Harris, Catherine

About the author

Catherine Harris (Catherine Anne Harris) was another in the fine tradition of those who started their pony book writing career early. We Started a Riding Club, her first book, published in 1954, was written in her teens. She wrote one series: Cuckoo Mill Farm, which features a farming family and their collection of animals. She isn’t as sought after as she perhaps she might be: I like her Cuckoo Mill series, which is full of sparky characters and whizzes along at a fine pace. The standalone stories I don’t think work so well, but they are still entertaining reads.

Finding the books
The books are generally easy to find, in their Blackie orange reprint guise at any rate, but if you can find the first editions they have lovely dustjackets. I have a theory that the orange dustjackets put many people off discovering her, but she really is worth persevering with. Since I originally wrote this piece, If Wishes Were Horses has become harder to find, and can be expensive.

Many thanks to Hannah Fleetwood and Konstanze Allsopp for providing photos.


Cuckoo Mill Farm
They Rescued a Pony
The Ponies of Cuckoo Mill Farm
Riding for Ransom
To Horse and Away


We Started a Riding Club

Blackie, London, 1954, 175 pp,  illus Maurice Tulloch
Reprinted by Blackie in 1966, 175 pp, cover Harry Green

Monica, her sister Simone and their brothers Dean and Charles decide the standard of horsemanship in their area needs to be improved. Their grandfather, who just happens to be the local MFH, is a huge help, despite his habit of speaking his mind with incredible bluntness. After a lot of hard work, they run a mock hunt and a competition.

They Rescued a Pony

Blackie, London, 1956, 206 pp, illus Geoffrey Whittam
Reprinted by Blackie in 1965, 206 pp, cover Harry Green

First of the Cuckoo Mill Farm series, in which the Marsham family decide to rescue Punchinello, a skewbald pony in a circus who is ill-treated. After they “rescue”
Punchinello, they then have to raise his purchase price.

The Ponies of Cuckoo Mill Farm

Blackie, London, 1958, illus Geoffrey Whittam, 222 pp.
Reprinted by Blackie in 1965, cover Harry Green, 222 pp.

Old friends of Mrs Marsham, the Forrests, arrive from London to live on a bargenear the river.  At first, it looks as if the two families have nothing in common at all: the Forrests don’t know anything about ponies, and they don’t want to learn. However, they all eventually learn to appreciate each other for what they are.

Riding for Ransom

Blackie, London, 1960, 222 pp, illus Joan Thompson
Reprinted by Blackie in 1965, 222 pp, cover Harry Green

The Marsham family are back for the Easter holidays, and there are yet more visitors: this time a famous playwright, his film star wife and their young son. Then the youngest Marsham, Timothy, is kidnapped, and the Marshams disguise themselves as the legendary local ghostly hunt, and hound the kidnappers.

If Wishes were Horses

Blackie, London, 1961, 192 pp, illus Constance Marshall

Prue Bellamy and her disabled father live in the village of Magpie. Prue dreams of having a pony ofher own, and then a riding school is opened in the village by Lady Sapphire Jordan. She comes to lodge with the Bellamys. Prue’s cousin, Olivia, owns the beautiful show pony Leprechaun, but then she has a terrible accident and it seems that Leprechaun will be ruined for the show ring forever. Prue,however, has other ideas, and Leprechaun starts a new career as a show jumper.

To Horse and Away

Blackie, London, 1962, 222 pp, illus Lilian Buchanan

This is the last of the Marsham family books, and it’s quite hard to find as it wasn’t ever re-published in the Blackie “orange” edition. In this book, they are on a riding holiday, going from Wales to Cuckoo Mill. As you might expect, it is not exactly an ordinary riding tour, but they do of course make it home safely in the end.

The Heronsbrook Gymkhana

Blackie, London, 1964, 204 pp, illus Geraldine Spence
Knight pb, 1978, 204 pp.

This is the story of the Heronsbrook Gymkhana, and the fortunes of several different people and their ponies, all planning to compete. The action takes you from before the gymkhana, to during and after, and several of the characters have a voyage of discovery.


Practical Pony Keeping
Blackie, 1962, illus F Gettings, Anne Linton
Reprinted 1970