Arthur Ransome Wiki
This article is about the book. For the club itself, see The Coot Club.

Coot Club is the fifth book of the Swallows and Amazons series, published in 1934. The action takes place on 22 April - 6 May 1931. Dick and Dorothea Callum are planning to stay with Mrs Barrable aboard a yacht on the Norfolk Broads during the Easter Holidays. They are eager to learn to sail and thus impress the Swallows and Amazons when they return to the Lake later that year. Dick and Dorothea explore the North and South Broads with members of the Coot Club and learn enough to become able seamen.


minor characters (those in parentheses are "offstage"):

  • Frank Farland "A.P."
  • Dr Dudgeon
  • Mrs Ella Dudgeon
  • " Our Baby" Dudgeon
  • Mrs McGinty
  • Jim Wooddall
  • Simon Fastgate
  • George Owdon
  • Mr Tedder
  • Ratty Joe's rat
  • (old Jonas the sailmaker who makes the awning for the Titmouse)
  • stomach-ache boy Robin at Acle
  • Mr Jack Whittle
  • Mrs Whittle
  • Mr Hawkins
  • Old Bob
  • Breydon pilot
  • (Richard, Mrs Barrable's brother)
  • (Miss Millett...has houseboat with china upset by Hullabaloos)
  • ( in Mr Farland's office)
  • 4 Yarmouth wreckers,
  • guard, porter, and ticket inspector at Thorpe terminus
  • stationmaster at Wroxham station
  • farm boy (with milk for Teasel)
  • grocer in Horning
  • battery man in Wroxham
  • boy watching for Margoletta at Potter
  • "Stop Me and Buy One" boy at Potter
  • eel-man (Harry Bangate?) by Horning Hall
  • old sailor (same as later old man?) on bridge at Acle
  • provision boat man
  • boy in Yarmouth by figurehead
  • sailor on schooner by quay in Yarmouth
  • man on railway bridge in Yarmouth
  • signalman at Herringfleet swingbridge
  • man on the Corporation Yacht Station
  • 2 men on bridge at end of New Cut
  • eel fisherman at Beccles
  • boy on Post Office bicycle at Beccles
  • harbourmaster at Oulton
  • man working on dismantling sailboat at Brundalll
  • signalman at Reedham railway bridge
  • young man and girl at Berney Arms
  • old fisherman at Yarmouth


Titmouse, Teasel, motor-launch, Death and Glory, Flash, Sir Garnet, Dreadnought, Margoletta, Teasel's dinghy, Dr Dudgeon's fishing boat, the Farland's rowing boat, Come Along, (Grizzled Skipper), Welcome, the Provision Boat (a motor-boat) at Acle, a trawler with a brown topsail running close to the coast they see when they are near Yarmouth and the sea.

Plot summary[]

The Ds wanted to learn about sailing but it was no good going north at Easter .... and then, half-way through the Easter holidays, the letter from a family friend Mrs Barrable came just in time. With her brother Richard she had chartered a small yacht, the Teasel, but he had to go off to London to paint portraits of some important Indians. She was by herself so would like to have the D's for company, and as their parents are going to a conference upon the Roman wall they could very well be spared. They go to Wroxam by train, meeting Tom when he jumps on the (moving) train at Thorpe Station, Norwich (CC1).

Mrs Barrable meets them at Wroxham Station, and they go with her to the village of Horning and down river to the moored Teasel. But they are disappointed to find that I can't sail the Teasel by myself (with Brother Richard away) .... and you can't either .... We're only going to use her as a houseboat .... They were not going to learn sailing, after all (CC2).

A noisy and inconsiderate party of city-dwellers (dubbed the 'Hullabaloos' by the children) aboard the hired motor cruiser Margoletta threaten Number 7 nest by mooring in front of it. This nest is home of the coot with the white feather which is a mascot of the Coot Club and one of many of its monitored nests. Despite warnings "not to mix with foreigners", Tom stealthily loosens the Margoletta's moorings to save the nest and later hides behind the Teasel. Mrs. Barrable does not betray Tom to the Hullabaloos, instead asking him and the twins to sail the Teasel and teach the Callums to sail. Tom involves some of the other members of the Coot Club, the twin girls Port and Starboard Farland, and three younger boys — Joe, Bill and Pete (the Death and Glories).

