Lorna Hill (1902-1991)

Popular and collectable British author, best known for her ballet novels. She was born in Durham in 1902 and studied at Durham University, where she met her future husband, a clergyman. When married they moved to a remote village in Northumbria. Many of her books feature aspects of her life, including a vicarage lifestyle, a North-Eastern settting and ballet and ponies, which were interests of her daughter Vicki. Vicki even appears as a character in the 'Wells' ballet series. Ms. Hill's daughter was certainly hugely influential upon her mother's writing career, which was born when making up stories to tell to her daughter and school friends. Vicki also illustrated some of her mother's later books.

Ballet and ponies are the two main elements in the author's books and indeed overlap on many occaisions. Some of the 'Wells' and 'Dancing Peel' ballet series feature ponies, most notable the first in each series. Like K. M. Peyton, Lorna Hill seems to have favourite characters who make an appearance in many of her different series. In particular Guy, the hero of the Marjorie series, appears in both the 'Patience' and 'Wells' series and both Marjorie and Patience make brief appearances in some of the ballet books.

Lorna Hill wrote two main pony series which were of the holiday adventure type. The ponies are perhaps less important in these series than in the books of authors thought of as more traditionally 'pony book writers.' Although ponies and riding do feature in the books, they are not really the primary focus of the plot or themes of the stories.

Ms. Hill has become a collectable author. Although not reaching the monetary heights of some of Monica Edward's rarer novels, there are nevertheless a few titles which are very rare and may be expensive. None of the pony books are amongst the real rarities, but neither are they common either.

The writing standard of all the books is high and the characters are engaging. If you enjoy the pony books, you may also want to try the ballet books (particularly the ones where horses also feature) as they are appealing even to those like myself who have little interest in ballet. In fact I ironically prefer them to the horse-related titles which I don't think contain the depth or are as tightly plotted.

One aspect which may also jar in these modern times is the element of male chauvinism which seems to permeate many of these stories, with the character of Guy being the main culprit. In most of the books the various strong-willed girl characters are eventually bent to the will of the boys, who are almost always portrayed as being in the right and much more sensible. This is a shame, in a genre which generally empowers the female characters and sets them on an equal footing with the boys - and is perhaps the reason why I prefer the Lorna Hill ballet stories to the horsy ones.

There is an excellent link website which gives lots more information about Lorna Hill and her work including lists of all her books in series order and reviews of some of the books.

Marjorie Series:
Holiday adventure series with a strong pony element in which a group of children form a group called 'the Clan.'

READING  ORDER:

1) MARJORIE & CO
(ART & EDUCATIONAL 1948)
ILLUSTRATED BY GILBERT DUNLOP
Reprinted in hardback by Nelson in 1956 and 1959 with different illustrator A H Watson
Reprinted in paperback by Nelson
Reprinted in paperback by Girls Gone By (GGB) with the original text and illustrations
EDITIONS PICTURED: Nelson 1956 reprint, Nelson paperback, GGB paperback
SUMMARY: A group of children who love horses and the outdoor life have formed 'The Clan' whose leader is the brave but sensible Guy. However the fly in the ointment is Marjorie, a spoilt and self-willed girl who, when not allowed to join in, is determined to sabotage the proceedings. Will she spoil things for the rest of the Clan...or can Guy tame her?

2) STOLEN HOLIDAY
(ART & EDUCATIONAL1948)
ILLUSTRATED BY GILBERT DUNLOP
Reprinted in hardback by Nelson in 1956 and 1959 with different illustrator A H Watson
Reprinted in paperback by Nelson
Reprinted in paperback by Girls Gone By with the original text and illustrations
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, Nelson 1959 reprint, Nelson paperback, GGB paperback
SUMMARY: Marjorie is now part of the Clan, but on a holiday in Northumbria, her terrible behaviour may mean that she is to be evicted!

3) BORDER PEEL
(ART & EDUCATIONAL1950)
ILLUSTRATED BY GILBERT DUNLOP
Reprinted in hardback by Nelson in 1956 and 1959 with different illustrator A H Watson
Reprinted in paperback by Girls Gone By with the original text and illustrations
EDITIONS PICTURED: Nelson 1959 reprint, GGB paperback
SUMMARY: The Clan are bored without the excitement of the enfant terrible Marjorie and allow her back into the Clan. She repays them by coming up with the idea of a holiday in a Peel Tower. Once there they befriend a crippled boy and become deadly enemies to the arrogant Ralph Fenwick.

