Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England
Wednesday, February 05, 2020
Celebrated author Arthur Ransome's Australian connection
Swallows and Amazons has number of references to Australia. This is the third in a series on the lives of English children's writer Arthur Ransome and his Australian connections.
The late 1920s found English writer Arthur Ransome and wife Evgenia settled in the English Lake district where they would spend the rest of their lives. The Manchester Guardian offered Ransome a full time position as foreign correspondent, but he declined this in favour of a new writing project.
The result was Swallows and Amazons, published at the end of 1930, the book was the first in a series that established Ransome as one of the best and most popular English children's writers.
Swallows and Amazons follows the outdoor adventures of two families of children as they sail and play on one of the local lakes. The Walker children (John, Susan, Titty and Roger) sailing a borrowed dingy, Swallow, meet up with the Blackett children (Nancy and Peggy) in their dingy Amazon.
The book is a lovely picture of outdoor life and of adventures centred on Nancy and Peggy's uncle Jim Turner (Captain Flint) and assorted baddies.
Swallows and Amazons has a number of references to Australia.
The Walker children's mother Mary Walker was Australian. At one point in the book, Titty Walker muses: "I wonder whether the real Queen Elizabeth knew much about ships". Mother responds that, "Queen Elizabeth was not brought up close to Sydney Harbour."
Arthur Ransome had never visited Australia. Why, then, the references to Australia?
The answer lies in Arthur's mother, Edith, the daughter of Australian grazier Edward Baker Boulton and his second wife Rachel Gwynn.
Arthur was only 11 when his grandfather died in 1895, but retained clear recollections of him. He would have learned more from his mother, for she was close to her father. They shared an interest in art and frequently discussed their painting in the regular letters that passed between them.
This brings us to the Australian leg of our story described by John Edwards in his 2004 book, Edward Baker Boulton: Australia's Forgotten Artist.
Lavishly illustrated with Boulton's own paintings, the book traces Boulton's life from his birth in England in 1812 to his death at Walcha in 1895.
Edward Baker Boulton was born in Shropshire, England, on 29 August 1812, the sixth child of Thomas and Elizabeth Boulton nee Baker. Despite economic ups and downs, the Boultons were a prosperous middle class family with some capital.
As described in previous series, NSW boomed during the 1830s. Wool prices were high as were stock prices, fueled by demand for sheep and cattle to stock the new land claimed within the ever expanding frontier. Speculation in land and stock was rife, with fortunes being made and sometimes lost.
In 1835, Edward Boulton decided to join this rush.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 29 January 2020. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017, here 2018, here 2019, here 2020
Research and writing takes time and money. Contributions welcome to help me maintain an independent voice.
Blog Objectives - and a warning to readers
This blog aims to consolidate and extend New England historical material originally carried on the main New England Australia site. With time, I hope that it will develop into a living history of the broader new state New England, the Tablelands and all the surrounding river valleys.
Readers should be warned, however, that the original posts are work in progress. This means that earlier posts may have been overtaken by later research or thought. I have to go through and do some updates and cross-links, but this is a slow process.