Arthur Ransome Wiki

The Three Islands, called Thlee Islands by Miss Lee, are on the coast of China at the delta of the Silver River.

The Three Islands Pirates[]

"Now the men of these thlee islands have lived by what you call pilacy since the world began" (Miss Lee, ML13)

The Three Islands Pirates were united and modernised into a protection racket by Olo Lee, who handed the business to Miss Lee before he died. They now make most of their money from levying passing traders, only plundering those ships who do not pay the levy. By avoiding British ships which would have instigated a visit by Royal Navy gunboats, they have been able to maintain their lifestyle.

Olo Lee had suceeded the Old Taicoon of Dragon Island as Taicoon, and his daughter Missee Lee inherited the role.

Miss Lee is a Twenty-two gong Taicoon like (presumably) her father; Wu and Chang are Ten-gong Taicoons (ML10).

Miss Lee hears Wu's gongs going past ten: and then there was another "Boom" and then another, and another ....; nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. .... Miss Lee gasped and decided that she must go back to stop the fighting: The Path of Duty (ML27).

The islands[]

  • Tiger Island: the taicoon is Chang
  • Turtle Island: the taicoon is Wu


Arthur Ransome took great care in disguising the exact location of the Three Islands, but here is what we know:

  • Northwest of the site of Wild Cat's fire and sinking (ML3), itself on a course from the hundredth port to Swatow
  • On a river (the Silver River), fed by rain "1000 miles away" (ML19)
  • Swatow is mentioned several times as being the closest port with a British presence; Swatow's all right .... Treaty port (ML1), and when they are transferring petrol Captain Flint says We'll make Swatow to-morrow and then Hey for Hong Kong and Singapore (ML2).
  • Missee Lee says If I give you a junk, can you plomise to sail light away, not to go to Hong Kong, not to go to Macau, not to go to Hainan, not to go to any harbour till you leave all China seas. Captain Flint promises that We'll touch nowhere before Singapore (ML23).
  • John says his father is a Blitish Navy captain; Roger says I expect you've seen his ship. He was stationed at Hong Kong. She exclaims Gunboats! (ML26).
  • When Captain Flint marks the location of the Three Islands on an 1879 chart and tells Miss Lee he took an observation (she had said Velly nearly light. How did you know? and makes another mark in the correct place), the entrance to Singapore is in the left-hand bottom corner of the chart (ML27).