Out of the archives: a 1974 script for a BBC Radio Bristol show about the original film ‘Swallows and Amazons’

Swallow and Amazon sailing on Derwentwater in the Lake District 1973

When the 1974 film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ first came out in cinemas it stirred up quite a bit of interest in the media.

This script for a programme made for BBC Radio Bristol has recently been discovered in a box in my mother’s attic. Typical of the early ‘seventies, it is a carbon copy, so is rather feint, but it a little bit of media history in itself:

It’s intriguing. What did we say in the interviews that they ran in?

Sadly, two of the first newspaper reviews of the movie were not complimentary. Last year, when interviewed by Tim Fenton at Pin Mill on the Orwell, Professor Hugh Brogan said that one of these articles was so ignorant and so angered him that he resolved to write the truth about Ransome’s distinguished career. This involved years of research but resulted in his biography, ‘The Life of Arthur Ransome’.

I haven’t been able to find the article Hugh read but he remembered it being ignorant of Arthur Ransome’s politics rather than the film. His beautifully written book sparked an enormous amount of additional research and television documentaries, including ‘The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome’, which can be viewed on iPlayer.

Since The Lutterworth Press published the seconded edition of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’ in May last year, a number of other stories and facts have reached me. I’ve learned that the creamy yellow taxi in which the Walker family arrived at Holly Howe was a Vauxhall 20/60 R type saloon, 1928 – 1930 model hired for the film by the property buyer Ron Baker, whose name I must add to the credits. When the Altounyan children stayed at the same farmhouse, which in reality is called Bank Ground Farm, their hostess was called Mrs Jolly. Apparently her husband, Mr Jolly, did not live up to his name.

The lady in blue who waved from the deck of MV Tern after the Swallow’s near miss was played by Lorna Khan. Here she is with her daughter Zena and a yellow Austin Heavy 12/4 tourer, after they appeared in the Rio scenes. You can see other film extras and supporting artists in 1929 costume, patiently sitting in the Browns of Ambleside coach behind them.

 Photograph (c) Zena Ashbury

Did you know that missionaries in Africa used semaphore? Until I read a Russian edition of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ I’m afraid I didn’t know that Darien was the former name of the Isthmus of Panama, that the Rio Grande flows from South Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico or that ‘Shiver my timbers’ was a curse used by R. L Stephenson in Treasure Island.

Nick Owen had been living at Elterwater for seventeen years before he learnt the fishing scene from ‘Swallows and Amazons(1974)’ was shot there.

It had not occurred to me that the film was recorded in the annals until I was sent this excerpt from the third edition of ‘Time Out Film Guide’ (1993). Perhaps I should bring out a third edition of ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons’.

Please let me know if you would like to see more archive material from the attic.

To read more about Cider With Rosie (1971) directed by Claude Whatham, starring Sten Grendon as Laurie Lee please click here


Filed under Acting, Biography, British Film, Cinema, Claude Whatham, Cumbria, Emi film, Family Film, Film History, Memoir, Movie stories, Sophie Neville, Swallows and Amazons, Titty in Swallows and Amazons, truelife story, Uncategorized, Vintage Film

24 responses to “Out of the archives: a 1974 script for a BBC Radio Bristol show about the original film ‘Swallows and Amazons’

  1. Jill G

    Well done again, Sophie – I never tire of learning more about the filming.

  2. jsp713

    Thank you for all the stories about the movie and related information. I enjoy reading them.

  3. Valerie

    I’m always interested to learn more, to fill in the details of the film and filming.
    The books are such a rich goldmine of information about sailing, poetry, literature, geography, countryside lore, childhood fun and imagination, and the world in general.

    (I hadn’t realised that you and “Roger” had acted in “Cider With Rosie” which I loved when I saw it in the ’70s)

  4. Mike

    Thank you for some more fascinating information about the film.

    Of course we would like to see more of whatever you have in the attic that gives more insight in to the film.

    I didn’t realise that Hugh Brogan was spurred on to write Ransome’s biography for that reason, when it was published I just supposed he had been commissioned to so (I had the pleasure of meeting him when I was a mature student at the University of Essex in the 1990s, I took a chance of knocking on his door one afternoon taking my copy of the biogarphy and asking him sign it. He was most welcoming, he signed my book and we had an interesting chat about Ransome. I was most pleased to find his favourite book was the same as mine – ‘Winter Holiday’)

  5. Faith HELSBY

    “Used to be required reading for all well brought up kids”. Glad I’m in that category. Everyone else was reading Enid Blyton which I thought was a bit wimpy and not at all my cup of tea…It’s nice to see these traces of your film adventure and comments on your acting skills.

  6. Martin Robinson

    It s always good to read more about the Swallows and Amazons filming – any new material I am sure would be well received , especially by TARS members who have been fans of the film for 40+ years. We are now able to fill in a few answers to questions about cast, crew ,locations etc.
    I must update my Kindle copy to the second edition … !
    TARS for ever , Martin

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