Arthur Ransome was born on 18th January 1884 in Leeds. His father Cyril was Professor of History at the Yorkshire College (later to become Leeds University). His mother Edith was a daughter of Edward Baker Boulton, who spent much of his life sheep-farming in Australia but was also a talented artist. Arthur was the eldest child, having a brother Geoffrey and two sisters Cicely and Joyce.
Arthur Ransome’s ancestors were East Anglian, and had founded the firm of Ransome & Rapier, engineers and makers of agricultural implements. His great-grandfather John Atkinson Ransome moved to Manchester, where he became a noted surgeon, being one of the team summoned to aid the fatally injured William Huskisson at the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway in 1830. Arthur’s paternal grandfather Thomas was a scientist and failed inventor, who left debts to the family when he died.
The Ransome family frequently took their holidays at Coniston Water, in the English Lake District, where at a very young age Arthur developed a fascination for the area and its inhabitants. Above all, he grew to love the lake, and it became a private rite for him on arrival to run down to the water and dip his hand in, as a greeting.
After a brief period at a day school in Leeds, Arthur was sent to the Old College at Windermere, a prep school, where he was not happy. The school had few books, and Arthur compensated by reading voraciously during the holidays. Although he was not a brilliant scholar, he went on to Rugby School where he was much happier and came under the wing of sympathetic teachers. Shortly before Arthur moved to Rugby, his father died suddenly, a bitter personal loss, as Arthur felt that he had been a disappointment to his father and had lost the chance to grow closer to him as an adult.