May, Mary

About the author

Mary May ran 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 Anne Grahame-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 sisters
Wikipedia article on the Grahame Johnstone sisters
Many thanks to Dawn Harrison for all her help with this section.


The Carol Lane Series
The Will to Win
Piebald is Lucky
Deep Water at Dereen
One for Silver, Two for Gold

Nicholas and Ben
Defiance at the Inn
A Pocketful of Silver


The Will to Win

Adelphi, 1993, Manor Acre, Collingbourne Kingston, 1996, illus Anne Grahame Johnstone

Carol is disabled in a car accident, and is desperate to ride again. After trying to ride with the local Riding for the Disabled group, her friends help her to take up carriage driving. Her parents ban her from driving after a minor accident, but, despite the pain of seeing her former rival enter her show pony in the ring, she enters a local show.  

Piebald is Lucky

Manor Acre, Collingbourne Kingston, 1995, illus Anne Grahame Johnstone

Nb: this is the second in the series. The British Library gives the publication date as 1995, which is before Will to Win. This book continues the story of Carol. Now she can’t compete at show level anymore, she searches for her own driving pony, and continues to compete in the show ring.

Deep Water at Dereen

Manor Acre, Collingbourne Kingston, 1996, illus Anne Grahame Johnstone

Carol and her friends go to Southern Ireland on holiday. Despite her problems, Carol is not stopped from getting involved in an adventure which involves sulky racing, and a horse drawn caravan.

A Patchwork of Ponies

Manor Acre, Collingbourne Kingston, 1998

A book of short stories.

One for Silver, Two for Gold

Manor Acre, Collingbourne Kingston, 1998, illus Anne Grahame Johnstone
Cover design by Gregory Larcombe, using illustrations by Anne Grahame Johnstone

The fourth in the Carol series, this one sees her trying her hand, but not successfully, at scurry racing. There is a near disaster when the piebald ponies are stolen. Junior Whip Camp sees Carol fulfilling her desire to drive them as a pair.

A Parade of Ponies

Manor Acre, Collingbourne Kingston, 1999, illus Sue Scott

A selection of short stories, written with guest author Jackie Macbeth

The Horse of Dreams

Manor Acre,, Collingbourne Kingston, 2003, illus Greg Larcombe

A read and colour book about a rocking horse; for younger readers.

Chloe and William are exploring the barn at their new house when they find a wooden hoof sticking out from the straw. It belongs to a Victorian rocking horse, who is in such a state he is sent to a restorer. Once the horse is mended, he is promoted to the hall from the barn, and Chloe pretends he is a race horse; William pretends he’s a soldier riding into battle. That night, they hear the rocking horse creaking, but nobody is there. The next night they find two children in Victorian dress with the horse. They explain the horse used to be theirs, and that he needs Chloe and William to love him, and that he’s a horse of dreams. Chloe and William wake up the next morningnot sure if the night’s events were a dream, but it doesn’t matter as the rocking horse is theirs.

Defiance at the Inn

Manor Acre, 2001, illus Sue Scott

“This is an adventure story which takes place in and around a coaching inn in 1837. Who is nobbling the horses who pull The Defiance Stage Coach? Nicholas and his sister Beth are determined to solve the mystery and save the coach.”

A Pocketful of Silver

Manor Acre, 2005, illus Sue Scott

A sequel to Defiance at the Inn, this story sees Beth, Nicholas and Richard “invited to London to watch Queen Victoria’s Coronation. When Nicholas’ purse is story they are led into an exciting adventure involving a coin forger’s gang in the slum area, Devil’s Acre, just behind Westminster Abbey.”