About the author
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, I 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.
Bibliography (pony books only)
Kelpie, the Gipsies’ Pony
G G Harrap & Co, London, 1934, illus Barbara Moray Williams
Kelpie is an orphan foal. The boy Tammas is determined to have Kelpie for his own, despite the fact that Kelpie isn’t the prettiest or most talented pony on the moor.
Many thanks to Cherie Goninon for the picture
The Twins and Their Ponies
G G Harrap & Co, London, 1936, illus the author
Many thanks to Andy Brown for the picture.
G G Harrap & Co, London, 1936, illus the author & Barbara Moray Williams
Sandy is a chestnut pony who works on the sands, giving rides to children who visit Shelly Bay. The ponies are sometimes hired out by the hour, and Mary, the owner’s daughter, finds this hard. One of the children, wilful Rosemary, gets Sandy caught in the quicksands. Then Sandy goes back to London, with Patsy, his original owner, and Mary misses him terribly.
Dumpling, the Story of a Pony
G G Harrap & Co, London, 1937, illus by the author
This is a sort of cross between a fairy tale and a pony book: Dumpling is a fat, slow pony, and Annabel is rather round too. She loves Dumpling though, and buys him, though the two of them are the butt of Pony Club jokes from the other girls. However, she meets an old man called Fairey who helps her look after Dumpling, and who grows marvellous beans, which, when fed to Dumpling have a wonderful effect on his constitution and make him a winner.
Many thanks to Andy Brown for the picture.
Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse
G G Harrap & Co, London, 1938, illus Joyce Lancaster Brisley
“Nobody wants to buy the old toymaker’s toys any more, and he grows poor and ill. The Little Wooden Horse sets off to sell himself.”
Golden Horse with a Silver Tail
Hamish Hamilton, London, 1964, Antelope Books, illus the author
Collie Books, pb, 1966
A charming story for younger readers: twins Sandy and Foxy, and their sister Stacey are off to visit family in Iceland. They go on a camping trip to visit an Icelandic volcano, and on the way, search for the golden horse with a silver tail: an Icelandic horse who has escaped and joined the wild ponies.
Many thanks to Sarah Beasley for the photo on the right.
No Ponies for Miss Pobjoy
Chatto & Windus, London, 1974, illus Pat Marriott
Thomas Nelson Inc, Nashville and New York, 1975
Granada, pb, 1978
Canterdown School must give up its dreadful horsey ways and shine as a school, says its new headmistress, Miss Pobjoy. Frances, Megan and Caroline are determined to make the most of the one term of ponies Miss Pobjoy will allow them, and indulge in open rebellion. All is not quite, however, as the girls think.