Meeting up with Mate Peggy – part two

Amazons meet the Swallows

The Amazons confronting the Swallows on Peel Island in the movie ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974)

In the feature film ‘Swallows and Amazons'(1974) the part of Peggy Blackett was played by Lesley Bennett. She was an experienced dingy sailor and enjoyed the scenes on the houseboat although she told me she didn’t want the parrot to flap onto her shoulder, which was understandable. Its claws dug into mine.

Sophie Neville with Lesely Bennett and a green parrot in 19730003

~Sophie Neville as Titty with the green parrot and Lesley Bennett as Peggy~

When I met up with Lesley in the Netherlands this summer, we looked though the photographs she’d been given by the producer and kept for posterity.

Kit Seymour and Lesley Bennett at Brown Howe boathouse on Coniston Water in 1973

If you don’t recognise the scene above it is because, although the  shot was taken at Brown Howe, where the Amazon boathouse can be found, they were rehearsing the scene at Secret Harbour on Peel Island when the Blacketts find their boat has been captured. ‘She can’t have drifted against the wind.’ This was the first I knew of this. Perhaps they were waiting around for the camera to be set up or for a decision to be made about their red hats, which they were not wearing. This was rare. They wore them in every other scene.

The Amazons sailing on Derwentwater

Lesley didn’t have much time for Ronald Fraser, who played her Uncle Jim, renamed by Titty as Captain Flint. “He wasn’t very nice to us. I think he regarded us as a bit of a nuisance but as soon as the cameras were on him, he’d change!”

Ronald Fraser with Lesley Bennett and Kit Seymour on Peel Island, Coniston Water in 1973

Lesley, who grew up in Kent, remembered my mother taking her shopping in Ambleside on one of our rare days off. “She had an appreciation of how important it is to buy a good top, explaining that she needed a selection for her work as a television presenter. I remember her waiting for ages while I tried on one after another.” I was amazed when I heard this. My mother only ever took me shopping once or twice when the first Laura Ashley shop opened in Cheltenham. This was deeply exciting but a rare treat. It was my poor father who was dragged from one shoe shop to another. It was difficult to find decent shoes in the ‘seventies.

Leaving London for the Lake District in May 1973 – photo Evening Standard

It was difficult to find decent clothes, that didn’t cost a fortune. There was a reason why dressmaking was so popular – we had to make our own garments. At the age of twelve I made a navy blue skirt for school so that it had a fashionably broad waist band. Flared dungarees were all the rage, worn with a stripy polo-neck or blouse with a large collar. Kit, Lesley and I all wore these, although sadly my brushed-cotton dungarees grew rather short during the filming.

Lesely Bennett's visit to Chiddingstone School's Boat Fair in 1974

Lesley signing autographs at the Chiddingstone School Book Fair in 1974

Lesley managed to find what I’d thought was the ideal outfit for our afternoon film premiere, which I’m pretty sure she is wearing in the shot above. Although we were almost obsessed with clothes, they were not a subject people discussed with new acquaintances, which was a pity as it would have provided us something neutral to discuss with the press.

“I remember the journalists at the hotel in the Lake District,” Lesley said, “and Claude saying, ‘Be careful what you say to journalists because they will turn it against you.'” However, when it came to film publicity Lesley was both enthusiastic and gracious turning up at a local school book fair and posing for newspaper photographers. I can see that tank-tops had come in by this time and it was possible to blow-dry your own hair.

Lesley Bennett in 1974

Lesley enjoyed drama at school and looked into going to RADA, but after auditioning for one film decided the acting profession was too precarious. I think we were both interviewed for parts, possibly the same part in the same film. It was set in Wales and involved rock climbing. I said I wasn’t scared of heights, which was a lie! Sadly it was never made. I told her that Ronald Faser wanted us both to appear in another movie but that the funding fell through. She wasn’t disappointed. I was able to tell her that there was an actress called Lesley Bennett of about our age who once had a part in the long-running soap opera ‘Coronation Street’ but she confirmed that this was not her.

Lesley always loved meeting people wanted to travel, so went into marketing, working for Unilever on the first ‘Just one Cornetto’ campaign. She later branched out into international event management, which took her all over the world. She married a tall Dutchman and has two grown sons. They have a policy of visiting a different place each holiday, there by exploring different places, and they lived in Dubai for a while before returning to the Netherlands where she has been based since the early 1980s.

The cast of Swallows and Amazons with Virginia McKenna at Bank Ground Farm in 1973

Lesley looks back fondly on what she calls “The Swallows and Amazons era”, appreciating what recollections mean to those who have grown up with the movie and enjoy Arthur Ransome’s books. “Innocent films like ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974) appeal to those who know exactly how the books were written.” One thing she kept was the original film poster. Here she is with it more than forty-three years after the release. And she hasn’t changed a bit.

Lesley Bennett, 2017

Lesley today, with her original film poster of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974)

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

34 thoughts on “Meeting up with Mate Peggy – part two”

  1. I hope you will thank Leslie for providing her fans the recent picture! How wonderful. A very pleasant read and a lovely update on the life of “Peggy”. You have managed to reach out to almost all of your S and A colleagues…. 🙂

    1. I took the photograph of Lesley with her failm post at the airport hotel in the Netherlands. It was so good of her to bring her file of photos. There are a few more. Please let me know if y ou’d lile to see them on the blog.

