The Picts and the Martyrs is the eleventh book in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series of children's books. It was published in 1943 and set in early August 1932, at the very beginning of the summer holidays. This is the last completed book set at The Lake and features the Blackett sisters, the Amazons and the Callum siblings, the Ds. Ransome's most native character, the Great Aunt also features prominently as do many aspects of Lakeland life. The Dog's Home is based on a small stone hut built in the woods above Coniston Water close to Ransome's then residence.
- Amazons (Nancy, Peggy Blackett)
- The Ds (Dot, Dick Callum)
- Great Aunt Maria Turner
- Timothy Stedding
- minor characters:
- Jacky Warriner (his parents, and Bess their dog)
- the doctor,
- the postman,
- M Braithwaite, the cook
- Slater Bob
- Colonel Jolys
- the district firefighters
- Billy Lewthwaite
- Sammy Lewthwaite the policeman
- (Mrs Lewthwaite) their mother
- the Police sergeant (and his bloodhound)
- the old boatbuilder
- the butcher's man who drives his van, and does not get 6d for a beer from the GA!
- (the driver of the car taking the GA to the station at not more than 10 mph, her man, who may have driven her to Beckfoot)
- (Miss Thornton)
- (the porter)
- (man at bookshop at head of the lake who said it was going to (rain) but not just yet)
- (Miss Huskisson)
- Old man in the train to the north who tries to teach Dick about knots
- Conductor of bus from the station who finds a place for the D's suitcases
The Ds have been invited to stay at Beckfoot at the start of the summer holidays while Mrs Blackett has gone on a cruise for her health. However, when Great Aunt Maria finds out that the Blackett girls have been left at home, she decides to come and take care of them. She is unaware of the Ds' visit. Nancy Blackett insists that the Ds' holiday will not be spoiled and that they will learn to sail the Scarab, a dinghy their father has bought for them. So they move out to The Dog's Home, a small hut in the woods, and become secretive Picts while the Blacketts are martyrs to the Great Aunt.
Despite the Great Aunt's attempts to civilise the Amazon pirates, they manage to accomplish a number of adventures while the Great Aunt suspects they are seeing the Swallows. Near the end of her visit, the Great Aunt goes missing and there is a hue and cry and search for her. The Ds find her despite being the only people who shouldn't meet her. They deliver the GA back to Beckfoot in time to catch her train while Nancy manages to save the Great Aunt some embarrassment for which she gets praised in a letter to her mother.
- (Probably late July 1932): (Molly Blackett visits Nancy and Peggy at their school and tells them No wildnesses (PM1).
- (earlier than 2 August 1932): (Departure of Molly Blackett and Jim Turner on a cruise around the Scandinavian coast - before 2 August as they are away for the first ten days of the holidays (PM1), they are actually absent at least the first eleven days)
- (earlier during 2 August 1932): (Dorothea catches a train at Euston, Dick catches a different one near his school arriving 37min before Dorothea's train at Crewe, they meet on the through carriage which is presumably uncoupled from the main line train at Strickland Junction and coupled to the branch line train to Rio (PM2).
- 2 August 1932: Visitors Expected, The Visitors Arrive
- 3 August 1932: Out of the Blue, The Dog's Home, Transformation Scenes, "She's Here!"
- 4 August 1932: Secondhand News, Dealing With the Doctor, Harbour for the Scarab, Pigeons for Timothy
- 5 August 1932: "A Better Pict Than Either of Us", A Signal From the Lawn, Tickling Trout
- 6 August 1932: "They Can't Be Going to Sail...", Launching the Scarab, On Their Own
- 7 August 1932: Waiting for the Message, Visiting Seal
- 8 August 1932: "We've Never Been Burglars Before"
- 9 August 1932: Police!, As Others See Us
- 10 August 1932: Plans and Change of Plans
- 11 August 1932: Plans and Change of Plans, The Great Aunt Goes to See For Herself, Carefree Holiday, Totally Disappeared
- 12 August 1932: The Hunt is Up, The One Thing That Mustn't Happen, Three in a Boat, Great Aunt Maria Faces Her Pursuers, Reward of Virtue
- (13 August 1932): (planned analysis of new copper samples on board the Houseboat ... to-morrow morning we'll get these done. Jim and Mrs Blackett can't be here till the afternoon (PM30); projected arrival of Mrs Blackett and Captain Flint at the Lake Mother comes back thirteenth (PM2); no adventures this time, not until Mother and Uncle Jim get back ... they'll be back in eleven days and after that the Swallows are coming (PM2); projected arrival of Miss Huskisson at Harrogate - You tell me your mother returns on the thirteenth. On that day I am expecting a friend whose visit I cannot defer (PM3).
