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. We are getting closer to the hoped for launch of Amazon in mid July.


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. I haven’t found a way to prove or disprove this.

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 webmaster@arthur-ransome.org