Arthur Ransome Trust

Putting Ransome on the Map

Great Northern?

Background to Great Northern?

After The Picts and the Martyrs, Ransome began work on two books. The first would have brought members of the Coot Club to the Lake District, the second was a completely separate novel set in the nineteenth century (see Coots in the North). He gave up on both after only limited progress and, in late 1944 began work on Great Northern? which eventually became the last completed Swallows and Amazons novel.

The original idea for Great Northern? was suggested by a correspondant, Major M E W (Myles) North, who was both an ornithologist and very fond of Ransome’s books. He wrote a six page synopsis for a Swallows and Amazons story, which he sent to Ransome in June, 1944. Ransome was attracted by North’s ideas, but turning them into a novel proved to be a slow process, interrupted by illness, house-moves and Ransome’s decision to commission the design and building of a new yacht. He also visited the Hebrides twice, to research his location and to fish.


Dick thinks he’s made an ornithological discovery whilst the Swallows, Amazons, D’s and Captain Flint are on a cruise in the Outer Hebrides. But is he right and, if so, can he prove it without placing both the birds and their eggs in danger?

First publication

Published by Jonathan Cape in August, 1947.


  • In Print
  • Jonathan Cape (hb) ISBN 978-0224606424
  • Vintage (pb) ISBN 978-0099589389
  • Red Fox (pb) ISBN 978-0099427261
  • E-book: Random House Digital Editions
  • Audiobook:
  • Abridged Audiobook: Gabriel Woolf

Ransome's drawing of two flags, used in Great Northern, our swallows and amazons series logo

“It’s a Great Northern,” he said to himself, and had added it to his list before he remembered that Great Northern Divers did not nest in Great Britain.


Also in Swallows & Amazons Series

Continue exploring Ransome’s bibliography:

Ransome's drawing of two children discovering a cave, our discover ransome logoRansome's drawing of a wooden hut in snow, our bibliography logoRansome's drawing of a dog on weighing scales, our books by ransome logoRansome's drawing of two flags, our swallows and amazons series logoRansome's drawing of a parrot, our story telling logoRansome's drawing of a hand holding a candle, our literary criticism logoRansome's drawing of two children in a boat, our sailing literature logoRansome's drawing of a cormorant eating a fish, our fishing literature logoRansome's drawing of a crucible held in iron bars, our political literature logoRansome's drawing of a pestle and mortar, our essay collections logoRansome's drawing of an armadillo, our world about him logoRansome's drawing of three pigeons, our autobiography logo