Mary Soan with Jill and Jim Searle on the Teasel, towing the Titmouse on South Walsham
It was Jim and Jill Searle of the Norfolk Country Sailing Base in Ludham who helped us find the boats that starred in the BBC adaptation of Coot Club and The Big Six set on the Norfolk Broads. Jill has kindly sent me a copy of this photo taken of Lullaby just after she was chosen to play the Teasel. Her costume consisted of a false transom, which is still at Hunter’s Yard in Ludham today.
The Teasel’s transom ~ photo: Roger Wardale
Roger Wardale recently took this photograph that I believe is to be included in his new book, Arthur Ransome on the Broads , which Amberley Publishing will bring out soon in full colour. He tells of Arthur Ransome’s half-dozen or so holidays on hired yachts and of the young people who sailed in the fleet, including Titty and Tacky (Taqui) Altounyan. Roger found out that the Ransomes hired a 23′ Fairway’ yacht from Jack Powles of Wroxham. This had a Primus stove with a special cooking locker in the well. It sounds very well kitted out with a wash-basin and self-emptying WC in a separate compartment. The three Somnus spring-berths had drawers underneath and there was even a wardrobe. Like the Teasel she was built of mahogany with a ‘bright varnish finish’ and given a fair wind she would have zipped along at quite a speed.
Roger said that he spent six days last summer trying to find places Arthur Ransome visited that had not changed since the 1930’s for his photographs but said that was difficult. What he did find was the Titmouse at Hunter’s Yard
The Titmouse at Hunter’s Yard in Ludham ~ photo: Roger Wardale
It is still possible to hire the mahogany hulled, gunter-rigged yachts much as Arthur Ransome and his wife did in the 1930’s, together with a sailing dinghy or rowing boat. There are fourteen sailing cruisers in the Hunter’s fleet and none have an engine. They have lifting cabin tops so you have more headroom when you moor up. Lullaby, who was built in 1932 is 28ft long with four berths. The mast can be lowered with counter weights so that she can be taken under bridges with a clearance of 6 foot.
Jim and Jill Searle have a restored a traditional gaff-rigged 26′ 1930’s crusier, which is to be sold this year. I gather it is beautiful.
Roger Wardale says that in the 1930’s, many of the yachts had a ‘self-acting’ jib, ‘which according to Ransome was too large, so that there were times when he lowered his and sailed better without it!’ I gather they still have self-acting jibs but the size may have been altered. (?)
At Horning Staithe today ~ photo: Roger Wardale
Roger also found a cruiser similar to the Janca, the 1930’s cruiser who played the part of the Margoletta, skippered by Julian Fellowes in his glorious role as a Hullabaloo, the spiteful, arch-baddie of Coot Club. She made a perfect leading lady. I believe the Janca is currently being restored ~ but you’ll have to remind me who owns her.
A large 1930’s Broads crusier similar to the one we used as the Margoletta in ‘Coot Club’ ~ photo: Roger Wardale
Back in 1983 we were hugely helped by a number of Norfolk boatmen who knew the broads well.
Mark Page, who played Bill getting help fixing something
You will have to let me know the name of these gentlemen who spent long hours helping us in the summer of 1983.
The skipper of the vessel used as a camera boat on ‘Swallows and Amazons Forever!’
Filming from one boat to another is tricky and their patience was much appreciated. In many ways the easiest boat to film with was the Death and Glory. She can still be found moored somewhere on the Broads.
Henry Dimbleby, Nicholas Walpole, Jake Coppard, Mark Page, Caroline Downer and Richard Walton as they appeared in ‘The Big Six’ (1984)
I well remember setting up this shot for the cover of the abridged version of the two stories, which was brought out by Puffin to accompany the series. It shows the Death and Glory complete with her green chimney. The big secret was that the interior of the cabin was larger than the exterior. we puzzled over Ransome’s drawings only to decide that he had cheated the measurements too.
Nicholas Walpole and Jake Coppard looking out of the window of the set that was made to represent the interior of the Death and Glory
Bruce McCaddy and his team built the set inside a modern boatshed where it was kept for ‘rain cover’, since the interior scenes could always be shot if it was wet. It included ‘camera traps’ or sections that could be removed so the scenes could be shot. I never went inside but the boys loved it. In fact the weather was glorious. We enjoyed such constant sunshine in the later part of the shoot that we filmed the interiors when it was dry and so hot that the boys got quite over-heated.