Coch-y-bonddhu or Cocky was a small dinghy with a tanned sail made for Charles Renold after Arthur Ransome had introduced him to fishing, built so that Ransome could teach him to sail on Windermere. Renold sailed her a little, but preferred to fish so gave her to Arthur.
Named after a favorite fishing fly, she was built by Crossfield (who made Swallow), and Arthur admired “the most beautiful spruce for the planking and a really lovely bit of wood for the keel and stern and covering board.” She was taken by the Ransomes to Ipswich, but was rather heavy to row so they got the Queen Mary as a pram dinghy for the Nancy Blackett. 'Cocky" was kept in Levington Creek beside an old sluice, so Arthur could sail across to "Nancy" or to Pin Mill. She was also used by the Russell children.
A familiar sight on Coniston during the war years, she was laid up when the Ransomes moved south again. Ransome (who had owned her for 15 years) finally sold her in the mid-fifties to John Barnes, head of Arnside School, who thought she was “Swallow”. She was used for sailing lessons for the school and for his 12-year old son Edward. Eventually sold by Barnes, she went to the west coast of Scotland.
Jeff Parker-Eaton bought Cochy from Lairg in Sutherland. In 1968, she was subsequently sold through Henderson’s boat yard in Mallaig to fiddler and historian Charlie McFarland for use as a fishing boat from Kilcamb Lodge Hotel at Strontian.
When the hotel was sold in 1991, Cochy, by now a rotting hulk, passed to the new owner, yachtsman Gordon Blakeway. Cochy was re-discovered by Dr Chris Birt, of The Arthur Ransome Society (TARS), in the hotel garden the following year. The boat was in an appalling condition. With the permission of the Blakeways, TARS undertook to save restore Cochy as a lasting tribute to the story-telling skills of Arthur Ransome, whose books have given such immense pleasure to children of all ages and generations
Money raised through an appeal by TARS allowed the restoration to go ahead. This was undertaken by boat-builder John Hodgson from Fiunary, on the Sound of Mull. Cochy was subsequently relaunched in 1995.
Coch-y-bonddhu is owned by TARS and on loan to the Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories.
- NBUS pages 99, 107-108, 246