Gervaise, Mary

Mary Gervaise (1906–1998) was one of the pseudonyms used by Joan Mary Wayne Brown. She was born on 21 April 1906, the daughter of an accountant and a Newnham classics graduate. She went to boarding school herself at the age of 12 in Broadstairs, although this was short lived. After she got into deep trouble for bringing The Adventures of Sherlock Homes to school, she was taken away and sent to Eversfield School in Sutton, in Surrey, where her family lived.

The family moved to Exeter when Joan was 18. At that age, she developed anaemia and instead of going to college, started to write. The family moved back to Surrey, settling in Guildford, where she lived until she died on 26 April 1998. She was a prolific writer, writing 66 books as Mary Gervaise (she also wrote adult novels under the names Hilary Wayne and Bellamy Brown). The vast majority are school stories, which she wrote almost exclusively for a twenty-year-period from her first novel in 1928, Tiger’s First Term. When the school story started to decline in popularity after the Second World War, Mary Gervaise and her publishers decided that pony stories were the next big thing. Mary Gervaise had some experience with horses. During World War II, she worked at a local hospital in the first aid post, and a nursing friend there had a stable at Guildford, providing Gervaise with at least some idea of the world of the pony, and so the G for Georgia series was born, neatly combining two styles of genre fiction.

Most pony stories took place firmly after school or during the holidays, ponies and school generally not mixing, but at Mary Gervaise’s Grange School, ponies were central. Indeed, this provides much of the tension in the first book, A Pony of Your Own. Its heroine, Georgia, is terrified of horses, and horrified by the prospect of going to a boarding school where all the other pupils are horse mad and the school has its own stables. However, in true school (and pony) story tradition, Georgia overcomes her fears (which was just as well as it would have been tricky to have sustained a long pony book series where the heroine was too scared to go near a pony). Although Georgia remains fearful, she forms a strong relationship with her pony Spot, and with a group of girls at the school.

Mary Gervaise was not in the first rank of either school or pony authors. Sue Sims and Hilary Clare said: 'She is not an exceptionally good writer, but she is a competent plotter, [and] draws character and relationships quite well ...'

A Pony of Your Own
Ponies and Holidays
Ponies in Clover
Ponies and Mysteries
A Pony from the Farm
The Pony Clue
Pony Island
The Vanishing Pony
Puzzle of Ponies
The Secret of Pony Pass

A Pony for Belinda
Belinda Rides to School
Belinda’s Other Pony
Belinda Wins Her Spurs

Fireworks at Farthingale
The Farthingale Fete
The Farthingale Feud
The Farthingale Find

Finding the books
The Georgia series is very easy to find in its paperback printings. Hardbacks are reasonably easy to find, and not generally expensive. The Belinda and Farthingale series can be a little more expensive, but the titles still easy to find and reasonably priced.

Links and sources
Hilary Clare and Sue Sims: The Encyclopaedia of Girls’ School Stories, Ashgate 2000
Thank you to Dawn Harrison, Ken Davies and Amanda Dolby for all their help.