Nelson, 1962, illus Gilbert Dunlop
Children’s Book Club edition
The Marjorie series
Marjorie & Co
Castle in Northumbria
No Medals for Guy
Summary and critique (Diane Janes)
This is badged on the front cover of the first edition as the 4th “Marjorie” book but according to the excellent introduction in the Girls Gone By reprint of Marjorie and Co. it was an afterthought. In fact the fourth book was Northern Lights, which was not published in sequence as it featured World War Two. The publishers felt that the timing (late 1940s) was wrong; the public would have no appetite for reading children’s books about the war. Northern Lights was privately published in 1999. Girls Gone By aim to publish all the Marjorie and Patience books.
No Medals for Guy is set two years after Marjorie and Co. Guy is sixteen and Pan(sy) the narrator is “terribly afraid he might have grown-up”. He hasn’t, and the Clan activities are much the same as always. Pan’s twin brother has replaced the stolid Toby. In Marjorie and Co he wasn’t interested in ponies but now he has Black Magic, Marjorie’s previous pony, and not nearly exciting enough for her. She now has the wicked Dulcie, Pan still has Billy, Esme has Willow and Guy, the dashing Flyaway though the ponies are rather peripheral to this story. There is the usual detail about food and preoccupation with meals – thinking about lunch as you are finishing breakfast which rings true.
The Clan are camping near Morpeth – boys in a tent and girls sleeping in the top of a converted old double decker bus, the bottom being used for cooking and eating.
There are rides to the beach where a dramatic rescue ensues (Guy, of course, ably assisted by a stalwart tug-of-war team comprising women from a Newcastle WI) but most of the action centres around Lily-Elsie, a strange self- possessed girl in Alice-in Wonderland clothes who lives with her batty Miss Havisham-like Aunt Florence in nearby Gallows Hall. Forbidden to play with the Clan, Lily-Elsie’s chance comes when Aunt Florence is whisked into hospital with appendicitis. The semi-ruined Hall is explored and the legendary ghost is hunted and disproved but the focus is on earning money to equip Lily-Elsie with suitable clothes for camping and riding though teaching her to ride is only lightly sketched in.
This inevitably leads to sparring between Marjorie and Guy over what is suitable and decent (a favourite Guy word as Pan points out) employment for girls. As a result of an almighty row over Marjorie’s scheme to dance at a talent show and her being forbidden to go on a midnight picnic with the Clan she is the one to spot that a fire has broken out at Gallows Hall and to raise the alarm. True to form however, it is Guy who is the hero and rescues Aunt Florence. The shock of the fire restores Aunt Florence to her senses and we discover she is really Lily-Elsie’s grandmother. She realises that Lily-Elsie needs friends and arranges for her to go to school; Gallows Hall will be sold and she will have a convenient modern house built in the grounds.
And the title? Modestly Guy refuses to accept a medal
The book does read as a bit of an afterthought – it is a bit samey and Guy’s views seem ever more dated (even if it is supposed to be the 1940s or 1950s rather than the early 1960s when it is written). He is positively the epitome of the Victorian paterfamilias. Nonetheless Pan continues to be nicely drawn and her feelings as a plain child amongst swans are well realised. Lily-Elsie, too, is interesting and stubbornly loyal to her difficult “aunt”. There are not nearly enough ponies, though.