- (15 August 1932): (On this day Professor Callum would complete the exam marking which he had expected to take the first fortnight (PM1) of the holidays).
- (16-18 August 1932): (projected arrival of the Swallows)
- Described as coming in a fortnight's time on 2 August (PM1); and on 11 August as a further week away by Nancy who tells the Ds that she said to the GA "I wish they were (here now) but they aren't coming for another week. Later over supper the GA had another go, and Nancy says that she told her Not for another week, Aunt Maria" And she said "Ah!" (PM22). Nancy is probably not being deliberately deceptive here, but increases slightly the period before the Swallows arrive by rounding the time up to a week. On Scarab Dot tells the GA that the Walkers are coming next week or the week after, and the GA says Indeed ... So, I have been told. I fear I have done my nieces an injustice. Dot had not the smallest idea what the Great Aunt meant, but hopes that the GA will not ask if they know her nieces (PM28).
Cross-references and chronologyEdit
- And for nearly a year they (the Ds) had not been in the north and how Cook broke the plates a year ago (when) the homing pigeons rang a bell (PM2).
- The Amazons have spent the last two holidays breaking him (Timothy) in says Nancy (PM2).
- They've never seen the mine since last summer said Peggy (PM2).
- .... the new copper mine ... the result of their last summer's gold prospecting (PM20).
- August is mentioned three times: the skull and crossbones poster out in the hot August sunshine (PM1); the warm August afternoon of their first sail (PM16); and later the butcher's van driver says to the GA about rain and visitors coming together in August (PM23).
- Mrs Blackett had had influenza very badly, so Captain Flint had taken her off for a voyage and a cruise round the coasts of Scandinavia ... for the first ten days of the summer holidays (PM1).
- The Callums live in London, as Dot had been seen off by her mother at Euston (Euston Station, London). Dick, coming straight from school, had joined the train at Crewe (PM2)
- The Great Aunt is to arrive from Rio at 6pm (PM4)
- The Swallows are coming in a fortnight's time to stay at Holly Howe (PM1). Mary says to the GA We've seen nothing of them this year (PM23). Dorothy says to the GA I believe they are coming next week or the week after (PM28).
- There is a nice pun in the name of Chapter 17. See:
- Dot's and Peggy's hoofmarks are the same size. Nancy says Jolly lucky Dot's got biggish hoofs for her size, so she is smaller than Peggy (PM21)
- Sammy Lewthwaite and Billy Lewthwaite's mother, Mrs Lewthwaite, was Mrs Blackett's old nurse (PM21).
- There are five whole weeks of the holidays to go after the story ends, and the Swallows coming, and Uncle Jim (PM30).
- Dick is captain and Dorothea mate of Scarab.
- The Ds go north to stay at Beckfoot as their father had to be busy for a fortnight in London correcting examination papers (PM1). In Mrs Callum’s first and third letters they are arriving later: hoping that the new boat was ready, and that they would presently be teaching her and their father how to sail (PM7) and their father was nearly through with his examination papers and looking forward to coming north and being given sailing lessons by the captain and mate of “Scarab” (PM26). But in the second letter she says that Father is still snowed under with examination papers, but he seems to spend quite a lot of time looking at a catalogue of boats for hire on the Broads and the red and blue pencils he uses for marking the examination papers are quite useful for putting crosses against the boats the look of which he likes. I think something may come of it. Perhaps this is for a Broads holiday in the more-distant future as she ends PS. Mind! No getting drowned. We want to learn to sail. (PM14).
- Mrs Barrable is in Horning, her brother Richard will be there and they will go sailing sometime in September (PM14).
- The hardback Cape editions have dust jackets with black and white illustrations from the book on a coloured background; a different colour for each book. The Picts and the Martyrs has on the spine an illustration not in the book, showing the group on the wharf (including the old boatbuilder) launching Scarab (see for picture).
|Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series|
Swallows and Amazons | 'Their Own Story' | Swallowdale | Peter Duck | Winter Holiday | Coot Club | Pigeon Post | We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea | The Big Six | Secret Water | Missee Lee | The Picts and the Martyrs | 'Coots in the North' | Great Northern?