Arthur Ransome Wiki
This article is about the book. For the location, see Swallowdale valley.

Swallowdale is the second book in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. It was published in 1931 and set in 28 July - 13 August 1930. In this book, camping in the hills around the Lake features much more prominently and there is less sailing. A significant new character, Maria Turner, the Blacketts' Great Aunt, is introduced.

Ransome was living in the Lake District and drew on his experiences and memories of encounters over many years with the local farming community. Ransome had often climbed Old Man of Coniston and in the book, this becomes the children's Kanchenjunga. Expeditions to Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas had been much in the news while Ransome was writing the book.



Swallow, Amazon, houseboat, rowboats: Jackson's, Uncle Jim's, Beckfoot, Beckfoot motor launch, various native craft--steamers, motor boats, rowboats, big yachts, launches. A racing yacht the Polly Anne moored close by the point (SD32).

Plot summary[]

Returning to Wild Cat Island for their second summer holiday by the Lake, the Swallows find the Amazons and Captain Flint mysteriously suffering from native trouble. It transpires that Great Aunt Maria has come to stay and she is a stickler for good behaviour and treating the Amazon pirates as young ladies who have to be home for meals.

Despite this, the Blacketts escape the Great Aunt whenever possible and they arrange a rendezvous at Horseshoe Bay. On the way there, the Swallow hits a rock and sinks. All are saved and the boat refloated but she needs repairing: so camping on the island is impossible. Fortunately there is an alternative, camping in the beautiful hidden Swallowdale valley, found by Titty and Roger up on the moors above the lake.

The Swallows camp there and are exposed to much more of lakeland life: meeting the local farmers, seeing a hound trail, and trekking across the High Moor. The Amazons are only able to escape at intervals and get into trouble when they are late getting home. Eventually the Great Aunt leaves and they undertake an expedition to climb Kanchenjunga. On their way back the two younger children decide to walk back across High Moor to the camp in Swallowdale while the others bring the Amazons' camping gear by boat. When a fog descends, both parties get lost but the elders arrive safely after it lifts. The younger two are still missing. Roger sprains his ankle on the moors and spends the night with the old charcoal burners. Titty gets a ride back to the camp with a woodsman and next day the injured Roger is carried back to the camp. The Swallow is finally repaired and the book ends with a race and a feast followed by a return to Wild Cat Island.


(Dates in 1930, names are chapter titles)

  • 28 July: The Swallow and Her Crew • Wild Cat Island
  • 29 July: Horseshoe Cove and the Amazon Pirates • The Able-Seaman and the Boy Explore
  • 30 July: Captain John Hangs On • Salvage • Captain Flint: Ship's Carpenter • Rio and Holly Howe • Sawinson's Farm • Making the Best Of It
  • 31 July: The Able-Seaman In Command • Swallowdale
  • 1 August: Shifting Camp • Settling In
  • 2 August: Life In Swallowdale
  • 3 August: Life In Swallowdale
  • 4 August: Life In Swallowdale
  • 5 August: Surprise Attack • Later and Later and Later • Candle-Grease
  • 6 August: No News
  • 7 August: No News
  • 8 August: No News
  • 9 August: Welcome Arrow • Showing the Parrot His Feathers
  • 10 August: Before the March • Overland to the Amazon • The Noon-Tide Owl • Up River • The Half-Way Camp
  • 11 August: The Half-Way Camp • The Summit of Kanchenjunga • Fog on the Moor • Wounded Man • Medicine Man • Wigwam Night • Fog on the Lake • The Empty Camp • Stretcher-Party
  • 12 August: Stretcher-Party
  • 13 August: The Race • Wild Cat Island Once Again

Captain Flint is not at the feast after the race (13 August). When they find after the feast that he has moved their tents to the island (with help from Mary and Jack) he tells them that there’ll be grouse-shooting all over those moors to-morrow, and both your mothers seemed to think you'd be best out of the way (SD26). So grouse-shooting starts on the 14th?


