My mother is a squirrel. She arrived at my house, not with nuts, but a large envelope. Amongst other things, this contained the transcript of a piece she wrote almost forty-nine years ago for BBC Radio Bristol, when she presented a programme called ‘Come Alive’. The four flimsy sheets of copy paper have only just been unearthed, along with a similar article for Woman magazine.
Daphne Neville was commissioned to write about her experience working on the original feature film, Swallows and Amazons, filmed on location in the Lake District in the summer of 1973 and brought to cinemas in 1974. Sold worldwide, has been broadcast on television for the last forty years and was last shown on TV in Australia on Boxing Day.
It is interesting to have Mum’s perspective. Some of the details are new to me. She timed this piece for BBC Radio as taking ‘8 minutes’ to read:
~ On Derwentwater in 1973: Suzannah Hamilton, Kit Seymour, Daphne Neville, Sten Grendon, Simon West, Sophie Neville & Lesley Bennett ~ photo: Martin Neville
But Mum, were we ever ‘Film Stars’?
We scowled at the terminology at the time. Ten years later and I thought of us a merely puppets, marionettes of the director who carefully honed our performances. I can now see the contribution we made when I watch the film, but we were never film stars.
What do I wish? I wish that we’d been able to make a sequel and develop our work more fully. The flip-side of this would have been that any more success, or more publicity, might have stripped us of our anonymity, which is the bain of real film stars. We’d have had to go around wearing sunglasses.
If you would like to see what we were filming 49 years ago, on 1st July 1973, please click here.
Do let me know, via the comments below, if you would like to see more archive material. I have the draft of my mother’s article for Woman magazine – it’s a different version of the same but with added detail. She needed permission from Anglo EMI Film Distributors before it could be published. There is also a draft of another radio script and a number of letters. If you would like to see vintage photos of Mum appearing on television herself, please click here
If you would like to read more about our adventures filming ‘Swallows and Amazons’, please click here
You can read the first pages for free here:
25 thoughts on “‘I Chaperoned Six Film Stars’ – Daphne Neville’s memories of working behind-the-scenes on the 1974 film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ 49 years ago.”
A very interesting and informative article, how different from today and Wow do you ever look like your mom
Thanks Sophie, fascinating as always and of course we would like to see more!
You raise some interesting questions at the end, and how you felt about the film ten years after. Viewing the film and reading both editions of your book I feel the Claude Whatham and his crew did a great job in creating the film and how he treated you and your fellow actors. The 2016 film shows what can happen (and often does) if child actors are under the impression they are ‘stars’
To get even more serious for a moment, you have look at how Judy Garland was treated in the making of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (even allowing for the fact she was slightly older than you and your fellow actors she was still a child.)
From your book it reads that you were treated well by everyone involved (despite a few risky moments!)
This has reminded me of how I longed to be you back then! And how totally fascinating about the behind-the-scenes detail – and particularly about you all not learning lines. Wow.
Yes, yes, more please! The 1973 film is my secret virtual world, like an internet Second Life, and I’m avid for detail.
Incidentally, what’s Mike referring to re the 2016 film? I expect the children were ‘marketed’ as stars and probably had problems from that.
Unlike Sophie, those in the 2016 film came from a background in ‘performing’ and, to me, this showed in the way they played their parts. There seemed to be too much ‘look at me I’m starring a film’ and little trying to put across their characters as Sophie and her fellow actors did.
Yes, I see what you mean – though I couldn’t help being entranced by little Titty’s joyousness! Tittys are the stars of both films!
It is quite fun to look back on what we were filming 45 years ago this day. On 1st July 1973, we were busy shooting the scenes involving the light house near Friar’s Crag on Derwentwater. Please see previous posts: https://sophieneville.net/2012/07/29/the-lighthouse-tree-filming-swallows-and-amazons-in-1973/
I will send you a picture of the `lighthouse tree` being replaced ( 19.2.94 ) on Wild Cat Island . It was a really good event – seems like yesterday !
TARS for ever , Martin
Yes please! I’d love to see that. I you are agreeable could add it to a post I am planning. Please email a Jpeg to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope the photos arrived OK . You are welcome to use any of my pictures if they are useful for your posts or for TARS generally . As a society we should have a massive store of photographs held where they can be accessed when required . At a NTARS AGM several years ago some pictures I had sent to the society years ago were on display . I wonder where they are now . Let`s do this before all the early members ( and their dusty photos ) are passed on to the care home / charity shop part of their lives.
Just a thought !! Martin
Yes! They’ve arrived. Thank you so much for sending the photos. I was fascinated. So kind of you. I apologise for not getting back to you earlier. I have been on the internet but not at home. We had an archery match in Meriden shooting with the Royal Company of Archers from Holyrood. I managed to win Last Gold (ie not the highest score.) I think your point about bequests is one for the TARS Board. Certainly all Amazon Publications need to be left in member’s wills and re-sold at the TARS store. Archive material, including photos can be sent to the TARS library. I guess the best ones are already on file as they will have been featured in Mixed Moss or Signals. You could contact the librarian, Winifred Wilson in Dumfries. There are of course bizarre things, like this article Mum wrote for Woman magazine, that might become amusing or gain interest only after a period of time has passed. I still have Part Two!
So glad you received the photographs . Please use them whenever .
Well done in the archery ; Nancy , at your first meeting , had no idea what she was starting !!
She did not! I met my husband at an archery match and now have a step-son shooting for England!
Wonderful to read these memories. I’m staying in The Lake District in our wee family caravan pitched at Hawkshead at the moment and was watching the 1974 film only the other night (the superior and more faithful to the book in my humble opinion!) and the details of the background information from your records 45 years ago when I was about Roger’s age is fascinating! Thank you for sharing these lovely stories.
So glad you enjoy the stories! I must add some of the facts to the 3rd edition of ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons’. I’m hoping it will make a good Media Studies book – or just light holiday reading! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Swallows-Amazons-Sophie-Neville/dp/0718894960/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Sophie – 3rd Edition! Is this definite or are you still trying to convince your publisher?
I only have to find the time to edit and bring out the 3rd edition of the ebook. I’m sure that my publisher would be keen, so I just have to clear my desk. However, you will have read all the stories that have come in on my blog, so won’t miss out.
Do, please add a short review on Amazon to the DVD of the 1974 film ‘Swallows and Amazons’, saying you watched it recently. It would be really helpful. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Swallows-Amazons-40th-Anniversary-Special/dp/B00KBROZRQ/
I will try to find time to review the remastered version of the ` Swallows and Amazons ` ( 1974 ) – I prefer the original version by far compared to the 2016 version – so much closer to the book and the characters are so more sympathetic to what , I am certain , A.R. would have chosen .
TARS for ever , Martin
The new version has won two awards in America and has helped sales of Arthur Ransome’s books enormously. Hopefully families who enjoy it will also get hold of a DVD of the 1974 film, which hasn’t aged too badly from a technical aspect.
Absolutely fascinated with this, Sophie. Your Mother is beautiful
People seem fascinated by how alike my mother and I look in these old photos of us together. We are not so alike nowadays!
What a wonderful piece! I particularly liked the pigtail being used for a thatched roof. Very Titty I think. More please!
What a brilliant post. It’s a long time since I heard the rhyming slang ‘saucepan lids’! Of course you were film stars, Sophie; and always will be!
The saucepan lids don’t get star billing.
Perhaps not. But I think they should have!