May, Mary

Mary May runs a farm and livery yard in Wiltshire with her husband Richard. She has ridden all her life.

She is unusual in the pony book world in writing about driving: even more so in writing two series about it. Her Carol Lane series features a disabled girl (Carol), who used to ride until she became disabled. She then learns to drive. The historical horse novels, Defiance at the Inn and its sequel A Pocketful of Silver are centred around driving, with Defiance featuring a team of coaching horses. Mary May has also written two collections of pony stories (A Patchwork of Ponies and A Parade of Ponies) as well as a book about a rocking horse: The Horse of Dreams is aimed at younger readers, with illustrations to colour in. She won the DT Charitable Trust Award in 1997 for A Patchwork of Ponies.

Mary May’s books are self-published, which would explain why they are hard to get hold of. They are not horribly expensive when they do turn up, and copies are often signed. The most difficult to find are Horse of Dreams, Deep Water at Dereen and One for Silver, Two for Gold.

Anne Grahame Johnstone provided the illustrations for many of the books: she is someone whose style you either love or loathe. I love it. She had done all her illustration work with her twin sister Janet (they are best known for the wonderful A Hundred and One Dalmatians), until Janet died in 1979. They had shared the work between them, with Janet doing the animals and Anne the costumes. After Janet’s death, Anne had to master the art of animal drawing very rapidly. Anne was an experienced whip, and a member of the British Driving Society, so had plenty of experience on which to base her illustrations for Mary May’s driving books. Anne died in 1998, from liver cancer, before she could complete the illustrations for One for Silver, Two for Gold. Anne’s brother, Murray gave permission for drawings she had done for Mary previously to be used.

Mary May’s later books were mostly illustrated by Sue Scott, a Suffolk-based equestrian artist with a particular interest in the Suffolk Punch. She was an Associate of the Society of Equestrian Artists. Another driver, both she and her husband worked with the Mid-Suffolk Disabled Driving Group, with which AnneGrahame-Johnstone also helped.

Finding the books
Horse of Dreams and A Patchwork of Ponies are very difficult to find: all the other titles are reasonably easy to find, and not generally too expensive.

Wikipedia article on the Grahame Johnstone sistersWikipedia article on the Grahame Johnstone sisters
Many thanks to Dawn Harrison for all her help with this section.