Arthur Ransome Wiki
This article is about Arthur Ransome's uncompleted novel. For the anthology in which it appears, see Coots in the North and other stories

Arthur Ransome's incomplete children's novel 'Coots in the North' was usurped by the publication of Great Northern?, though chronologically it would have been set at an earlier date. The story starts in the second week of August 1932 in the Norfolk Broads but continues in the Lake District after the Death and Glories hitch a ride aboard a boat being delivered to the Lake in the North. Ransome abandoned it when he could not make progress with the story.


Ransome used the working title 'The Death and Glories'ref req; the title 'Coots in the North' was given to the published fragment by its editor, Hugh Brogan.



Death and Glory, Bonnka, the Houseboat, Swallow, Amazon, Scarab, Frank Farland's rowboat

Plot summary[]

The Death and Glories are bored because the salvage business is in decline on the Broads, and those they help say thank you but don't offer even a sixpence. They see a boat being loaded for delivery to the Lake in the North where the Ds have their adventures, and Mrs Barrable says Pity you can't make the voyage in her which strikes Joe silent. He gets Bill and Pete on board with some food and Dick's postcard with the address. Bill and Pete thinks Joe has gone funny. But Joe tells them they are gong to the lakes, saying You hear the old Admiral. She says t'was a pity we couldn't go in her. Well, we can; and when Bill says You ought to have called a Coot Club meeting Joe replies Had, we'd be talking yet ... (and) boat'd be a hundred miles away. .

They get left behind at a stop near the destination but make their way to the lake and find that the lorry has already left for the return journey to Norfolk and they have no way to get home. They meet the owner of the new boat who takes them to find the Ds. They encounter the Swallows, Amazons and Ds sailing on the lake and make an attempt to rescue Nancy after her boat capsizes.

At this point the story as published ends, though notes indicate that Ransome was struggling to develop a suitable plot line and a way of arranging for the Death and Glories to get home without their impoverished parents having to pay the fare.

Various scenarios are mentioned, including the salvage of Captain Flint's houseboat when its anchor chain breaks in a squall. In gratitude Captain Flint pays for their return journey and gives them a reward: Salvage ain't so bad after all!"


(numbers are days, but not actual dates, in the second week of August (CN1) of 1932; names are chapter titles)

  1. chapters 1, 2, 3, 4 (not titled)
  2. It's Gone!
  3. One Way of Meeting Nancy

and subsequent days as suggested in the author's notes.


Tom Dudgeon & Dr Dudgeon away somewhere with a rocky harbour, Frank Farland and Port and Starboard away, The Ds at The Lake staying at Dixons' Farm; Prof Callum is learning to sail

In the chapter It’s Gone there is a picture of the Bonnka owner feeding Joe’s rat and smoking a pipe (one of the few pictures of someone smoking in any of the books).


Arthur Ransome's biographer, Hugh Brogan, edited the story and had it published in 1988 in the book Coots in the North and other stories. He comments that "One Way of Meeting Nancy" is the last chapter which Arthur Ransome ever wrote about his children, the fictional children of his heart (page 135).

This page uses content from Guide to Swallows and Amazons series by kind permission of Bill Wright.
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?