Ruby Ferguson was a far more prolific author of novels for adults than she was of children’s books. She wrote 21 books for adults, eight under her maiden name, R C Ashbee/R C Ashby, and then 13 under her married name, Ruby Ferguson. Her earliest stories were detective stories; the one I’ve read is competent and interesting. As Ruby Ferguson, she switched to writing romances. Her most popular book, Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary (1937) was apparently one of the Queen Mother’s favourite books.
Although Ruby is best known for her Jill books, she also wrote another children’s story: A Paintbox for Pauline. This, like the Jills, is illustrated by Caney, and is well worth seeking out for an idea of what happens to Ferguson’s children when there are not many ponies about.
Ferguson did not dally in non fiction. Although her last published book, The Children at the Shop (1967) is billed on the front as a ‘charming memoir of childhood,’ beware: although geographically accurate, the events within are fiction, and not based on Ruby’s own childhood.
Finding the books
The R C Ashby titles are, apart from He Arrived at Dusk, which is available as POD, extremely difficult to find. The least difficult is the Greyladies printing of Death on Tiptoe, but that is now out of print, and can prove pricey when it does turn up. The Ruby Ferguson titles vary. The most popular, Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary, is easy to find and is still in print. If you want to collect the lot it will require patience, and occasionally, deep pockets.
Links and sources
Many thanks to John Rees, Gayle Cameron and the Jill Facebook group for all their help with photographs.
Other children’s books
A Paintbox for Pauline
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1953, 160 pp, illus Caney
The Bates family have rebelled. They don’t want to go to Dawnsey Bay, yet again. They want a change, and separate holidays, so that’s what they get. One rides, one works as a kennelmaid, one paints in Wales, and the last one learns to cook and sew.
Adult books as R C Ashby/R C Ashbee
The Moorland Man
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1926, 312 pp
The Tale of Rowan Christie
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1927, 311 pp
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1928, 310 pp
Death on Tiptoe
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1931, 319 pp
Greyladies Press, Edinburgh, 2009, 270 pp
‘Against the backdrop of the crumbling Cleys Castle on the Welsh Border Marches, the house party guests dress up in ancient Tudor costumes for agame of hide and seek. It leads to trouble… as the veneer of upper-class sophistication disintegrates, exposing dark secrets, greed and ruthless ambition…’
Plot Against a Widow
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1932, 320 pp
He Arrived at Dusk
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1933, 318 pp
Valancourt Books, USA, 2013, print on demand
William Mertoun arrives to catalogue the library at Colonel Barr’s mansion and senses something is terribly wrong. Barr’s brother Ian has just died, and the Colonel himself is hidden away in a locked room, to which his sinister nurse denies all access. There are supernatural events, a harrowing seance, and an actual ghost….. What does the ghost want, and can it be stopped?
Out Went the Taper
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1933, 320 pp
According to the blurb, this ‘surpasses in horror’ He Arrived at Dusk. A young American succeeds in solving the mystery of the ghost that haunts the nearby ruined monastery, but only after two murders have been committed, one love affair finished, and another begun. Set in Wales, as several of the other mysteries appear to have been.
One Way Traffic
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1933, 336 pp
Adult novels as Ruby Ferguson
Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1937, 222 pp
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1938, 223 pp
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1941
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1947, 223 pp
In The Masterpieces, with Goodbye Mr Chips, Man who Made Wine, China Run, Hodder & Stoughton, 1965, pb
Persephone, London, 2004, preface Candia McWilliam
The Moment of Truth
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1944, 319 pp
I do have this but haven’t read it yet. All I can tell you about it is that it’s set in war time, and is a romantic novel, with the war ‘as background to a strange confession written with passion in memory.’
Our Dreaming Done
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1946, 304 pp
Morley-Baker, 1969, 304 pp
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1948, 313 pp
An historical story, set in the north of England during the 18th century. Hero Denys Percevell has inherited his father’s estate but is not happy. Apart from his sister Annina, he is at cross purposes with his family. Annina then decides to marry the rackety son of a local family. It appears that this marriage is the worst thing that can happen to the family, until Bonnie Prince Charlie invades England. It is the aftermath of that invasion that tears the family apart.
Turn Again Home
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1951, 287 pp
The Apricot Sky
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1952, 252 pp
Little, Brown & Company, New York, 1952
Another review of Apricot Sky
The Leopard’s Coast
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1954, 351 pp
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1959, paperback
For Every Favour
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1956, 320 pp
Little, Brown, New York, 1957
Doves in my Fig-Tree
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1957, 349 pp
The Cousins of Colonel Ivy
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1957 (1959?), 318 pp
The Wakeful Guest
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1962, 287 pp
A Woman with a Secret
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1962, 287 pp
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1965, 190 pp
Children at the Shop
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1967, 254 pp
Don’t read this as the true story of Ruby Ferguson’s childhood – it has only the barest relationship to the truth! The geographical background to the book is accurate, as Ruby did indeed live in Woolwich, where most of the book is set, in her childhood, but very little else is. As the story of a childhood, it’s a great read, but it’s not Ruby’s childhood.
Miss Graham’s Guest
In The Methodist, no 90, June 1932
I assume this is a short story.
The Queen’s Book of the Red Cross
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1939
This book consists of contributions by fifty British authors and artists, and was published in aid of the Lord Mayor of London’s Fund for the Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Ruby Ferguson was one of the contributors.