4) NORTHERN LIGHTS
(GIRLS GONE BY PB 1999)
Not originally published with the rest of the series. The manuscript was found much later and republished by Girls Gone By publishers. As such this is the only edition available. It Is listed here in reading order, not publishing order.
EDITIONS PICTURED: GGB paperback (1st edition)
SUMMARY: The adventures of the Clan with the background of the war intruding - a fact which may be responsible for it not being published along with the rest of the series in the 1940s/1950s.

5) CASTLE IN NORTHUMBRIA
(BURKE 1953)
ILLUSTRATED BY GILBERT DUNLOP
Reprinted in hardback by Nelson in 1959 and 1961
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition? Nelson 1959 reprint
SUMMARY: The children go camping at a romantic old castle. Marjorie has been banned from attending by her parents who want her to study in the holidays, but she manages to escape and join the others.

6. NO MEDALS FOR GUY
(NELSON 1962)
ILLUSTRATED BY GILBERT DUNLOP
There was also a Children's Book Club edition.
EDITIONS PICTURED: Book Club edition
SUMMARY: Set 2 years after the previous books. An outbreak of measles could mean that the children may have to spend their hols at school! Will they escape this horror Of course - they end up camping and become involved with a strange girl. Interestingly, Marjorie in this book begins the dancing which was to propel her briefly into the author's 'Wells' ballet series.

Collector's Info:
The reading order includes Northern Lights. This was not part of the original series as it was not first published until many years later. However it was written at the same time as the other books and follows in the same chronology, coming after Border Peel.
Castle of Northumbria was also erroneously described as a 'Patience' book when it is in fact part of this series.
Originally only the first two books were reprinted in paperback. However, some of the titles were later reprinted in paperback by Girls Gone By. The books are not common but can be found with a little effort on the internet for a reasonable price. The first editions published by Arts & Educational are elusive, the reprints by Nelson are much more commonly seen.
Northern Lights is only available in the Girls Gone By paperback edition.

Patience Series:
Similar in tone to the Marjorie series although there is no real enfant terrible here. Yet some of the children - the girls in particular - have clashes with the boys due to their headstrong temperaments. Guy Charlton from the Marjorie series also appears as a major character in the last two books.

1) THEY CALLED HER PATIENCE
(BURKE 1951)
ILLUSTRATED BY GILBERT DUNLOP
Reprinted in hardback by Burke in 1958
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition
SUMMARY: When Judy and her father must move from the town to the Northumbrian countryside, it is a culture shock for Judy who does not fit in and is at loggerheads with the local children Patience, David, Richard and Elizabeth. However after learning to ride and learning to love the countryside, things start to look up for her and she no longer wants to return to city life.

2) IT WAS ALL THROUGH PATIENCE
(BURKE 1952)
ILLUSTRATED BY GILBERT DUNLOP
Reprinted in hardback by Burke in 1958 and 1961
EDITIONS PICTURED: 1st edition, Burke reprint
SUMMARY: Patience is convalescing from an illness and banned from joining her friends on a camping and riding trip. But, refusing to be left behind, she sets off on her own to find her friends...

3) SO GUY CAME TOO
(BURKE 1954)
ILLUSTRATED BY JOANNE CURZON
Reprinted in hardback by Burke in 1959
EDITIONS PICTURED: Burke reprint
SUMMARY: Patience and her friends have secured a caravan in which to stay for a holiday with their ponies. But when their older friend Nigel who is supposed to be looking after them takes ill, Guy Charlton steps into his shoes. Elizabeth who is very fond of Nigel is resentful of Guy's presents and Judy is annoyed by his bossiness. But in the end Guy proves to both girls that he is a worthy member of their group.

4) THE FIVE SHILLING HOLIDAY
(BURKE 1955)
ILLUSTRATED BY JOANNE CURZON
Reprinted in hardback by Burke in 1960
EDITIONS PICTURED: Burke reprint
SUMMARY: Once again Nigel meets with an ill fate (an accident this time) to enable Guy to take over as leader of the gang in their attempt to holiday on a budget of only five shillings.

Collector's Info:
Slightly confusing for collectors in that the Nelson reprints are often thought to be the first editions. However the first editions are themselves rarely seen and were published a few years earlier than the much more common reprints. Unlike the Marjorie series none of these were reprinted in paperback. But like the Marjorie books, none of the titles are common. The first book in the series is the hardest to find and can be expensive.