Pigeon Post


Pigeon Post is another summer story -- the whole gang gathered at the lake, but not able to sail yet because the Walkers' mother hasn't yet arrived. So instead they are camped on the parched hillside, prospecting for gold. I must say mining has never really captured my imagination, though I love Sovereign Hill as much as the next person, but I still love Pigeon Post, perhaps because it's largely Titty's story.

One of my favourite episodes in the whole series is here, when the expedition tries dowsing for water and the only one who succeeds in getting any response from the hazel twig is Titty (though Dorothea, of course, desperately hopes it will be her...) I think this is the only vaguely paranormal event in the Swallows and Amazons universe, but there is no doubt at all that Titty experiences what she does, and that the water is really there. I love her initial fright and resistance, and her courage in overcoming her fears, which to me makes the discovery of the spring more exciting than Roger's finding of the gold (though that is fun, too). 

Titty really comes of age in this book -- she's the one who leads the others through the hill after the tunnel collapses ("Pudding Heads"), and she leads the other able-seamen in fighting the fire. I'm glad to see the developing friendship between her and Dot (I love when Dot reads her novel aloud!), and the whole mix up with Timothy the armadillo, and the lovely quiet scene at the very end when the hedgehog returns to the well. A very enjoyable installment!


  1. This was never a favourite of mine; the prospecting for gold and then trying to smelt it just never enthused me, but I have some favourite moments too. I love the box they make for Timothy the armadillo. I also love the way it all comes down to the unreliable pigeon to fetch help when the fire breaks out, and she does it! Apart from Titty, it's also Dick's book - inventing the way to make the pigeon bell louder (so that the cook drops all the dishes in surprise!) and all his expertise in knowing about metals and mining.

  2. Yes, I love the way they all defer to Dick (Dot would love that, too). It's lovely to see Dick being anxious for Dot during the fire, instead of the other way round for once! I wasn't enthused about the smelting either but I think Ransome does a great job of making it dramatic. I always loved the pigeon bell, too! Timothy's little house is so touching, I remember combing through the book as a young reader to figure out WHY they thought he was an armadillo, but it was never explained!

  3. I have to confess that I've never read any of these books, Kate! I bought "Swallows and Amazons" in 1968 (with my own money, after much agonising in the bookshop) and...I didn't like it. I was a pretty dedicated reader and I just couldn't get on with this one. I'm tempted to try again.

  4. Susan!! You have succeeded in surprising me! I thought we had read ALL the same things :) The first book is actually the weakest of the lot I think (not counting Peter Duck or Missee Lee), but some of the later ones are really marvellous. He is such a skilful storyteller, even if you're not into the sailing/camping/mining/ bird watching whatever, there is plenty of character narrative to enjoy. If you can push through the first 100 pages of We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea (there is a fair bit of set-up), it is absolutely gripping and suspenseful, maybe start there!