  • Peter Duck is a character made up the previous winter during Christmas holidays spent with Uncle Jim, the Swallows, and the Amazons aboard a wherry. Early (1931 & 1932) editions of Swallowdale have a two-page introductory "author's note" by AR: "FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT READ SWALLLOWS AND AMAZONS" explaining the circumstance of Swallows and Amazons and the creation of the Peter Duck story on the wherry in Norfolk.[1]
  • Young Billy is over 70, Old Billy is 94.
  • Jack the woodman is Mary Swainson's beau
  • M Braithwaite the Beckfoot Cook is second cousin to Jack's brother Tom's wife
  • The Walkers came up from the South by train on the day before the action in the book starts; Susan had a tiring day (as she) always took charge on railway journeys. Bridget didn't get half the sleep she should have last night, after the railway journey, what with all the chattering there was between decks; John says It was the first night of the holidays .... At least, the first that really counted.
  • Bridget is no longer called Vicky because she no longer looks like Queen Victoria in old age
  • Gibber the monkey is at the Zoo for his holidays (presumably London Zoo?)
  • The Great Aunt came the day before the Walkers; she brought both Jim Turner and Molly Turner (now Blackett) up when they were young. She makes Molly cry, and Titty tries to drive her away in the Candle-grease incident.
  • Roger took swimming lessons over the winter
  • All but Roger have holiday tasks to complete--John has Algebra, Susan has Geography, and Titty has French grammar and verbs. Swallowdale (SD10,15,16) is the only book to mention holiday tasks.
  • Mary Walker has been to New Zealand (she has seen trout there)
  • Mention is made of several traditional Lakeland sports: hound trails, guides races, wrestling, pole jumping, sheep-dog trials
  • Some places mentioned in Swallowdale: Low End (down by the steamer pier at the foot of the Lake), Longfell Wood, Brockstones (nearby to Swallowdale), Udal Bridge (crosses the Amazon River above Lagoon), Watersmeet (where Jacky's farm is), Heald Wood (where the charcoal burners are)
  • The Amazons go to boarding school: they say they will not see the Great Aunt if she comes next during term time
  • A "cable" is mentioned as a unit of length
  • From the summit of Kanchenjunga one can see: the sea, sailing ships (coasting schooners), steamers to Ireland and/or ones working up and down between Liverpool and the Clyde, the Isle of Man 40 miles due west, Scotland (the other side of the Solway Firth, Scawfell, Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Ill Bell, High Street)
  • On the summit (Day 15) Roger found a round brass box from Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 with a Victorian farthing and a slip of paper with "Aug 2nd 1901 climbed Matterhorn Molly Turner J. Turner Bob Blackett" on it (Bob Blackett was Amazons' father). They date their addition as "Aug 11 1931" although on the first day . According to Wayne Hammond, Arthur Ransome intended to correct these inscribed dates to "1900" and "1930".
  • On the first day August had come again (SD1); although if the summit day is Day 15 then Day 1 is 28 July. On Day 4 (31 July) the water was cold even in August (SD11). But Day 9 a hot August day was in August (5 August) (SD17).
  • The day after the last day there'll be grouse-shooting all over the moors ... and both your mothers seemed to think you'd be best out of the way. So Captain Flint moves their camp back to Wild Cat Island with help from Mary Swainson, and Jack the woodman who seemed to have a day off (SA36).
  • 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.
  • Swallowdale was originally dedicated to Elizabeth Abercrombie; the daughter of his friend Lascelles Abercrombie.

Cross-references and chronology[]

In Chapter I there are several references to SA in the previous year:

  • A year had made a lot of difference ... A whole year had gone by ... The fireplace, left from last year ... This first night on the island, after a whole year away from it.

There are some later references:

  • The old fireplace she had built last year (SD3) The two Billies, the charcoal-burners who had shown them their adder last year (SD30).
  • Peggy uses her ship's knife with a marlinspike to open the tin of fudge (SD22), the very same knife that had been picked up by Roger and given back to its owners after the parley on Wild Cat Island a year ago (SA9,10)
  • When Swallow went up the Amazon River, Titty was "afloat ... on the river" for the first time, but the others "had been there once before, last year, when they had rowed up to the lagoon in the dark ... " (SD24).
  • In Pigeon Post during an evening meal at Mrs Tysons (for which they were on time!) There was talk of other holidays .... of fishing for trout that other summer when the becks were full of water (PP14).


  1. Tarboard May 2017

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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