Arthur Ransome's Boat
Every summer, Arthur’s father took his family by train to Greenodd, complete with their belongings packed into a large tin bath, and then by cart along the valley to Lowick and, finally, to Nibthwaite, on the shore of Coniston Water.
The lake in the Swallows and Amazons books is based mainly on Coniston Water and Windermere and many of the incidents in the stories are drawn from Ransome's own childhood memories of the Lake District - the Knickerbockerbreaker, where his trousers were worn out and darned in situ by Annie Swainson, tickling trout, collecting fox-moth caterpillars and meetings with charcoal-burners.
As a young boy Arthur Ransome attended a prep school in Windermere. When, in 1895, Windermere froze from end to end, the school closed for lessons for several weeks to enable to pupils to play on the ice – an event that, much later, inspired his book Winter Holiday.
Arthur Ransome had Coch-y-bonddhu (known as "Cochy") made for his friend Charles Reynold. The dinghy was built, under Ransome’s supervision, at Crossfields yard in Arnside in 1934. Ransome, being a keen fisherman, named the boat after a fishing fly. As Reynold preferred fishing to sailing he soon presented the boat back to Ransome.
In 1937, Cochy moved with the Ransomes to Suffolk, where she was used as a tender for Arthur’s sailing cruiser, Nancy Blackett. By 1941, the Ransomes and Cochy were back in the north at Coniston.
Ransome wrote “The Picts and the Martyrs” in 1943, in which the Ds’ boat, Scarab, was based on Cochy and appears in several of the illustrations.
By the mid-1950s, Ransome reluctantly had to sell Cochy. It was bought by John Barnes, Headmaster of Arnside School, for his son. The School eventually sold the boat, as it was proving too heavy for sailing lessons.
Jeff Parker-Eaton bought Cochy from Lairg in Sutherland. In 1968, she was subsequently sold through Henderson’s boat yard in Mallaig to fiddler and historian Charlie McFarland for use as a fishing boat from Kilcamb Lodge Hotel at Strontian.
When the hotel was sold in 1991, Cochy, by now a rotting hulk, passed to the new owner, yachtsman Gordon Blakeway. Cochy was re-discovered by Dr Chris Birt, of The Arthur Ransome Society (TARS), in the hotel garden the following year. The boat was in an appalling condition. With the permission of the Blakeways, TARS undertook to save restore Cochy as a lasting tribute to the story-telling skills of Arthur Ransome, whose books have given such immense pleasure to children of all ages and generations
Money raised through an appeal by TARS allowed the restoration to go ahead. This was undertaken by boat-builder John Hodgson from Fiunary, on the Sound of Mull. Cochy was subsequently relaunched in 1995.
Cochy is owned by TARS and is on loan to Windermere School.
For further information on Arthur Ransome please visit www.arthur-ransome.org