Moray Williams, Ursula

Ursulay Moray Williams, and her twin sister Barbara, who illustrated some of her books, were born in 1911. Despite being raised during World War One, Ursula described her childhood as a happy one: The Twins and Their Ponies described her childhood. After the family moved to Eastleigh, where their father was a classics tutor at a local school, the twins were able to indulge their pony madness. This was helped by the fact they were educated at home, until they were sent away to Annecy. When the twins returned, they went to Winchester Art College: Barbara stayed, but Ursula left after a year, having decided she preferred writing.

She illustrated several of her own books, principally the pony ones. Dumpling is the story of a plump little girl and a plump little pony; No Ponies for Miss Pobjoy is an excursion into ponies and school. The new Headmistress of the school is a tad keener on things academic than the girls, and mayhem ensues.

Ursula produced over 70 books, and always encouraged her readers. She asked Kaye Webb, who founded Puffin Books, to bring groups of young readers to see her, and she was famous for her children’s parties and Easter egg hunts. She died in 2006.

I have included The Little Wooden Horse in this partial bibliography: it isn’t a pony book in the strict sense, but I’ve included it because it (and Gobbolino) were amongst the first books I read independently. I loved the brave little wooden horse, rarely downcast despite his misfortunes, and although he isn’t a real horse, he certainly is a real character. He was amongst the books that set me on my lifelong addiction to books about animals. Jill Eccleshare, in The Guardian, said the book showed 'good old-fashioned virtues in a wholly likeable and unmoralising way.'

Finding the books
The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse is very easy to find; Dumpling can be expensive, and hard to find with its dustjacket; The Golden Horse with a Silver Tail is not always easy to find, but is generally cheap. Kelpie is reasonably easy to find - less so with its dustjacket. No Ponies for Miss Pobjoy is very easy to find in paperback, and reasonably so in hardback. Sandy-on-the-Shore tends to be more expensive, and is very hard to find with its dustjacket. The Twins and their Ponies isn’t easy to find with its dustjacket, and is amongst the more expensive of her titles.

Sources and links
Dictionary of Literary Biography
Wikipedia Entry on Ursula Moray Williams
Obituaries: The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian