Arthur Ransome Wiki
Mary Walker
Mary Walker, Mother, Queen Elizabeth, the female native, the best of all natives, Mummy (particularly in SW)
Matriarch of Walker family
Native Residence:
The South


Future career:
Hair colour:
not red (SA1)
I say, your mother knows how to handle a boat (Jim Brading, WD3)

Mary Walker, mother of the Swallows and usually addressed by them as Mother is also known as the best of all natives. She is also called by the more childish title Mummy in Secret Water, probably due to the presence of ship's baby Bridget Walker as a main character. She was briefly referred to as Queen Elizabeth [the First] in SA2.

Early life[]

Mary was brought up in Australia where horse-riding and sailing were features of her childhood. Mary spent time both on a sheep station (SA18), and close to Sydney Harbour.

  • I wonder whether the real Queen Elizabeth knew much about ships said Titty. That Queen Elizabeth was not brought up close to Sydney Harbour said Mother (SA2).
  • ... and of sailing in Sydney Harbour when she was a little girl. (SA16)
  • She forgot about being Man Friday, and became mother again, and told about her her own childhood on a sheep station in Australia, and about emus … and opossums .. and kangaroos … the great drought on the sheep stations …. The pony she had as a little girl .. the little brown bears that her father caught in the bush SA18.
  • recalling when she capsized my cousin's dinghy in Sydney Harbour when she tried to hang on too long; John cheered up and wondered if it ever happened to Daddy too, though he doesn't suppose so. (SD8).

(Note that it was and is common for Australian children on remote properties to spend substantial time in coastal cities either visiting relatives or attending boarding school. The children of Ransome's grandfather's first wife, Mary, spent time in Sydney and on a sheep station 260 miles away. See also Red herrings.)

She also mentions:

  • .... once in the bush ... I was in a tent like that and it ripped to ribbons, and was blown clean away (SA31)
  • Sleep like old trees and get up like young horses, as my old nanny in Australia used to say (SD2)
  • Why, when I was a girl in Australia I’ve often fallen asleep on horseback, riding home after a dance (WD2).
  • she remembered that same spell (of tarred rope) from the sailing ships in Australian harbours long ago (SD36).

She has been to New Zealand as she says that the big trout, two pounds if he's an ounce, that Roger and Titty catch at Swallowdale is the biggest trout she had ever seen in England, though she had seen much bigger in Australia and New Zealand. Later she talked about fishing and about caves and about camping in the Australian bush, where there were much worse snakes than adders (SD15).

Titty refers to:

  • What about rubbing noses? Like the natives you told us about in the Australian bush (SA16 & SD2).
  • Or would they really find water? What was that story the friendliest of all natives used to tell about the blackfellows in the Australian bush who found water by magic in the year of the great drought when the sheep were dying by thousands on the sheep stations? (PP16).

Adult life[]

Mary's move to England is not described in the books. Mary married Ted Walker, an officer of the Royal Navy. The female native told stories of old days before they had been born, She talked of Malta and Gibraltar .... (SA16); as these were both Royal Navy ports this was presumably because Ted had been stationed there. Mary and Ted later had five children:

Titty found herself smiling in the funny quiet way Mother sometimes smiled when she talked of the things that Daddy had done long ago (WD22).

lesser facts[]

Unlike Queen Elizabeth (the first), Mary does not have red hair (SA2)