Art & Educational, 1950
Nelson, 1956, hb, A.H. Watson
Nelson, 1959, hb
Reprinted Girls Gone By, pb, 2007, with Lorna Hill’s original illustrations
The Marjorie series
Marjorie & Co
Castle in Northumbria
No Medals for Guy
Summary and critique (Diane Janes)
Like Stolen Holiday the text of Northern Lights was altered before publication to remove overt wartime references, though the donkey who is the instrument of Marjorie’s humiliation is called Lord Haw Haw “after that traitor English johnnie …”
The GGB edition prints as appendices the changes from the original manuscript and those between the first and second editions.
The book begins immediately Stolen Holiday ends with the clan (minus the drummed-out Marjorie) bored with their dull home life and desperate for something to do for the last weeks of their holidays; their camping trip to the coast having been truncated due to Marjorie’s appalling behaviour and subsequent revenge.
“Marjorie would think up something, you bet!” Peter sighed.
On cue Marjorie appears, dramatically jumping the tennis net on Dulcie, a borrowed pony far more suited to her than the staid Black Magic. She is desperate to get back into the clan and Guy devises a humiliation ceremony in which she is led publicly on Lord Haw Haw, facing his tail and clad in sackcloth and ashes – a cleverly chosen penance as Marjorie cares about her appearance and dignity very much. Back in the clan she immediately comes up with the idea of a week at a peel house she has discovered near Bellingham. Of course, Guy knows it already as it is situated in his ancestral homeland much to Marjorie’s chagrin. But he didn’t think of it…
Exploring a wood Esme comes across a handsome boy, Ralph Fenwick (16), the local landowner, tormenting a lame boy, Thomas, who has been poaching as his grandfather has lost his job. It transpires that Fenwicks and Charltons have been at daggers drawn for generations from the days of the Border Reivers and this feud forms the basis of the plot. Various things occur – the clan meets Judith, Ralph’s much nicer and beloved sister, Peter’s and Guy’s clothes are stolen while they are swimming and in retaliation the clan steal the Fenwick’s ponies.
A subplot involves teaching Thomas to ride and finding him a pony. Ralph Fenwick sees the clan’s interest in Thomas and decides to evict his grandfather but Marjorie comes up with the scheme of kidnapping Judith before a gymkhana where she hoped to win a saddle (the Fenwicks are penniless) and ransoming her in return for a promise from Ralph to let the grandfather remain in his cottage. And Marjorie is thus able to engineer a pony swap. Peter gets Black Magic, she gets the spirited Dulcie and Thomas gets Peter’s stolid Simon – and can keep him as his grandfather keeps the cottage. Dulcie is paid for by the clan’s gymkhana winnings. Oh, and Judith gets her saddle as a result of Guy’s skilful riding.
There are the obligatory spats between Marjorie and Guy but Marjorie has the last laugh as Guy does not realise perms are indeed permanent.
Pleasingly, there is more pony interest in this book than in some of the others and further character development. We learn more about Marjorie’s homelife: richer in financial terms but so much poorer in other respects than the others. But we see a good side to her, albeit prompted by some ulterior motivation. Guy is his usual Edwardian self but Pan is beginning to question whether he is always right and he does use her as a confidante and turns to her for wise counsel. Pan is very well drawn and continues to agonise about her appearance. I see her growing up to be like Sarah Burton the splendid headmistress in “South Riding”. And Marjorie? She’ll end up a gin sodden wreck racketing around Soho – when not riding hard to hounds.