In 1973 Sophie Neville was cast as Titty alongside Virginia McKenna, Ronald Fraser and Suzanna Hamilton in the film Swallows & Amazons. Made before the advent of digital technology, the child stars lived out Arthur Ransome’s epic adventure in the great outdoors without ever seeing a script.
Encouraged by her mother, Sophie Neville kept a diary about her time filming on location in the lakes and mountains of Cumbria. Bouncy and effervescent, extracts from her childhood diary are interspersed among her memories of the cast and crew as well as photographs, maps and newspaper articles, offering a child’s eye view of the making of the film from development to premiere – and the aftermath.
About the Author
Sophie Neville is an award-winning author and the current President of The Arthur Ransome Society. A member of the Nancy Blackett Trust, she joined forces with Sail Ransome in 2010 to buy the original Swallow from the film. Nowadays she lives with her husband on the south coast of England, where she gives talks on the making of the film and how Arthur Ransome influenced her life.
The Cast and Crew of Swallows & Amazons
Introduction – Serendipity
1. Preparation for Filming
2. First Days on Film
3. On Wild Cat Island
4. The Amazons Attack
5. Away to Rio
6. Rain, Smoke and Dangerous Wild Animals
7. Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday
8. Days to Remember
9. In Houseboat Bay
10. Going to War
11. Last Days on the Lakes
12. Swallows in Egham
13. Studio Secrets
14. A Storm of Publicity
16. A Journey Back in Time
17. Where Are They Now?
18. What Sophie Did Next
About the Author
Endorsements and Reviews
Sophie has reminded me of one of the happiest times I ever spent on a film. The fun that was had, the friendships forged, the challenges overcome, are all delightfully recalled with a freshness and sense of adventure that has made me smile all over again.
Virginia McKenna OBE, ‘Mrs Walker’ in Swallows & Amazons
Amazing. It brought so much that I had forgotten flooding back. Thank you! My father will love it, too.
Simon West, ‘Captain John’ in Swallows & Amazons
Looking at your pictures, I relive all the thrills, wearing the costumes, the people and the lovely carefree, but caring, atmosphere. Extraordinary, extraordinary how it all comes back.
Suzanna Hamilton, ‘Mate Susan’ in Swallows & Amazons
Sophie brings to life all the many memorable characters who worked on the film and in particular the other children, the Director Claude Whatham who developed a great relationship with his young cast and the stars Virginia McKenna and Ronald Fraser. … The result is compulsive reading as she recalls that cold wet summer, while the camera crew wrapped up warm and she shivered in her skimpy dress as Able Seaman Titty Walker.
Roger Wardale, biographer of Arthur Ransome
The Making of Swallows and Amazons (1974) will be of interest to anyone who has seen the film, but also to anyone who is a fan of Ransome and his famous book. … An enjoyable read that adds to the collective knowledge surrounding one of the country’s best-loved children’s stories.
The Westmorland Gazette,15 September 2017
This uplifting memoir tells us how a schoolgirl’s life was transformed by unexpectedly starring in a major film adaptation of the world famous classic tale by Arthur Ransome. … this book’s greatest asset is how it communicates a sense of camaraderie between players and crew. In a profession notorious for backstabbing it is refreshing to read how such a community worked with mutual respect for each other on a highly commercial enterprise.
Anne Gaelan, annegaelan16.wordpress.com
In all this is a fascinating tale expertly and well written with verve, humour and excitement. I can honestly say that there was nothing I didn’t love about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I know I shall revisit it time and time again. Well worth acquiring; an excellent read; thoroughly recommended.
David Butters, Practical Boat Owner, 24 June 2022