  2. I echo Matthew: WARMEST thanks to Lesley for allowing the photo – it’s brilliant to see Peggy grown up and looking lovely and just the same. (And looking quite Dutch! She must fit in perfectly.)
    And, thinking back to how Lesley brings Peggy to life in the film, she reminds me irresistibly of Sally Thomsett playing Phyllis (‘who means well’) in the classic Railway Children film. And I’m certain that Lesley would have carried on the Peggy part wonderfully in say ‘Winter Holiday’, when she nervously but determinedly took on Nancy’s mantle. Warmest good wishes to you, Lesley.

  3. Fabulous, thank you to Lesley and Sophie for posting the update. Good to have the full complement of crew accounted for after “Peggy” had been AWOL for such a long time 😉

  4. Enjoyed both parts of your reunion with Mate Peggy . It must have been good to catch up on the 40+ years which have passed ( so quickly ) since S&A mk.1 .
    Sophie , can I get a kindle version of your NEW version of the making of Swallows and Amazons . I do hope so .
    S & A +D`s for ever , Martin Robinson

    1. I will ask The Lutterworth Press when they are bringing it out, as they did have plans. I am hoping that schools and colleges will be able to use the paperback for Drama/Film/Media Studies. Do insist your library orders a copy!

      In the meantime, we have uploaded a 2nd edition of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons(1974)’ onto Kindle. If you have the first version, you should be able to upload this revised edition free of charge.

      I’ll post more about Mate Peggy.

  5. Sophie , thank you so much for the swift reply . Checking my Kindle I find I now have `S. A. + Coots` and your 1st. edition of `Filming of S. & A. ` on my Kindle – lots of work from my wife and daughter !!
    I shall contact Lutterworth Press tomorrow !!!!
    Cheers , S., A., D. and C. for ever , Martin Roinson

    1. Do re-load the 2nd edition for free. It has been hugely improved. The test is similar to my paperback on ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ but with a few more stories. Please let me know if you see any typos. They creep in. With all these photos from Lesley will soon have enough new information to bring out a third edition. It is a work in progress. I wish I had been able to find Lesley before but her parents died, she married years ago and was in Dubai when I began writing.

  6. Sophie , thanks again for a swift reply , this time with the info I needed – that I CAN now download a Kindle 2nd. edition .
    So pleased that Lesley was able to provide you with pictures , many either forgotten or even unknown , and stories you could both share of a time experienced by the two of you in 1974 .
    Thanks again , Martin Robinson.

  7. Thanks for new updates of swallows and Amazon’s and to see a recent photo of lesley she was the one I had a crush on lol x

  8. I didn’t see the film until the year after its original release. In the summer of 1975 I was 12 years old and had pestered my Mum to take me. I been given ‘Swallowdale’ for my birthday the previous November and in the subsequent few months had read the other eleven books in whatever order the local library could supply.
    So in the summer of 1975 my Mum took me and a couple of friends to my local cinema to see the film and I loved it.
    I returned to see it again later the same week, this time alone for I had a guilty secret;
    I had a huge crush on Peggy!
    I’m glad to see you are both well and happy.
    Thanks for sharing your memories.

      1. There is one question –
        I have a vague memory of a segment on Animal Magic (BBC kids TV with Johnny Morris) about a girl who was in a movie being filmed in the UK who acted with a parrot. This segment was a while after, but the girl in question now had a parrot.
        You perhaps?

        1. Yes! The clip of me rowing with a green parrot on my shoulder was later used to replace the test card. I’m not sure if it can be found on You Tube but so write about filing for Animal Magic in ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’. Years later I worked briefly with the director, Robin Helier in South Africa. Do you read books on Kindle or prefer paperbacks?

          1. I prefer paperbacks…..I have enough space to keep them and they’ve become very good value on ebay now. Glad to see my memory wasn’t playing tricks.

              1. Both the DVD and a copy of your book were waiting on the mat when I arrived home from work on Thursday. I watched the film again for the first time in 20+ years on Thursday and finished your book yesterday afternoon. Then I watched the film again. 🙂
                I was amazed that until I read your story of the filming I never noticed the dubbing of Nancy’s voice.
                Thanks for the stories.

              2. That was quick! You might be amused to hear that someone thought the book was a novel, commenting that they thought the plot a bit far-fetched. Would you do me the honour of adding a short review of the book on the online site? You could cut and paste what you have written here if you are short of time. It really helps me to get re-commissioned. The link for Amazon UK is:

                They also welcome reviews of the film on the DVD site.

                You’ll find a few more stories that have filtered in on my website. Hopefully there will be enough for to bring out a third edition for the 50th Anniversary.

  9. I did try, but I haven’t bought enough from Amazon recently to meet their ‘eligibility requirements’.
    I’ll try to remember and leave a review when they deem me worthy. 😦
    I’ve ticked the box that notifies me of new posts so I should keep being reminded.

    1. One DVD you might enjoy is the 30th Anniversary re-mastered edition of the BBC TV serial ‘Swallows and Amazons Forever’, which is the adaptation of Coot Club and The Big Six. (Avoid the earlier cheaper version, even though it has an attractive cover, as the quality is very poor). It’ll take you to Norfolk.

      1. Sophie, are you my postman?!
        The DVD arrived just before I left for work today. (Good old eBay). I didn’t even know that the BBC had made these until a couple of weeks ago. I was far too cool in 1984, what with being at college and watching ‘The Tube’ on Fridays.😜
        I’m looking forward to seeing one episode a night when I finish work.

  10. Dear Sophie , I need to update my Kindle copy of `The Making of Swallows and Amazons ` to the latest edition . How?? Please let me know !
    Secondly , just to say `1000 Thanks` for all you have done during your spell as TARS leader . I enjoyed meeting you at the showing of the remastered 1974 film , where Swallow was on display. Good luck for the future . TARS for ever , Martin Robinson

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