Stolen Holiday

It is a year on from “Marjorie and Co.” and the Clan are to stay with Big Alice, who, in more prosperous times, was a maid to Pan’s parents, in her house in Bamburgh, Northumberland.

Publishing history
Art & Educational, 1948, illus Gilbert Dunlop
Reprinted Nelson, 1956, illus A.H. Watson
Nelson Juniors, pb, 1960
Girls Gone By, Bath, pb, 2004 with Lorna Hill’s original illustrations

The Marjorie series
Marjorie & Co
Stolen Holiday
Northern Lights
Border Peel
Castle in Northumbria
No Medals for Guy

Summary and critique (Diane Janes)

The second “Marjorie” book was originally set in 1939 and called “Mystery on the Links”. It was substantially altered for publication in 1948, as the publishers believed that there would be no market for books which referred too much to War amongst a war weary public in a time of austerity. The major changes are to the sub-plot concerning Paul and Gina, who, in the 1939 version are Polish children smuggled into England as the German invasion becomes inevitable and in 1948 are orphan exiles from a war-torn Europe.

To an adult reader with hindsight, the 1939 version is probably the better book and discusses some quite serious themes, but the basic children/ponies/swimming/holiday story is not much altered by the 1948 update.

The GGB reprint helpfully reprints the 1939 text with annotations, changes and deletions for comparison.

It is a year on from “Marjorie and Co.” and the Clan are to stay with Big Alice, who, in more prosperous times, was a maid to Pan’s parents, in her house in Bamburgh, Northumberland, while the adults holiday variously in Skye, the Highlands and Norway (“Marjorie’s people, who are disgustingly rich and can afford luxuries”).

Conveniently they find that Big Alice has been rushed into hospital, so the Clan resourcefully decides to go to Pan and Peter’s parents’ rickety bungalow in the dunes near Beadnell along the coast.

The holiday follows the usual pattern, the ponies always there, but not centre stage, though there is some nice banter from Peter, Pan’s brother (replacing stolid Toby, whose protective mother has kept him at home with an illness), on the virtues of  bicycles versus ponies. He is being taught to ride by Guy on the quiet Simple Simon.

As well as an exciting moonlight bathe, a visit to a funfair, where Marjorie provokes Guy’s wrath, an adventurous boat trip to the Farne Islands, in which Guy heroically rescues Marjorie – who is injured as a result of her own foolishness and her defiance of Guy – and Marjorie’s birthday party, there is the ongoing mystery of Paul and Gina; Who are they? Where are they from? Where do they live?

There are a number of telling cameos and incidents which reveal more about the children’s characters.

Gina proves to be a dashing and natural rider in an impromptu display on Black Magic, but has a subdued and proper lesson on Simple Simon with Guy after a battle of wills: she is not unlike Marjorie.

Esmé (who is totally humourless) has an impassioned argument with Guy over hunting and her (and Lorna Hill’s) great love of animals is displayed further in a rabbit shooting incident.

There is the usual tension between Guy and Marjorie, with each exhibiting the worst sides of their characters with Pan ruefully concluding: “I felt that none of us really understood Marjorie” and Guy, in an unguarded moment, confessing that he and Marjorie are rather alike.

Pan, the plain narrator, is the most clear sighted of the Clan. She challenges Guy with “How do you know what is for the best?” and her ability to see two sides of a story (unlike Guy or Marjorie) leads to the discovery of the truth about Gina and Paul and a recognition that it is unfair of Guy and Peter (boys) to keep a secret from the others (girls).

Although the end of the story is a happy one for Paul and Gina, it is not so for the Clan. As a result of her jealousy of Esmé, Marjorie behaves appallingly, causing the premature end of the stolen holiday and is subsequently (and literally) drummed out of the Clan at a ceremony that everyone feels uncomfortable with.

But, as Esmé says “Marjorie has a habit of bouncing up again….” And Pan writes “…. Though it seemed impossible at the time, this is just what happened, though how it came about I will have to tell you at some future time”.

Diane Janes






Lorna Hill