de Bargue Hubert, Jane

About the author

Jane de Bargue Hubert wrote Water Wagtail whilst young: it’s very hard to find, but seems to have made an impact on those who read it when young. In my bookselling days, I never had a copy more than a few days. It’s the story of a girl overcoming her fear of riding, and, after refusing to abandon a pony condemned as dangerous, riding him to success at a show. It is, as the author says, a derivative plot, but still not the typical pony-tells-Its-story that was produced by teenage girls in the 1940s and 1950s.

Jane de Bargue Hubert started writing when she was condemned to bed for weeks at the age of 8, with rheumatic fever. Happy Star the Pony is long since lost, but her next book, Water Wagtail, was published when she was 14. Her mother had the book typed up, and sent it to Jane’s grandfather, who had a connection with Eyre & Spottiswoode, the publishers. They published it, and to celebrate, her school, Horsham High School, had a half day holiday.

Jane describes the book as ‘complete and utter wish fulfilment’. She had no pony then, although she did have a donkey. She later had a pony, but then ‘spent years as a teenager earning rides by mucking out stables, but the passion faded to some extent in my later teens, and I wanted to go to university. I still have a yen to be among horses, and to ride, and still do sometimes. I still intend to start riding more often…’

Jane is now a social anthropologist, and writes on highly vulnerable people who have severe and profound learning disabilities and mental health problems.

Finding the book

The book is very hard to find indeed, and can be expensive when it does turn up.


My interview with Jane Hubert: read the full interview here.


Water Wagtail – The Story of a Piebald Pony
Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1951, illus Wendy Westover

Jill has recently witnessed her mother being killed in a riding accident, and her father has gone abroad. She is sent to live with her aunt and cousins, and finds herself in a family that revolves around ponies, riding, and winning rosettes at gymkhanas. Jill is too frightened to learn to ride, and spends much of the time on her own.

After many months she gradually decides to try to conquer her fears, and is encouraged by her cousins. She particularly loves one of the ponies, a piebald called Water Wagtail, but he has a wild and unpredictable streak,
and her aunt decrees that he is too dangerous to ride. Jill, however, refuses to abandon him, and is determined to jump him at the next show. Her father comes back in time to see her win the jumping, her cousins give her Water Wagtail as her own, and she happily looks forward to a life with her pony and her dreams.