Sail Swallow and Amazon

The classic dinghies from the original Swallows and Amazons 1974 film.

Welcome to the new venture for TARS, Sail Swallow and Amazon! We were offered Amazon early in 2022 as the children of the family who owned her had grown up, and the tale began. Amazon had her first hire on September 1st ’23 and went to her winter quarters early in October.

2024 is an exciting year. Amazon will be on the water on March 29th onwards for hire, and we have the money to finish the restoration of Swallow, but still need more – see donations page.

Swallows and Amazons’ boat to attend its own screening

Amazon’, the traditional sailing dinghy that features alongside Swallow in the classic film Swallows and Amazons will be on display outside the Riverside Cinema, Woodbridge, this Saturday, 13 July, when the film, celebrating its 50th anniversary, is being screened at 2pm. As well as celebrating the anniversary, the event – organised by TARS East – is aiming to raise funds for the restoration of the two boats.

Based on Arthur Ransome’s book of the same name, Swallows and Amazons is a tale of juvenile rivalry between the crews of the Swallow and the Amazon, on and around an island in the Lake District, and the boats have become stars in their own right – Swallow was recently valued at around £25,000 when she turned up on Antiques Roadshow.

Both of the boats were recently acquired by the Arthur Ransome Society, and are in need of some renovation. The work is being carried out by Hunter’s Yard on the Norfolk Broads, where Amazon is already available to hire (details at arthur-ransome.org/sail or 01692 678263).
It’s not the first time one of the boats has attended a screening of the film – in 2025 Swallow came and the cinema sold out two showings.
Sophie Neville, who played  Titty, kept a diary and later used it as the basis for a book, ‘The Making of Swallows and Amazons, which will be available to buy at the screening.

Cinema website the riverside.co.uk

It is the 50th Anniversary of the launch of the 1974 film of Swallows and Amazons starring your very own Swallow and Amazon and the cast has been invited to Windermere Jetty for the celebrations June 29th and 30th.

All the Walkers, including Titty, aka our member Sophie Neville, and Nancy will be there, and Titmouse will join her cousins there too.

50th anniversary of the

at Windermere Jetty, 29th & 30th June 2024.

You won’t want to miss this very special FREE fun family weekend…

Featuring the cast, the boats and much more:

The Cast: A reunion of the original cast: We’re pleased to announce the vast majority
of the cast will attend. Come and meet Susan, Titty, Nancy, and John. Yes, Suzanna
Hamilton, Sophie Neville, Kit Seymour, and Simon West have all accepted our
invitations to attend, as have several other cast and crew members. This is a once in
a lifetime opportunity to meet and say hello to these people who mean so much to
us. Please note the main day for meeting the cast will be Saturday.


Junior TARS – why not come dressed as your favourite Swallows and Amazons
character!


The Boats: Swallow and Amazon – the actual boats used in the film – now owned by
TARS: See Swallow up close and ashore (in mid-restoration), and Amazon afloat. In
addition, Titmouse from the BBC’s Coot Club and The Big Six will be there, along
with people from Hunter’s Yard, responsible for all three restorations.


And the original Amazon – the Altounyan family’s Mavis, which inspired Ransome’s
original story, is hoped to be able to come from the Ruskin Museum in Coniston.


Our President John Sergeant will also be attending.


The activities planned for the weekend, 10am-5pm each day, include:

1) Screenings of the film (of course!) – several during the weekend, taking place
indoors.

2) Talks by Sophie Neville on the making of the film and Peter Wright on Arthur
Ransome and how Swallows and Amazons came to be written.

3) A specially written show/folk concert by The Boat Band on a Ransome/S&A
theme.

4) Roving singers will also tour the site, performing songs by Neil Hannon from
the 2010 Swallows and Amazons stage adaptation Exhibitions and
memorabilia on Ransome and the film.

5) A special exhibition and artwork from Karen Babayan on the Swallows and
Armenians theme.

6) A recreation of the Swallows’ camp on Wild Cat Island will be set up by our
old friend Rob Boden.

7) There will be Jigsaws, Picture colouring and Knot-tying fun for children (and
young at hearts).


(Due to production issues the advertised performance of the stage play has been
postponed until 2025)


All of this is absolutely free – to TARS and the public alike – no need to book. Just
turn up! Upon arrival, pick up your copy of the full time-tabled programme!


In addition the Windermere Jetty museum will be open as usual (with paid entry)
where you can see Coch-y-Bonddhu, as well as the boats used in the other (2016)
film and a selection of Ransome memorabilia as well as their impressive collection of
boats and exhibits. Windermere Jetty will also be offering trips on their steam launch
Osprey which dates from 1902 and had a role in the 1974 film.


Directions: Winderemere Jetty, Rayrigg Road LA23 1BN, open 10am-5pm
https://lakelandarts.org.uk/ windermere-jetty-museum/ Parking is free if you pay to go
into the museum; otherwise charges apply.


