Background to Pigeon Post
Ransome returned to the Lake Country for his sixth Swallows and Amazons novel. He took expert advice on mining from Oscar Gnospellius, Barbara Collingwood’s husband, and used it to craft a novel about the Swallows, Amazons and D’s prospecting for gold.
He began writing in March, 1934, but progress was delayed first by the Ransomes moving house, from Low Ludderburn to Suffolk, and then by Ransome drawing a set of illustrations for Swallowdale, to replace the original drawings supplied by Clifford Webb. This meant that he missed the pre-Christmas publication deadline in 1935, much to Cape’s consternation.
Ransome wrote a second draft in the summer of 1936. Despite Egvenia’s encouragement – she told him it “is not very much worse than the worst of the others” – he persisted with revisions until he’d completed his manuscript in late August. At the same time he had to complete the full set of illustrations for the book.
The Carnegie medal
Despite Evgenia’s opinion, Pigeon Post won the first Carnegie Medal for Children’s Literature. Arthur Ransome received it from his friend, the Archbishop of York, in Scarborough, in 1937. The medal itself is dated 1936, reflecting Pigeon Post’s publication date.
The Swallows, Amazons and D’s go prospecting for gold in the Lakeland fells, where they face the dangers of drought and disused mine workings, together with the sinister presence of a rival prospector.
Published by Jonathan Cape in November, 1936
‘Gold,’ she said. ‘Dick’s a geologist and Nancy’s turned him on to reading all of Captain Flint’s mining books, and tomorrow we’re going right inside Kanchenjunga to talk to Slater Bob…’