self , wife , 2 daughters +husbands + 4 grandchildren 7,6,5 and4 in Sorrento for a week at the end of August , so I shall try to catch S and A ( 2 ) as soon as possible when we return ! It`s all go in this life ! Cheers , Martin

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