So Tom joins the crew of the Teasel with Mrs. Barrable and her dog William, towing his dinghy Titmouse. Port and Starboard initially stay home so they can crew Flash in yacht races with their father, but when he has to go away on a legal case they hitch-hike aboard a series of friendly passing boats in pursuit of the Teasel and (eventually) join the others in Beccles.

Tom, Port and Starboard teach Dick and Dorothea the basics of sailing up and down the Broads. Dick shares the Coot Club's keen interest in the local birds, and Dorothea uses the voyage as fodder for her new story, "The Outlaw Of The Broads" based on the Hullabaloos' vow to catch Tom. The crew of the Teasel are pursued all over the Broads until the Hullabaloos crash the Margoletta in the perilously tidal Breydon Water — necessitating a dramatic salvage by the Death and Glory.


Dates in 1931 are determined from Rodley's reward notice which date the casting off of Margoletta on "22 April" (CC11). Names are chapter titles.

(Before: 21 April, Miss Millett's china in her houseboat is upset by a motor cruiser late in the evening)

  • 22 April (Half-way through the Easter holidays (CC1}: Just in Time • Disappointment • What's the Good of Planning • The Only Thing To Do • Aboard the Teasel • Put Yourself in His Place
  • 23 April: Invitation • The Innocents • The Making of an Outlaw
  • 24 April: Lying Low: First Day
  • 25 April: Lying Low: Second Day
  • 26 April: Lying Low: Third Day
  • 27 April: Tom in Danger • Under the Enemy's Nose • The Titmouse Disguised
  • 28 April: The Titmouse Disguised
  • 29 April: Neighbours at Potter Heigham
  • 30 April: Neighbours at Potter Heigham • Port and Starboard Say Good-Bye
  • 1 May: Southward Bound • Port and Starboard Miss Their Ship • Through Yarmouth • Sir Garnet Obliges Friends • While the Wind Holds • Come Along and Welcome
  • 2 May: The Return of the Native
  • 3 May: Storm Over Oulton
  • 4 May: Recall
  • 5 May: Recall
  • 6 May: The Rashness of the Admiral • The Titmouse on the Fog • William's Heroic Moment • Wreck and Salvage • Face to Face
  • (7 May): Postscript (the fleet set sail from Acle to Horning after an early breakfast, the Farlands win a race in Flash by a bowsprit, watched by most of the cast)
  • (8 May): Date of Tom resuming school: in another ten days you'll be back at school (CC13).
  • unknown dates: Postscript (everyone goes home, Richard paints our baby, Death and Glory gets refurbished)


Half-way through the Easter holidays, the letter from Mrs Barrable had come in the very nick of time .... and everything had been arranged in a couple of days (CC1)

As the action in Coot Club occurs in the Easter holidays, it's worth noting the actual (native) date for Easter Sunday:

  • In the year 1931, Easter Sunday fell on: April 5th (see 1929-1930-1931 paradox for discussion on whether CC occurred in 1931)
  • In the year 1930, Easter Sunday fell on: April 20th


