Winstone, Daphne

The pony book does seem to attract a lot of authors - all, as far as I know , girls - who start young. Daphne Winstone is another. She was born on 11 September, 1930, and was the youngest of four children. Animals were her first love, and she learned to ride early, starting hunting on an Bessie, an Iceland pony. When Daphne was twelve, she was confined to bed for 18 months because of illness. She used the time to write Flame, which was finished in two and a half months.

Peter Lunn, the book’s publishers, 'published [it] exactly as written ... Except for alternation of a few rather unorthodox spellings.' The book was illustrated by Lionel Edwards, and was popular enough to merit a reprint. Daphne Winstone did not, as far as I know, write another book. Presumably once she recovered, life itself took over.

Many of the books written by young authors are biographies of ponies, who start off life well, fall into bad hands, and then are rescued, usually by their original owners. Flame is no different. He is an Arab/Exmoor cross of 13.3 hh, who is bought as a youngster by the Farnham family for their son Tom to ride. Flame does well with Tom, loving his hunting, and taking a second in the jumping class at a local show. However, he is stolen by gypsies (another fate which often befell pony book ponies), and so his descent begins. This is speeded up by the actions of an ignorant child who rides badly, after which Flame becomes a riding school pony until he is lamed in a hunting accident while out on hire. He ends up with another gipsy, this time one who does not treat him well, and he is eventually discovered, giving pony rides at a fair, by Tom, who recognises Flame after his eight years’ absence, and buys him back.

I doubt whether this book would stand any chance of being published today. Publishers of young author books made much of their author’s age, and presumably this must have been seen as a way of marketing the book; possibly not so much that the dog was walking well, but that it was walking at all. It is, however, an adequate story, and very well done for someone who was 12. No human character is ever more than sketched in, but you do get a sense, particularly in the section where Flame is ruined by the ignorant child rider, Ursula Clarrington-Whitley, of the bewilderment of a pony as he tries to do what he has been taught to do, but is continually up against the inadequacies of his rider. The illustrations, of course, are wonderful.

Finding the book
The book is reasonably easy to find, though the fact it is illustrated by Lionel Edwards does mean it can be more highly priced than you would expect: it is worth looking around to find a cheap copy.

Links and sources
Introduction to Daphne Winstone’s Flame