Saturday, 24 October 2015

Diana Pullein-Thompson, 1925-2015

Diana Pullein-Thompson, last of the Pullein-Thompson sisters, died this week*. Diana wrote the first pony book I ever read: Riding with the Lyntons. It was a distinctively mud-coloured book, with one of Mary Gernat's characteristically lively illustrations on the front.


I had developed a passion for ponies at a young age, but hadn't realised there were books that were pony, pony, pony all the way. My early reading efforts were centred on Enid Blyton's Famous Five, Secret Seven and Adventure of.... series, and on Hugh Lofting's Dr Dolittle books. As I read my way obsessively through these, I somehow managed to miss the fact that pony books existed, until I found Riding with the Lyntons lurking, all alone amid the Famous Fives, in our local toy shop. My  pocket money stretched to this (the equivalent of 12 1/2 p today) and I took it straight home and read it right the way through.

I was utterly entranced. Here was a girl who didn't have a pony (I didn't), but she got one - what new bliss was this? Lesley had achieved the dream. She had to go through some traumas on the way, as the pony was bought from a dodgy dealer and proved to have strangles, and the Lynton family she befriended ostracised her after their ponies were let out onto the road, by Lesley, they thought, and one of them died.

In true children's book tradition, everything worked out in the end. A naughty pony was proved to have opened the gate, and Lesley and the Lyntons rode off into the distance, friends again.

And I was set off on a new path of enchantment: I did start riding lessons but never had a pony of my own, but I longed - how I longed, and the children in the pony books I now knew existed achieved my dreams for me. In my dreams  I was Lesley, bravely holding up despite ostracism; Augusta in I Wanted a Pony stubbornly defying her arrogant cousins; and Christina in Three Ponies and Shannan, creating havoc despite her best intentions.



Diana, like her sisters Josephine and Christine, let me into a new world where I could live my dreams, and for that I will always be grateful.

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* The Times gives the date as 22 October; The Daily Telegraph 21 October.

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