Thursday 10 September 2009

Skewbald and other pony stories of the 1920s/30s

Orlando the Marmalade Cat's creator Kathleen Hale was taught fine art at Reading by Professor Allen William Seaby (1867-1953). He was a painter and woodcut artist who delighted in wildlife subjects. He also wrote and illustrated a very popular series of pony stories for children, beginning with Skewbald The New Forest Pony in 1927.

It's more than a story about a pony, it's an introduction to the ecology and the life of the Forest itself. It was followed by Exmoor Lass and Other Pony Stories the following year. The University collection has a signed copy of the sequel Sons of Skewbald which first appeared in 1937.

In the Notes at the beginning, Seaby details some of the changes that have occurred in the Forest since the first Skewbald book a decade earlier. The fate of the ponies was dependent now not so much on their use in the coal mines, or as meat on the continent, but on their rising popularity as riding horses for children. The motor car represented a new threat because of the number of ponies killed and injured on the Forest roads. Seaby also railed against plant robbers who were causing the disappearance of many of the Forest's rarer species.

Jenny Kendrick of Roehampton University will be talking about the wider significance of Seaby and his pony stories at the Collecting 20th Century Rural Culture conference at the Museum of English Rural Life on November 4th. More details of the conference can be found on the Museum's website.

1 comment:

Jenny Kendrick said...

A fuller version of my talk is available in the papers of a conference held at Roehampton:

Kendrick, Jenny. ‘Running Wild and Ridden’: A short introduction to native ponies and their wild habitats in the work of Allen W. Seaby (1867–1953). In IBBY/NCRCL Papers 15, 2009. Lichfield: Pied Piper

Best, Jenny