Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

Coots in the North and Other Stories

Background to Coots in the North

In early 1931 Ransome began to conceive “a lovely book about an old schoolmaster and a fisherman and a boy and a river“. He let the idea ferment whilst working hard on the early Swallows and Amazons novels, then began to struggle with whether to write it in the first of third person. Meanwhile his wife, Evgenia, was concerned that his many young readers would be disappointed by a novel set in the Ninteenth Century.

In the winter of 1942-3 Ransome talked first to Collins, then to Jonathan Cape, and received enthusiastic responses from both. These inspired him to write several chapters in the Spring of 1943, before abandoning the book for good.

Ransome then turned to what would have been his twelth Swallows and Amazons novel, following the newly-published The Picts and the Martyrs. Ransome had an interesting idea – bringing characters from his Lake District and Norfolk Broads novels together – but despite this he struggled to create a full story. There were many reasons, including Evgenia’s negative reaction to The Picts and the Martyrs and the fact that by 1943 he was writing about an increasingly distant, pre-war world. Eventually he gave up on it in favour of Great Northern? his last completed novel.


This volume contains: Ransome’s uncompleted draft chapters for his thirteenth Swallows and Amazons novel (which Brogan called Coots in the North); his uncompleted draft chapters for The River Comes First , and four short stories. Three of these, Ankou, Two Shorts and a Long and The Unofficial Side had previously been published in magazines, the fourth, The Shepard’s Pipe was, like Coots in the North and The River Comes First, being published for the first time.

First publication

Published by Jonathan Cape in October, 1988.


  • Out of Print

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