When Sten Grendon was given the part of Roger in Swallows & Amazons (1974), his mother Jane Grendon came up to the Lake District with him to work as a chaperone, looking after all the children appearing in the movie.
Jane said that before filming began,
‘…one of the very first things we were asked was, ‘can Sten swim?”
‘I know he could doggy paddle. Neville organised swimming lessons at Pitville Pool, Cheltenham which included jumping off the diving boards. At the time I didn’t know why and I don’t think Sten is a natural in the water and the swimming lessons didn’t prove very successful. Claude told me – at the end of filming I think, when he gave me a copy of he original script – these lessons were because in the original script Roger was to jump in the water after Uncle Jim walked the plank.’
Jane sent me a copy of the page in question. I had not seen it before:
‘There are some personal memories. An aunt gave me the book for my birthday and I tried reading it but I hated all the technical boating details and I thought the children rather priggish so I didn’t enjoy it one bit and so was rather downhearted for Sten to be part of a story I hadn’t liked.’
Jane and her husband lived deep in the Cotswold countryside, at the rural Whiteway community, near Stroud in Gloucestershire. As I recollect, they had both qualified as teachers.
‘At the time of casting and during all the arrangements we had no phone at home and had to rely on a neighbour and the production team used to hold on while Ros came and fetched me! They must have really been fed up as it must have taken 10 minutes or so sometimes for me to get to the phone!’
Jane hadn’t imagined that she would end up in costume herself, if only for a day. She looked wonderful.
‘…. so there I was – a naïve, country girl flung into this alien world of a film unit. I was like a fish out of water! But I think it came out in your account that I related to you children better than I did to the adults around.’
Jane’s husband Michael was able to bring Sten’s sister, their little daughter Jo, up to watch the filming over half-term.
That summer Jane appeared in costume once more when Claude Whatham asked if Sten Grendon could also appear in a commercial he was directing for Weetabix, back in Gloucestershire at harvest time. This time she found herself on location not far from her own home and was always smiling.
Jane still lives the same house. Her husband Michael has retired from teaching and they have just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.