90th Anniversary of the publication of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was celebrated at Windermere Jetty museum

Lakeland Arts celebrated the 90th anniversary of the publication of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ with an online event accessible for anyone in the world.

After a career as a foreign correspondent, which took him to Russia, Egypt and China, Arthur Ransome wrote ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in the hills above Windermere in 1929.

Arthur Ransome portrayed by Dora Collingwood, wife of Dr Ernest Altounyan, on display at the museum

He was inspired partly by his own childhood holidays in the Lake District and partly by the Altounyan children who brought him a pair of red slippers for his birthday to thank him for enabling them to learn to sail on Coniston Water where their grandparents lived.

The first edition came out on 21st July 1930, with no illustrations apart from Spurrier’s map on the end papers. The illustrated hardback published by Jonathan Cape came out on 1st December 1930, in time for Christmas. It was followed by another eleven (and one unfinished) book in a series that was to be translated and published all over the world.

Sophie Neville with a collection of Arthur Ransome books on display

I paid homage to copies at the Windermere Jetty museum where you can find Arthur Ransome’s desk and typewriter on display with a view looking out over the lake.

Arthur Ransome’s desk and typewriter set under a view of Windermere

Boats, props and film stills from the 2016 film of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ are on display, along with a poster of the 1974 movie, depicting Titty in a pink blouse.

Sophie Neville spotting the ‘Swallows and Amazons'(1974) movie poster at Windermere Jetty museum

I was fascinated to find sketches of Titty in Arthur Ransome’s notebook.

Arthur Ransome’s original sketches of Titty

A number of Ransome’s original illustrations were on display and I came across the first draft of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in a glass case.

Sophie Neville with Arthur Ransome’s typewriter and the original draft of ‘Swallows and Amazons’

You can read about the making of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ (1974) in this illustrated book by Sophie Neville available online:

Author: Sophie Neville

Writer and charity fundraiser

25 thoughts on “90th Anniversary of the publication of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ was celebrated at Windermere Jetty museum”

  1. Sorry, Sophie, but the first edition was published on 21 July 1930, and was not illustrated, apart from Steven Spurrier’s endpaper maps.
    Looking forward to the celebration!

      1. Nothing as far as I know! Swallowdale came out on either 26 October or 2 November 1931, illustrated by Clifford Webb. It’s quite a complicated story, and AR didn’t illustrate either book until 1938. It’s all detailed in Wayne Hammond’s Bibliography

  2. Sophie, I have also enjoyed some of AR’s other books , his autobiography of his time in Latvia, and the Russian reveloution is quite fascinating. A really different time . I know some books have been written that he was a soy or something ( I have yet to read) but I think he was a true Englishman.
    His other books about the saiboat he had built and the cruises he took are also so interesting about a completely different time. ‘The cruise of Racunda’
    Cheers Warren

      1. Hi , not seen it
        But I’m in usa do…. ‘ BBC iPlayer only works in the UK. Sorry, it’s due to rights issues.’

        I’ll try to find somewhere else!
        Cheers Warren

  3. Wonderful to see that the books are still remembered – I wonder how many are read now ? My children now in their 50’s read some but I don’t think they now appeal to my grandchildren’s generation.
    I did think of Ransome and his wife, Evegenia when watching Lucy Worsely’s Greatest Fibs abouit the Russian Revolution which was really a Trotsky effort, not Lenin’s. Evgenia of course was Trotsky’s secretary and I have mentioned this to Lucy.

    1. The whole series of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books still seem to be on the shelves of most bookshops. Do recommend that Lucy Worsley watches ‘The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome’ on BBC iPlayer. It’s beautifully made. Have you seen it?

  4. What a wonderful way to end 2020–with a talk on one of my favourite book series! I came to Swallows and Amazons quite late, as in America the series is not very well known at all, most unfortunately! Now that I live in England I see copies all around me-used, new, and collectable. Very much looking forward to tomorrow’s online talk!

  5. The Swallows and Amazons are my favourite children’s books—not that I read them as a child but I make up for it now, reading them at least once a year. Particularly love the books that include the Two Ds along with the Beckett and Walker children.

    I didn’t know about the unfinished book in the series. Is it available anywhere?

    1. Thanks for writing in. You asked about ‘Coots in the North’. I’m pretty sure I saw a copy on eBay recently. Are you a member of The Arthur Ransome Society? They have a copy in their library and may have a new copy for sale.

  6. The exhibition looks fascinating. I really hope there is still time to see it once the museum has re-opened.

      1. Thank you for that. I will act on it and become a Lakeland Arts’ Friend’ as you suggest.

  7. I’ve been trying for years to decipher the given name that Titty has written on the blue front cover of her “My Diary”, as shown in the bedtime scene in the tent around 22m29s in my DVD of the 1974 movie. It looks like a cross between “Tienia” and “Titnia” and “Tilnia”, each of which is as unlikely as the other two. I suppose I’ll never know.

      1. Ah. Thanks, Sophie. I have a copy of that book of yours, but I probably haven’t read it since 2018 when I bought it. If I came across the answer during that reading then I must have forgotten it. Or perhaps I didn’t finish reading the book. So now I’ll ransack it for the answer. The plot thickens.

        1. Great to hear you have the book. The details might only be in the 2nd edition. I found my original contract from Theatre Projects when they offered me the part of TIT…..

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