If you want to venture further afield you could take a trip on the lake on M.V. Tern
(built 1891), visit the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, both seen in the film, or
take a Swallows and Amazons afternoon tea at the prestigious Langdale Chase
Hotel (where Virginia McKenna stayed during the filming).


Alongside our event, a Wooden Boat Gathering will be taking place, with wooden
boats of all types and ages present, on the theme ‘Ensuring the future for boats
made of wood’. (organised by The Wooden Boatbuilders Trade Association:
www.woodenboatgathering.co.uk)

Saturday Timetable

Sunday Timetable

Though we have been invited to a number of shows and regattas shortage of money and manpower means that we will concentrate on the renovation, and Goblin, aka Nancy Blackett will be at The Southampton Boatshow.

Amazon will also be putting in an appearance for a showing of the film at the Riverside Cinema Woodbridge on Saturday 13 July (booking, theriverside.co.uk, 01394 382174)

Do scroll down for lots more!


A clip from Country Tracks profiling ‘Swallows and Amazons’ – our boats were used for this film, and the last owners took them to the Lakes for filming.


Amazon was built by Borwicks of Windermere.  The internet has a picture of a dinghy built by them in 1954.  It appears almost identical to Amazon so it is very likely that our ‘Swallow’ and ‘Amazon’ are at least 60 or 70 years old.  Swallow was built by William King of Burnham-on-Crouch, and we understand Swallow was a nameless ‘hack boat’ used for general duties around William King’s boatyard in Burnam on Crouch. Rowing, and with an outboard. Two different people gave this story, and it ties up with the WK carved inside the transom.

For the film they added an extra thwart up front, to step the mast in, very lazily with just two short screws! They also drilled a small hole in the keel so they could wire her to the camera pontoon (underwater so it didn’t show) during some filming.

Turks of Chatham bought the boat after the film, as they often hired out fleets of rowing boats for war films.

When Magnus bought Swallow for SailRansome, they had the proper keel fitted (by Pattersons in Cumbria) so she could sail without a centreboard (as rowing boats have barely any keel). We also had to get a new mast after the old one broke. Goachers provided a sail that could withstand hard use. My father-in-law made some knees to secure the extra front thwart, after it nearly ripped out during a test sail, and so it matches the other thwarts. He also made the blocks (pulleys). I bought all the bits and various volunteers fitted: leather on boom jaws, brass keelbands.

That was the ‘truth’ until 2022 when a bloke emailed me to say his father was the original builder, and had made the hull at home (just as a rowing boat) with a friend, eventually selling to William King. We now have proof and will properly update soon.

Swallow went from the filming in 1973 to Mike Turk’s warehouse in Chatham. It was the Spring of 2010 and TARS member Magnus bid for her at auction on behalf of the 83 donors to what became SailRansome.  He and Rob ran her, till the pandemic, for members of the public to take out, and sadly both he and Magnus have decided that for health reasons they were no  longer up to the relentless task.

Amazon was owned by two families, who bought her between them 30-35 or so years ago on a trip to the Lakes. Amazon, which had been bought after filming finished, was in a local yard where they had hired a boat for a trip to Wild Cat Island, the owner took a shine to their four very over excited girls on a mission!  The girls have grown up and so TARS were offered Amazon on the condition she was available for people to use.  

Well, that was the brief for Swallow, so I got on the phone to Magnus and he explained his and Rob’s situation and so the plan evolved.

In the meantime the regulations regarding safe sailing of clinker built dinghies have also evolved and it is no longer possible for a small amateur group to hire such boats.  I tried to find a home for them in the Lakes but to no avail.  TARS has a good relationship with Hunter’s Yard who have a heritage fleet of yachts, and had recently beautifully restored Titmouse from the Broads film Swallows and Amazons Forever! for service as a tender to their fleet.  They also provided Lullaby to act as Teasel and the black punt Dreadnought for the film.

Hunters were delighted to be asked to run them and here we are!

Amazon bears a plaque to celebrate the enjoyment the 4 girls derived from sailing her.

Links:

Sophie Neville’s (aka Titty) article 23/11/22 https://sophieneville.net/2022/11/23/swallow-the-dinghy-that-starred-in-swallows-and-amazons-1974/

Eastern Daily Press 5/3/23 https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/23361621.new-norfolk-broads-home-swallow-amazon/

Southampton Boat Show 2022 building up to 15-24th Sept 2023 where Amazon hopes to attend https://www.pbo.co.uk/news/swallows-and-amazon-star-to-return-to-the-boat-show-78041?fbclid=IwAR0376F5Ua_rQ_g58w1wegxk0PYCh14SyNwE8tpUmJow_WR88nlueMCyfP8

Enquiries sailsanda@arthur-ransome.org