When Jonathan Cape first published Swallows and Amazons on 21st July 1930 for the price of 7/6d, it was eagerly received by numerous authors including JRR Tolkein and AA Milne. I’m often asked which well known people alive today have expressed an interest in Arthur Ransome’s series of books.
Griff Rhys Jones, who presented The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome using clips of the 1974 film of Swallows & Amazons in which I played Titty, joined me at Pin Mill in Suffolk for a marathon reading We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea, Ransome’s novel that tells of the Swallows’ hair-raising voyage to Flushing. You can find Griff’s books here.
John Sergeant, the veteran newscaster, has made a number of documentaries about Arthur Ransome, chatting to Griff on The Secret Life of Arthur Ransome, and The Secret Life of Books.
Ben Fogle interviewed Suzanna Hamilton and myself on Countryfile and Big Screen Britain after exploring the locations around Coniston Water. You can watch the episode here.
Libby Purves, author and broadcaster, is now President of The Arthur Ransome Society. She refers to Swallows and Amazons in at least one of her novels.
A keen sailor, she also took part in the marathon reading of We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea organised by The Nancy Blackett Trust who own and look after the Goblin, the yacht portrayed in the story.
Dame Ellen McArthur, yachtswoman and Patron of The Nancy Blackett Trust, claims that Arthur Ransome’s novels inspired her to sail. She gives Swallows and Amazons a good mention in her book Taking on the World. Ellen was portrayed by Suzanna Hamilton in a Stephen Sharkey play at a festival at the Southall Playhouse. Suzanna played Susan Walker in the 1974 film of Swalllows and Amazons.
Sir Richard Branson often says how much he loved the book as a boy, describing it as, “a lovely kids’ adventure book.” He told The New York Times: “As a very young kid, I loved the Arthur Ransome novel Swallows and Amazons. It’s about a group of children having adventures in England. Now I read it to my grandkids. It’s a beautiful book.” I met Richard years ago when I worked on The Russell Harty Show. To may amazement, he recognised me when I was filming in the street in Kensington months later, so perhaps he has watched the original film of Swallows and Amazons.
John McCarthy, the journalist and keen sailor, made a radio programme called Paddling with Peter Duck, sailing Swallow, the dinghy featured in the 1974 film. You can sail her yourself via SailRansome.com
Theresa May said she loves Swallows and Amazons. ‘When she was young she appears to have enjoyed reading… listing… Swallows and Amazons among her favourites.’ Mirror and Daily Mail She gave a copy to Baroness Davidson, once leader of the Scottish Conservative Party.
Dame Judi Dench also read the book as a girl: “…Swallows and Amazons, I remember that very well indeed.” Good Housekeeping
David Dimbleby loves gaff-rigged boats and recently helped with PR at the London Boat Show. He visited us on the set of the BBC Drama serial Swallows and Amazons For Ever! filmed on location in Norfolk.
Sir Ben Ainslie ~ Steven Morris of the Guardian reports: “He recalled how he started sailing in Cornwall on the creeks around Falmouth as a boy. Ainslie has called it a Swallows and Amazons kind of childhood. He had friends on the other side of the creek so he sailed over to see them.”
Ben lived in Lymington – and came to our club to celebrate after the Olympics.
Nikki Henderson, the youngest ever Clipper Around The World yachtswoman was inspired by the book Swallows and Amazons naming Swallow and one of the coolest sailing boats ever in Yachting World as reported by the Nancy Blackett Trust.
Alan Smith of BBC Radio 4, appeared as a boy in the scenes shot at Bowness. He was on location at the Haverthwaite Railway Station in May 1973 on the first day of filming Swallows and Amazons(1974) with Virginia McKenna who starred in the film as Mrs Walker. To read more, please click here.
Miranda Hart (Miranda, Call the Midwife, Not Going Out) “Oh, I love these wonderful stories about outdoor life in one of the most beautiful parts of our country – the Lake District. Camping, sailing, exploring, discovering – it’s still the stuff of dreams for me. My favourite character was Peggy. She was shy and a little nervy but always kept up with her sister, who was captain of their boat. It was rather like me and my sister; although I was the elder, I was the shyer one, and often had to rely on my little sis to do the grown-up things. And I have to say Peggy is my favourite character still, because that’s partly who my dog is named after. I love that this book celebrates the importance and joy of friendship. But above all it harks back to a time when children had to use nature and their imagination to have fun through the long summer holidays. No iPads on tap here. I hope it inspires kids and adults who may have forgotten about the bliss and thrill and beauty of nature to rediscover it.” You magazine.
The list continues in the next post here.
You can read about The Making of Swallows and Amazons in paperback or on Kindle. The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons is available on all the ebook platforms. There is a review here.
14 thoughts on “Celebrities who love ‘Swallows and Amazons’”
Very interesting – and how many celebrities (the right kind, not just famous-for-being-famous) loved/love the books but happen not to have been asked? Ransome’s books were such a bedrock for so many children
That’s a good point, Jill! Please let me know of any you know of. I’m preparing a second post about well known authors.
The late Sir Michael Hordern told me once he was a fan.
Yes, I’m sure he was, especially having played Ransome in the tv adaptation of ‘Rod and Line’. Can you think of any other actors?
Not off hand, but Libby P. once borrowed my balaclava when she came down to see threatened areas of Dartmoor on a freezing day when she was president of the Council for National Parks.
I only wish I’d met him! Can you think of any other actors, besides those who have appeared in the film of tv adaptations of the books?
I used to see him on Dartmoor when he came down for the fishing. A great supporter of the Dartmoor Preservation Association when I was chief executive.
I didn’t know. I am compiling a list of authors interested in Swallows and Amazons. It’s growing quite long. Any suggestions appreciated.
Only tenuously on-topic, but I’m intrigued by the seven and six pricing at a time when a pint of beer was fourpence. Somewhat glad to have been born in 1964 when reading for pleasure had become something affordable by “the masses”, in part, of course, thanks to the introduction of the paperback. Only paid five bob for my first copy of S&A in 197-, whilst the hardback was out of my boyhood reach at a whole pound.
I’d be willing to bet good money that James May of Top Gear et al has a full set.
Let’s try to find out. I gather James May likes an adventure.
I too would put money on James May being a fan; and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kate Humble and Fiona Bruce weren’t either. I know the rock climber Joe Brown loved the stories.
I’m compiling a list of authors who love Swallows and amazons. I think I need to add Neville Shute.
Can you think of any authors with an interest in Arthur Ransome?
Although I’ve no direct evidence as yet, as C. S. Lewis was an Inkling, along with Tolkien and others, I am pretty sure that he would have approved of ‘Swallows and Amazons’.