THE owners of Arthur Ransome’s final home are appealing for people to come forward with tales, memories and photographs of the author’s time at the historic cottage.
Stephen Sykes and his wife Janine bought the property in 2010 and have been restoring the cottage to provide luxury self-catering accommodation.
But since Mr Sykes bought the property, his love for Ransome has almost turned into an ‘obsession’.
The 63-year-old was approached by Margaret Ratcliffe, who was busy transcribing Ransome’s diaries by hand at Leeds University’s Brotheron Library.
She approached Mr Sykes for help – since then the retired investment analyst has become engrossed in restoring the diaries covering the author’s years at Hill Top.
Ransome lived there with his wife Evgenia, a former secretary to Leon Trotsky, who he met while working as a foreign correspondent in revolutionary Russia. They first rented Hill Top for the summer in 1956 and bought the house in 1960.
After Ransome’s death in 1967 Evgenia sold Hill Top.
Mr Sykes said: “The diaries themselves are very personal accounts that focus on the two things he enjoyed the most, fishing and eating!
“And he is complimentary throughout, talking about din-ners, or meetings with people to which he would respond, ‘terribly pleasant’ and ‘very good’. He steered away from writing about historical events.
“It was fascinating to look through and see in one diary entry he had written ‘Dorothy Wordsworth’. On looking further I could see it was the date that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
“You would think that that would be something that he would write about but it is rare that he ever touches on historical events.”
The only entries where Arthur Ransome is less than complimentary are when he details his frustration with the BBC’s six-part dramatisation of Swallows and Amazons in the 1960s, starring Susan George.
“He was extremely protective of his work. I think he felt he would have more control and you can see his frustration.”
Both Mr Sykes and Mrs Rat-cliffe are still working on the diaries, as well as looking at photographs of Arthur Ransome at Hill Top.
He wants to hear from anyone who has any old images of Hill Top or stories relating to Arthur Ransome’s time at the cottage to come forward.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org