  • Nell Farland has curly hair and is right-handed; Bess Farland is left-handed.
  • Frank Farland is a solicitor in a family firm Farland, Farland and Farland with an office in Norwich
  • Mrs McGinty is a widow of an Irishman but was born in Glasgow
  • "Our baby" is a boy.
  • On their train journey from home to Norwich, the Ds came through Ipswich and Colchester
  • Tom's birthday was probably not too long before the story starts, as the stuff from Norwich was a "birthday present" (probably bought with birthday money).
  • The Amazons are away with Uncle Jim; the Swallows are in the south with their father who is home on leave. (However in We Didn't mean... their father is returning home from China - and that book seems to be set later the same year. )
  • Mrs Barrable was Mrs Callum's school mistress long ago; she is a painter and the sister of Richard, a famous portrait painter; she is a visitor but was born at Beccles.
  • Mr & Mrs Callum are at a conference of archaeologists up on the Roman wall (near Carlisle).
  • Mrs Farland died when Port and Starboard were babies.
  • Margoletta was let from Rodley's of Wroxham.
  • Port and Starboard go away to school; Tom and the Death & Glories go to school locally.
  • Teasel had been moored for over a week prior to Day 1 of the story. Tom wants to plan the last two weeks of the holidays and go cruising, but Starboard says that they are to crew Flash on the day after tomorrow .... (and) another day, and in a private championship in the last week of the hols (CC3).
  • There seem to have been other run-ins with George Owdon previous to this story:Mr Farland refers to him as "your dear friend George" in a sarcastic manner. He was known to make more (money) still by taking the eggs of rare birds and selling them to a man in Norwich (CC4).
  • Jim Wooddall thinks Grizzled Skipper is the most likely boat to win the championship, and which Flash will challenge.
  • In May 1934 the Ransomes hired a Fairway yacht from Wroxham, and took a gentle three-week cruise following the route of Teasel so that he could take photographs from which the illustrations for Coot Club could be drawn (NBUS page 99).
  • According to Brogan (Life page 336), when Ransome was writing Coot Club he borrowed the Ancient Mariner’s views on cooking bacon, and bestowed them on Simon Fastgate (and Jim); who says bacon should be Thick and soft an' jewsy, that's what's good in bacon though Port says we like it the other way i.e. well-cooked (CC19). Tom’s parent’s were awarded a new baby to keep them out of the way. Thinking of the villain, the treacherous Norfolk Coot, he wrote that George Owdon must never be heard to speak throughout the book (like the G.A. in Swallowdale) but seen. (Note that George does speak when he sees Port and Starboard towing the empty Titmouse (CC12).
  • Dick and Dorothea taught Semaphore to the Death and Glories during this Easter holiday (according to The Big Six, see BS8, but not mentioned in Coot Club)

Cross-references and chronology[]

When the Ds meet Tom Dudgeon in Coot Club there are several references to the adventures of the previous winter in Winter Holiday:

  • Dorothea says Last holidays we were in a houseboat frozen in the ice; the Ds had spent a happy month on the shores of a wintry lake .... with the Blacketts and Walkers (CC1).
  • Dick said to Mrs Barrable We have rowed once .... but only for a few minutes (CC2).
  • In the winter holidays (Dick's pocket book) had been full of stars (CC2).
  • those children they met in the north, those mumpy children .... (CC5).
  • they made friends with some nautical children in the winter holidays (CC7).
  • Dorothea sends a card to her mother from Potter Heigham, and writes This is our first port of call, like Malta was when you and father went to Egypt (CC13).
  • There is one reference to the Blacketts away with their uncle .... the Walkers in the south with their father, who was home in England on leave (CC1), several references to Nancy (CC5,15,29), one to Peggy who said on rowing according to Dot Dip them well in .... Don't catch another lobster (CC9), and one to Roger (CC23). On the map of the River Bure, there is a note by "N.B." saying Navigable waters shaded. Places where people are not allowed to sail are left out of this map (CC9).
  • The events start in the Easter holidays: Half-way through the Easter holidays, the letter from Mrs Barrable had come in the very nick of time .... and everything had been arranged in a couple of days (CC1). Tom holds a meeting on the first day to plan what we're going to do with the last two weeks of the holidays .... as there were two weeks of the holidays left. He wanted to go cruising as he had fitted up the Titmouse for sleeping in, but Starboard says Anyway not the last week of the hols. They've fixed up a private championship .... That last week the A.P.'ll be racing Flash practically every day .... And he's racing the day after tomorrow (CC3). Later though the A.P. is called away on the Bollington business But the first race is tomorrow, so the twins go sailing on the Teasel as a consolation prize (CC17). But the events of Coot Club are about a month past the actual date of Easter Sunday that year, 27 March, see here.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[]

The BBC produced a TV series Swallows and Amazons Forever based on Coot Club and The Big Six in 1984[1]

For the book of the TV series see Swallows and Amazons for Ever; the book is an abridgement of Coot Club and The Big Six .


Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series

Swallows and Amazons | 'Their Own Story' | Swallowdale | Peter Duck | Winter Holiday | Coot Club | Pigeon Post | We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea | The Big Six | Secret Water | Missee Lee | The Picts and the Martyrs | 'Coots in the North' | Great Northern?

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