Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Monday, 21 November 2016
Thursday, 10 November 2016
What all these titles had in common was that they did not talk down to their readers. The Picture Puffin Books paid children the compliment of assuming that facts did not need to be simplified or edited; simply explained well with illustrations that complemented and developed what was presented in the text.
Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Thursday, 3 November 2016
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Friday, 7 October 2016
|Heavy horses. Not pissing. The Horse, J K Brunel Esq|
(now the Northumberland Plate), 1927.
* The Pitmen's (or Pitman's) Derby is a race that's still run. The Northumberland Plate still takes place, as it did in 1927, at Newcastle racecourse at Gosforth Park. The race was originally run on a Wednesday, and coincided with the annual holiday week at the local coalmines. Its popular name, the Pitmen's Derby, reflected the major importance of the coalmining industry in the area, and the popularity of the meeting with its workers. The annual mine holiday week was abolished in 1949, after the mining industry was nationalised in 1947. Presumably to maximise a different audience, the race was moved to a Saturday in 1952, Tommy Weston won the race shown in the clip, riding the horse Border Minstrel.
Thursday, 8 September 2016
At its height, in 1913, there were 27,826 railway-owned cartage and shunting horses in the UK, a number Bryan Holden in his The Long Haul describes as declining to 9,077 by 1945. This decline had effects that were noticed by even the higher echelons of society. Riding Magazine, whose readership were not generally troubled by lack of money, noted with concern in its July 1951 edition that the number of railway horses on parade at the 55th Annual Show of the London Cart Horse Parade Society at Regent’s Park had dropped from 61 to 14.
The decline, as with the agricultural industry, was driven by the replacement of horses with motorised transport. This was not a process that happened immediately: it took 40 years. The Second World War, and the rationing of petrol meant a temporary halt to the reduction in horse numbers, but it was only temporary. After the war ended, the push to mechanise gathered pace.
|Horse-drawn parcel vans, Euston, 1925. © National Railway Museum and SSPL|
Before the war, the motorisation lobby had waged what Holden called ‘a relentless war of words against horse transport’. He quoted the district goods manager of the GWR in Birmingham telling the West Midland Traffic Commissioners in 1936 that Birmingham City Council was strongly behind the motorisation drive, saying that ‘before long it would be necessary to compel railway companies to take horses off the central streets.’
|Charlie at Newmarket, 1967 © National Railway Museum and SSP|
|Tiny and Darkie inspect a mechanical horse, 29 January 1954. Image © Johnston Press plc|
|A reluctant Joe being persuaded to leave Castle Station. Image © Johnston Press plc|
Our, S. C. (1952, Oct 22). RAILWAYS TRADE "TINY" FOR AN ELECTRIC HORSE. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/479404792?accountid=55962
1, 500, 000 FEWER HORSES. (1952, Nov 03). The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/479394091?accountid=55962
Riding Magazine, August 1951, pg 313
Northampton Mercury - Friday 29 January 1954, Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
Copyright Northampton Mercury - Friday 13 August 1954, Image © Johnston Press plc. Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
Yorkshire Evening Post - Thursday 14 August 1952, Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
FUND GATHERS £180 TO SAVE HORSES. (1952, Jun 28). The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/479357825?accountid=55962
Monday, 8 August 2016
Some books also tackled contentious issues, such as whether it was right for people to go on with riding as a leisure activity, and a distraction, at all.
Silver Eagle Carries On provides a vivid picture of the outbreak of war. It is the sequel to The Silver Eagle Riding School, in which three sisters set up a riding school after the family money is lost in the post-war years. Silver Eagle Carries On opens conventionally enough, with two of the sisters and their partner, Virginia, on a riding tour through the countryside with their clients. The remaining sister, Josephine, is in America with her show jumper, Anna, and the others buy a copy of the Illustrated paper, to see if Josephine and Anna are featured. They flip the pages over frantically to the back to find the piece on Josephine, entirely missing the headlines saying that Germany has marched into Poland until they notice the horrified faces of their fellow riders.
‘Headlines stared back at them from the paper: “Evacuees leaving London.” “Black-out in force.” “Army in readiness.”War is declared two days later. The tour is called off, and immediately the girls are brought up against the realities of their situation. They cannot get home by train (most horses were transported around the country by rail at that time) as all trains have been commandeered to move troops. The cattle truck driver they manage to find to drive them home tells them to make the most of it, as petrol will soon be rationed. When they reach home, they already have two evacuees from London, Delphinium and Norman. Josephine and her horse Anna are on their way back from America and are in the middle of the Atlantic, so there is the constant fear of their ship being attacked.
|Evacuees from Deptford at a Pembrokeshire farm|
© IWM (D 997)
|© IWM (D 16841)|
The difficulty of feeding horses is a theme throughout those books that dealt with the war. At the back of this was a real fear for the very survival of people’s horses. At the beginning of the war there had been wretched scenes of mass putting down of cats and dogs in order to preserve food stocks. This was not restricted to small animals. In its Winter, 1941 issue, the Editor of Riding published an appeal.
