We used to live above a shop an on Saturday morning me and my sister watched television upstairs in front of the gas fire on a fluffy rug. We had sweets and comics (I had the Beano, Tiger & Scorcher and sometimes Victor.) On the television there’d be Zorro and White Horses and sometimes black and white films like the Ealing comedies or the St Trinians films. I can certainly remember the Swallows and Amazons series filmed in black and white (1963) about the holiday adventures of children. Sometimes the children were on holiday on the Norfolk Broad but mostly in the Lake District. They were written by Arthur Ransome who was an English author and journalist. Though he wrote about 35 novels the Swallows and Amazons series is what he’ll be remembered for. Here I am at his grave in the Lake District he wrote about.
You might think he was born in the lush Lake District but he was born in industrial Leeds. The family often went on holiday at Nibthwaite in the Lake District and once Arthur was carried up to the top of Coniston Old Man as an infant. The area must have slipped under his skin somehow and he developed a fascination for it and its inhabitants. Above all, he grew to love Coniston Water and it became a private rite for him on arrival to run down to the water and dip his hand in.
He was educated first in Windermere and then at Rugby School but his eyesight was poor, he was hopeless at athletics and wasn’t bright. He went to Yorkshire College (now Leeds University) studying chemistry but felt he was a writer and abandoned his studies. He set off for London to become a writer, taking low-paying jobs while writing at night and becoming enmeshed in the literary scene. I won’t mention his distinguished career as a journalist here as you may fall asleep.
He married twice, first aged 25 to Ivy Walker in 1909 and they had a daughter. It didn’t last though as Ivy demanded he spent more time with her and their daughter than at his typewriter. Later he went to Russia where he met his future wife Evgenia Shelepina (who had been Trotsky’s secretary.) He sought a bitter divorce from Ivy, married Evgenia and came back to The Lake District in February 1925. They set up home in Cumbria within convenient distance from the offices of the Manchester Guardian for which Arthur continued to write regular articles. Apart from two periods when they went South they lived in Cumbria for the rest of their lives, finding inspiration and settings for the Swallows and Amazons books. His last house was Hill Top at Haverthwaite. He became seriously ill in 1967 and was moved to the Cheadle Royal Hospital in Cheshire where he died aged 83.
The cemetery being small I soon found Arthur’s grave. He’s buried here with his wife who lived for another eight years. I stayed for about twenty minutes and walkers were passing by intermittently. Some wide-eyed nosey geeks like me went to look at the grave and take photos. With everyone gone I wandered into the church and its vacancy and commodious size lent it a superb echo. I did a few barks, shouts and resounding cheek pops. I went down to the headstone did one final hearty salute and left.
Some other visitors…
The church from another angle…