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The  Princess and Princess Tina Pony Books

The Princess and Princess Tina Pony Books were an offshoot of the Princess comic, published by Fleetway, part of the International Publishing Corporation . Princess comic ran from 1960-1967, when it merged with the Princess Tina comic. I have found a page from a Princess comic (pictured left), in which Pat Smythe offers some basic pony knowledge: possibly a regular feature. The pony book attached to Princess comic was only published for three years, from 1962-1964. Once the two Princess comics were merged, the pony annual appeared again, but this time as The Princess Tina Pony Book. The first few Annuals were published as Princess, and then as Princess Tina. There was an equivalent Princess Ballet Book, as well as the Princess Gift Book .


The Princess Pony Books were landscape in format: the only pony annuals I know of that were. They had colour printing, which was unknown in the Pony Club Annual until the 1980s, and in Pony Magazine Annual until its re-emergence this century. The Pony Books were aimed more at the pony fan who did not have a pony. Princess provided plenty to amuse, but the balance was firmly on the side of those whose interest was never going to be practical. They were far more story-orientated than either the Pony Magazine Annual or the Pony Club Annual, and had very little on pony care or how to ride. The first had 15 stories, a picture story, a game, two poems,and a few picture features on general pony knowledge. Its genesis in the comic was confirmed by the picture story contribution, but the tone of the Annual was the educative one which prevailed in early Pony Club Annuals: readers were there principally to learn.


The majority of the stories were from pillars of literature: Charles Dickens (Mr Pickwick as a horseman), as well as selections from R L Stevenson, Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain. Young Lochinvar, by Sir Walter Scott, was one of the poems featured. Some contemporary authors contributed: Cecily Danby wrote three stories for the first album, (1962) with Anne Collins, Frances Olcott and Michael Bennett being the others.


My one abiding memory of the Princess Pony Books is of one of the crafts, which was joined to a story written by Anne Collins - Mandy’s Felt Pony Club. Mandy Banks had just come back from an idyllic holiday in the country, having learned to ride, taken part in her first gymkhana, and been given a felt pony made by her aunt. She and her friend Janet decide to form a felt pony club, and hold a gymkhana to raise money for refugees.


When I was about 12, a friend brought into school a copy of this annual, which was already something of a period piece to us then in the 1970s, together with a pony she had made out of felt. The world of Julip et al was a bit beyond us, so we were incredibly enthusiastic about making these ponies, and make them we did. My stepfather worked for a tannery, and used to bring offcuts home for me, so we had leather to make saddles and bridles from. We ran a gymkhana, for which I remember making cups out of DAS, a more permanent modelling material than plasticene.


I can’t imagine 12 year olds now making felt ponies and having gymkhanas. I can’t believe for a second they’d find it cool. My own daughter has this activity firmly filed in the file labelled “Odd things my mother did that I will NEVER EVER do.”


Most of the illustrators in the Pony Book weren’t credited, but Thelwell provided the endpapers; Geoffrey Whittam illustrated one story, and H M Brock provided a rather handsome colour plate. Sheila Rose and Mary Gernat provided illustrations too, though again uncredited.


The second Princess Pony Book followed the same format, with classic authors (Goldsmith and Kipling) though with more picture stories. The poems were The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes, and Jack and his Pony, Tom, by Hillaire Belloc.


The Princess Pony Book had a third issue, and then ceased publication until it became the Princess Tina Pony Book in 1967. The format changed from landscape to portrait, and the style was much more similar to that in the comic; far more graphic and with plenty of colour. The extracts from the classics had thereabouts ended, though there is a verse from Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. The stories were no longer credited. The annuals didn’t, once they became the Princess Tina Pony Book, acknowledge who had written their short stories.


The Princess Tina Pony Book was published until 1981.



Sources and links

History of Fleetway from the Dan Dare site

The Princess Tina diary

More on Princess Tina from True Brit, a Celebration of the Great Comic Book Artists of the UK, George Khoury, Tomorrow’s Publishing, North Carolina, 2004