Peggie Cannam wrote full-time, but before that worked as a nurse in a children’s hospital, in an office, and in the Women’s Land Army for three years. After the war, she worked on poultry farms, but then moved to Jersey where she carried on in agricultural work. Her books did not pay her enough to live on all the time, so she would do whatever came along to keep the wolf from the door: type, work in shops, can tomatoes or pick potatoes! Peggie had a pony of her own, Firefly, and her book Hoof Beats tells her story, and how Peggie and a friend started their own Pony Club, The Stirrup.
Peggie Cannam started writing while she was at school. She enjoyed English and Art most, and was, she said “hopeless at everything else.” Her first book, She Wanted a Pony (1951) was based on her favourite pony book, Mary O’Hara’s My Friend Flicka, and on the style of Joanna Cannan, which Peggie copied until she evolved her own style. Many of her books were inspired by real-life incidents. Black Fury (1953) came about after Peggy heard two people talking about a horse so wild it was shut permanently into its stable. Seeing a beautiful thoroughbred pulling a cart gave her the inspiration for Triple Bar (1956).
School stories were still popular when Peggie Cannam produced most of her books, and she combined two genres; the school and the pony story in two of her books. Riding for Ridge Abbey and Musical Ride are both set at boarding schools. School story experts Sue Sims and Hilary Clare describe her as writing pony books which have school as “a convenient background’,” and think her a poor and stereotypical writer.
After returning from teaching in Africa, Peggie wrote several books for the Scandinavian Stabenfeldt imprint in the 1990s. Alas these have not been printed in English.
Finding the books
Almost all the books are easy to find: the one exception is Corn and Carrot Tops, which can be elusive.
Interview with Peggie Cannam; correspondence with the author
Dustjackets of her books
Encyclopaedia of Girl’s School Stories, Sims & Clare
Many thanks to Amanda Dolby for the photographs.