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Swallows and Amazons film dinghy on BBC1's Antiques Roadshow

by Magnus Smith 22 Feb 16:05 GMT 21 February 2021
'Swallow', from the 1974 film Swallows & Amazons, takes fans - young and old - afloat © Sail Ransome

British sailors enjoying a quiet cup of tea in front of the TV on Sunday evening would have been pleasantly surprised to see their favourite sport grace Antiques Roadshow on BBC1. With a setting like the Lake District it was probable some sort of boat would be shown, and whilst there were a few motorboats first, we eventually got to see a sailing dinghy which starred in the 1974 film Swallows & Amazons.

Skip to 45 minutes 25 seconds if you are able to view the show on BBC iPlayer

Arthur Ransome's books for children sold massively in the 1930s and '40s, and have inspired many of us to get sailing. The film versions (there was also a 2016 movie) will have introduced the sport to more people, and one side effect is 'props' left over after filming. Eleven years ago, Turks Shipyard in Kent decided to auction off much of their old stock, some of which had sat on a storage rack for decades. One such abandoned item was 'Swallow', and when ardent Ransome fans heard the news, they were convinced a purchase must be made. The most important aspect of the idea was that this boat could be kept sailing, for all fans to enjoy. (If you want to get sailing in 'Swallow' please contact )

A crowdfunding project was masterminded by two men who had never met before: Rob Boden (a Lake District resident) and Magnus Smith (who works for YachtsandYachting.com). With frantic effort £5,500 was raised in 20 days, with just over 80 people contributing. Efforts were made to contact the child actors who had starred in the film, resulting in a friendship with Sophie Neville who has acted as a patron for the non-profit organisation which manages 'Swallow's activities.

Political Correspondent John Sergeant was currently appearing on Strictly Come Dancing, and mentioned in a radio interview he loved Swallows and Amazons, so Magnus contacted his agent... and received an email and donation back. The highest donation came from a lady who lived on a houseboat with no internet, and the founders are still uncertain how she heard about the project! Donations also came in the form of repair time from Patterson Boatworks and varnish from International Paints.

'Swallow' was relaunched on Coniston Water in April 2011 and embarked on a tour of seven counties in England - wherever fans clamoured to have her visit. A chain of volunteers drove the boat between sailing clubs like Telford and Tamesis, handing over to the next excited person every week or two. Over the next nine years 'Swallow' spent entire seasons on the Norfolk Broads, the Essex backwaters, the Solent, and back to the Lake District.

Swallows and Amazons fans hope that Covid will permit the ten year anniversary of the relaunch be to celebrated with sailing again this summer. There is one other worry in the mind of 'Swallow's treasurer though; Will the £20,000 valuation during Antiques Roadshow cause the insurance premium to rise? Donations towards the project could solve this issue!

We will keep 'Swallow' sailing for all to enjoy: www.sailransome.org

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