‘As we go to press we have received from the Minister of Agriculture an appeal which will go straight to the heart of every reader of RIDING. It asks all those who own horses and ponies “to consider seriously whether it is still necessary to keep them.” The Minister has in mind particularly those animals that are either too old for work or ‘that are ridden only occasionally for enjoyment.’ Deprived already of rationed feeding stuffs, many have been turned out to grass. Now the grass they eat in summer and the hay in winter, are both urgently needed for animals doing essential work.’The piece goes on to make it plain that elderly animals should indeed be considered for equine heaven, and recommends that its readers make this difficult decision. Of riding animals it says:
‘…in deciding their fate it is not always easy to draw a line between necessity and desire, or even between immediate necessity and future necessity.’The Minister had nothing against animals doing a useful job of work, but quite what was a useful job of work was open to interpretation.
Nevertheless, horses were kept going. The film below shows racehorses in Epsom during the war. There was no racing there during the war, but the horses were still trained and looked after. It's interesting that much of the work was done by youngsters.
The fodder situation lends particular poignancy to the situation in Joanna Cannan’s More Ponies for Jean, published in 1944 but based on events at the beginning of the war. As the Pullein-Thompson sisters recount in their autobiographical Fair Girls and Grey Horses, (1996), Joanna Cannan plundered an event in her daughters’ lives that either she or her husband, Captain Pullein-Thompson (the sisters' memory is unclear), had precipitated, as inspiration for her third Jean book. As the fodder shortage tightened its grip, the Pullein-Thompsons were told that either their ponies paid their way, or they would have to go. Quite where they would have to go is not made explicit, but the Pullein-Thompsons, and every other horse owner, knew the answer to that one.
They duly started a riding school, and put in a truly astonishing degree of hard physical work to keep their ponies fed. Joanna Cannan, as Josephine put it, ‘shamelessly collected copy from their experiences’ for the Jean book. Jean, like the Pullein-Thompsons, starts a riding school after she is also told one of her ponies must go now fodder is so expensive.
Not only did horse owners have to contend with the difficulty of feeding their horses, but also the belief expressed by some at the beginning of the war that horse and pony owning was a luxury The attitude that Primrose Cumming’s Josephine expresses, once she is safely back in England, was common:
“My dear, don’t you realise there is a war on? We can’t go on just the same, even if a few selfish people do try to pretend it makes no difference. Of course we’ll close the school down. What I really meant was what war work are you going to take up?”This was an attitude the equine press was well aware of, and the appeal of the horse as refreshment and relief for those returning on leave was something they stressed. Primrose Cumming takes up the cry too: Virginia asks Josephine if she means that everything that caters for amusement and comfort; such as publishers and cinemas should be closed down so everyone is making ‘plain foods, woollen underwear and munitions?’ and Josephine's sister, Mary, suggests they keep going to keep up morale — they can do their bit by letting people home on leave ride at reduced rates.
|Even makers of riding wear stressed the restorative effects of war-time riding.|
Hopeful though the book’s end is, the closeness of death overhung it, even if it was rarely acknowledged. Experience of that real loss in pony books of the period is rare. The most overt experience of death I have found occurs in Alice Molony’s Lion’s Crouch (1944). Heroine Mary has a beloved bull terrier called Happysnapper, who loves to play fetch.
‘Oh, but he will,’ I said, and thank God there was no time to hesitate. ‘Go on Snapper, fetch it. Good dog. Good-bye.’The harbour master and his cronies are captured, but Happysnapper has paid the ultimate price.
And of course in Mary Treadgold’s We Couldn’t Leave Dinah (1941), probably the most nuanced portrayal of ponies and children during the war, the children lose their home, their ponies and everything they have ever known.
'You couldn’t really believe in awful things like Hitler when you were out in sun and wind and sea-spray and with people as absolutely marvellous as the Pony Club.'But Mary Treadgold was only too aware of what life on the Home Front meant: she wrote We Couldn’t Leave Dinah in a London air raid shelter.
And so Caroline’s glorious, sunlit world is shattered. She and her family have full-scale enemy occupation to contend with when their home, Clerinel, a fictional Channel Island, is invaded. Caroline tries hard to hang on to everything that the ponies symbolised: a lack of care, of having responsibility only for your pony and for enjoying yourself.
The Pony Club dream—the pony as hobby and distraction— fades utterly when Caroline and Mick are, in the confusion and panic of the evacuation, left behind. Mary Treadgold shows conventional pony owning as the luxury it is. The focus switches from ponies as the central point of a privileged existence, to them as working animals, a necessity, useful in getting done what has to be done.
In their time spent hiding on the island, the ponies are used to carry what Caroline and Mick need when they hide in a cave before being able to escape the island; and as transport―to move around the island more quickly when they are attempting to find out the Nazi’s true invasion plans.
|The ponies carry baggage - We Couldn't Leave Dinah|
I would argue that the pony books published during World War II move beyond the depiction of the horse purely as a leisure animal, particularly now the ability of children to rescue horses from a hard working life and transport them to a happy, well-fed existence was severely limited. Pony books reflected the new reality of wartime, where leisure now took on meanings other than simple distraction, providing a much-need break from the everyday hardness and bleakness of war. The horse and pony were a distraction, but also a symbol of something that could unite people across classes and countries: something we all need, in whatever form it comes.
Friday, 5 August 2016
|The pony on the cover is butcher's pony Jingo.|
The pony is a rare saint.
If a pony did appear in a pony book pulling a cart, it was generally because it had fallen down the equine social scale and was in need of rescue and returning to its rightful place as a leisure animal.
|A Pony for Jean|
|V E Bannisdale: Back to the Hills|
|A 1939 pony book with a pony in need of rescue|
|Flame - frontis|
|MM Oliver's Ponies and Caravans|