Friday, 28 May 2010

Arthur Ransom

Though Rolt is credited with saving the canals. There were other people who had a profound effect on influencing our thoughts and aspirations both as children and later as adults. Setting seeds about life afloat on canal, river, lake and broad. For many people including me the choice would be Arthur Ransom.

Arthur Mitchell Ransome was born on the 18th of January 1884 and died on my 20th birthday the 3rd of June 1967. Ransome was a man of many persona even in real life. In 1913 he spent time living in Russia learning about their folklore. In 1914, he became a foreign correspondent and covered the war on the Eastern Front. Ransome later remained in the Baltic states and built a cruising yacht, Racundra. He wrote a successful book about his experiences, titled Racundra's First Cruise.

I first came into contact with Ransome's writings whilst in hospital as a child. Done by selecting a childrens book picked by me at random from a pile. This set the seeds and I managed to read almost all of the Ransome books in the hospital library. Returning home from hospital, I looked upon the nearby river, with its small island and the canal at the other side in a different light. It did not take me long to make my way across to the island and to discover the ruined foundations of a building. However, I never did find any treasure!

Arthur was a prolific author to say the least. He wrote "Swallows and Amazons" in 1929 the first of the series of 12 that made his reputation as one of the best English writers of children's books.

The book and later film Swallows and Amazons was written at a time when political correctness was an unknown phrase. The story filled many a child's imagination. When we wanted to be one or other of the principle characters the Walker children John, Susan, Titty, Roger or the Blackett children Nancy and Peggy. Swallows and Amazons is a classic in a series of children's stories that will appeal to children of all ages.

The book is set in the Lake District between the wars. It tells of a time when a healthy imagination and freedom to roam was enough to keep youngsters out of mischief. The world was apparently a safer place and the story makes us realise just how much has been irretrievably lost. Full of an endearing charm that still comes across 80 years after the book was first published.

The Swallows and Amazons series.

• Swallows and Amazons (1930)
• Swallowdale (1931)
• Peter Duck (1932)
• Winter Holiday (1933)
• Coot Club (1934)
• Pigeon Post (1936)
• We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea (1937)
• Secret Water (1939)
• The Big Six (1940)
• Missee Lee (1941)
• The Picts and the Martyrs (1943)
• Great Northern (1947)

Other Publications.

• Pond and Stream (1906)
• The Book of Friendship (1909)
• Edgar Allan Poe (1910)
• The Book of Love (1911)
• Oscar Wilde  (1912)
• Six Weeks in Russia (1919)
• The Crisis in Russia (1921)
• Rod and Line (1929)
• Mainly about Fishing (1959)
• Coots in the North (unfinished 1988)
• Blue Treacle (1993)
• Racundra's Third Cruise (2002)

Much later for Ransome fans, we come to realise the profound effect that such books have in formulating our lives. Whether it was in drawing us into reading other books in the series. Just inspiring our imagination and for some just keeping us off the street.

Swallows and Amazons forever!

Many people interested in forming a society dedicated to Arthur Ransome had been leaving their contact details at Abbot Hall, where, following his death in 1967, his widow Evgenia had donated various articles, including his writing desk. In 1989 Christina followed up on these contact details by sending an appeal for funds to restore the dilapidated Mavis, the supposed prototype for Arthur Ransome's Amazon, The response to this appeal was overwhelming and in June 1990 The Arthur Ransome Society was formed.

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