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Miss Maria Turner

Maria disembarks

Maria Turner

Great Aunt Maria
Aunt Maria
The Great-Aunt
The GA

Miss Turner
Birthdate: 1870s
Guardian of Molly Turner and James Turner

(self-appointed; disputed) matriarch of Turner family

(self-appointed; disputed) temporary guardian to Nancy and Peggy
Native Residence:
Future career:
Maria disembarks

Maria Turner disembarking from Scarab on to the Beckfoot lawn (PM29)

Maria Turner, also known as Great Aunt Maria, Aunt Maria and The GA is the sister of Grandfather Turner, aunt (and childhood guardian) of Jim Turner and Molly Blackett, and Nancy Blackett's and Peggy Blackett's great aunt. She lives at Harrogate.

Maria Turner considers herself some sort of head of the Turner/Blackett family, and grandmother-figure to her great nieces Nancy and Peggy. However, her great-nieces' (and to some extent Molly's and Jim's) view of her merely as some sort of distant relative and overprotective adventure-spoiler, forms the basis of the conflict between them and her.

Aye she's come...and trouble with her. Girt auld hen 'at wants to be cock o' t' midden. (Cook, PM6)

Early life[]

It is known that Maria spent some of her youth near the Lake, since she knew Tommy Jolys when he was a child (see Tin Trumpet Incident; this also dates her birth in the late 1870s).

Adult life[]

Maria never married (PM23). She holds conservative or traditionalist religious views (SD13). Based on the Tin Trumpet Incident, Maria Turner is aged in her sixties when she appears in the books.

Maria can play the piano: "That's someone who knows how to play" (PM16).

Guardianship of Jim and Molly[]

Maria Turner became the guardian of Molly Turner and Jim Turner, presumably upon the deaths of their parents, Grandfather and Grandmother Turner. She brought them up or was looking after them (SD3,27); with the help of Mrs Lewthwaite, who used to be mother's nurse, and she was our nurse too when we were very young (Nancy, SA24). Jim and Molly address her as "Aunt Maria" and she has held considerable sway as head of the family, even after Molly's marriage to Bob Blackett.

Maria Turner's relationship with the Blackett family[]

Maria apparently disapproved of Molly Turner's marriage to Bob Blackett, and of the way he and Molly were bringing up their daughters, Nancy and Peggy] (SD17). Nancy describes to the Swallows an overheard conversation how Maria dragged father in (that is, commented on their late father Bob) and made mother cry, and of Uncle Jim consoling Molly: Bob would have liked them as they are (SD17) (Titty's indignation on hearing about this led to the candle-grease incident).

Following Bob's death, Maria continued to visit the Blackett family at Beckfoot regularly but these visits were not enjoyed by her hosts. Her nephew and niece agreed never to have her visit except in term time (PM3).

Maria clearly sees herself as a grandmother-figure to Molly's daughters, and feels qualified to offer (unwelcome) advice on their upbringing: "I don't know what Aunt Maria would say if she knew I was leaving you alone" (Molly Blackett, PM1); The Great Aunt never writes to us except for birthdays to hope we're turning over new leaves (Nancy, PM3).

Maria seems aware of the Beckfoot household's occasional money problems: she sends a reply-paid telegram (in case Nancy could otherwise not afford to reply, or to ensure a reply?) (PM1).

She seems to have a degree of entry as-of-right at Beckfoot, a position she may hold as the Turner family's pseudo-matriarch, even if such status is only begrudgingly granted to her: she fairly orders Cook She jolly well shan't sleep in Mother's bed. says Nancy. Nancy sees that It’s mother she’s hitting at, not us. She means to make mother wish she’d never gone away She means to make her wish she’d never been born ….. So We’ve got to stick it. So has Cook. We’ve got to be so jolly good that she simply can’t realise that it was all right for mother to go away (PM3).

Timothy observes If you ask me, I think your Great Aunt is remarkably like her Great Niece (PM30). When Nancy said Jolly sporting of her (to pretend she has a gun) …. I never would have thought she had it in her, Timothy says She’s your aunt, you know (PM21).

Roger says that Missee Lee is a bit Great Auntish after all as she doesn’t like Gibber (ML14).

Maria Turner's relationship with the Lake community[]

After Mary Walker tells Roger what a Great Aunt is, she tells them that "Mrs Jackson at Holly Howe wanted to start cleaning the whole farm up as soon as she heard Miss Turner was coming" with Molly and Jim to see Mrs Walker (SD2). Later after Mother tells the Swallows about the visit "to know what we were like" but does not say any more, Titty says to John "Mother doesn't like her either" (SD15).

Maria Turner went to the Head of the lake to tell the vicar how things used to be done. She's heard he's doing some things differently. (SD13)

Mary Swainson feels a queer mixture of kindness, pity and fear on seeing Miss Turner (PM23).

Colonel Jolys hated her when he was young (PM25).

The G.A. knows them (the Swainsons) very well says Nancy (PM25)

The police sergeant says My word, she is a tartar, that old lady (PM29).

Young Billy (one of the Charcoal burners) says to Titty that with old Miss Turner staying at Beckfoot You'll not have been seeing so much of the lasses,I reckon (SD30).



  • Swallowdale (seen at a distance, but not heard).
  • The Picts and the Martyrs, subtitled 'Not Welcome at All'
  • mentioned in Secret Water, compared with Aunt Helen Not the Great Aunt? .. No. A good one (SW11). Later Nancy says We've got a Great Aunt who makes things fairly awful but we always bounce back up again somehow, and we manage to do things right under her very nose ... (SW15).
  • According to Brogan (Life page 336) on the writing of Coot Club: 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.

possible appearance[]

· · —

You are standing into danger. This article or section contains conjecture.

In Swallows and Amazons: the Amazons appear to be in the thrall of some unfriendly natives:

  • This year he (Uncle Jim) is in league with the natives, and the natives are very unfriendly - Peggy, during the parley(SA10)
  • The Amazons had promised to be home for lunch (yesterday) (SA10), and we've been late for supper twice this week (SA11)
  • The Amazons ...better be sailing...there will be more trouble with the natives. (SA11)
  • Later Mother had a party last night at home ... and there are people coming today ... (who) we have to be best-frocked for (SA22).

Were the Amazons prevented from camping on the island during the early part of the book by the presence at Beckfoot of the dreaded Great-Aunt?

Countrary information:

  • There is no explicit mention of the Great Aunt in (SA)
  • In Swallowdale John says I don't believe the Amazons are really going to attack .... It isn't as if they were free, like last year (SD15).

Perhaps the only source of native trouble is Captain Flint's preoccupation with writing Mixed Moss by a Rolling Stone over summer.

Native prototypes[]

It is not clear on whom (if anybody) Arthur Ransome may have based the GA's overbearing, criticising and lacking-in-warmth character. Intriguing possibilities existmight have been:

  • his wife Evgenia Ransome - consider her harsh dismissal of The Picts and the Martyrs: ... the book as a whole is dead. (SFM August 1942)
  • himself: consider Nancy's statement The Great Aunt never writes to us except for birthdays to hope we're turning over new leaves (PM3) and compare the GA's letter-writing behaviour with Ransome's letters to Tabitha Ransome (for example, SFM1931)
  • Miss whatsername the conventional prototype