Pullein-Thompson sisters

The Pullein-Thompson sisters Josephine Pullein-Thompson MBE (3 April 1924 – 19 June 2014),[1][2] Diana Pullein-Thompson (1 October 1925 – 21 October 2015),[3] and Christine Pullein-Thompson (1 October 1925 2 December 2005)[4] – were British writers, known mainly for their pony books, mostly fictional, aimed at children and mostly popular with girls. They started at a very young age, initially writing collectively, and they were at their peak in the 1950s and 1960s, but their popularity has endured. They also wrote a collective autobiography Fair Girls and Grey Horses.


All three of the Pullein-Thompson sisters have written at least one book under a different name; Josephine wrote one under the pseudonym of Josephine Mann, Diana wrote three books under her married name of Diana Farr and Christine wrote two books under the name of Christine Keir. Further details of the titles are given in the relevant section.

Their mother, Joanna Cannan (1898–1961), sister of the poet May Cannan, wrote similar equestrian stories, but is better known for detective mysteries. Their father was Captain Harold J "Cappy" Pullein-Thompson, who was badly wounded during the First World War. Consequently, he made his money by selling refrigerators, and did not publish any works. They also had a brother, Denis Cannan, who was an author as well, primarily a playwright, though he had not published as many works as his sisters.

The sisters were related to novelist and dramatist Gilbert Cannan. Joanna Cannan and May Cannan were daughters of Charles Cannan, making Gilbert Cannan their cousin. Diana later wrote an autobiography of Cannan's life. Their father was the brother of Emily Muriel Pullein Thompson, who was the mother of the composer John Gardner who is therefore also their cousin.

Christine had four children, two sons and two daughters, as a result of her marriage to Julian Popescu in 1956. The elder of her two daughters, Charlotte Popescu, is an author of children's pony books, which are not as quite widely known as her mother's or her aunts'. Christine's other children were Phillipe, Mark and Lucy. Lucy is a literary critic, writer and editor, and elder son, Phillipe, has written various little-known books for learners of English. Younger son, Mark, is currently Director of Forces TV and Radio. In addition Christine had eight grandchildren: Benjamin, Thomas, Hamish, Oliver, Daniel, Anna, Edwina and Maxwell. Diana married art historian Dennis Farr, and had two children, a son and a daughter. The National Portrait Gallery in London contains portraits of Diana and her two children.

The sisters' books are strongly oriented towards ponies, and for over 60 years they have been much loved by young girls with a strong enthusiasm for horses and ponies. Diana has often written books aimed at a slightly older audience, including some set in London. Christine was the most prolific and also wrote a number of stories which are not specifically concerned with horses or ponies; these are mostly aimed at younger children. Apart from the books listed below, all three sisters have also edited and contributed to various anthologies of horse and pony stories.

Awards and honours


Josephine Pullein-Thompson

Dates Unknown

Josephine also wrote the adult mystery books Gin and Murder (1959), Murder Strikes Pink (1963) and They Died In The Spring (1960). She also wrote the book A Place With Two Faces (1972) under the pseudonym of Josephine Mann. She has long been involved with the British branch of the writers' organisation International PEN, which campaigns for writers' freedoms in authoritarian or tyrannical regimes. She was awarded the MBE in 1984 and was, for many years, a vice president of the Woodland Hunt Branch of the Pony Club, based in the Henley on Thames area.

The book Six Ponies and Pony Club Team are now available to buy from Fidra Books who are also republishing some of Joanna Cannan's books which includes original illustrations and text.

Diana Pullein-Thompson

Dates unknown

The books Five at 10: Prime Ministers' Consorts Since 1957 (1985), Gilbert Cannan; A Georgian Prodigy (1978) and Choosing (1988) have been published under her married name (Diana Farr) in addition to her maiden (and better known) name.

Christine Pullein-Thompson

Dates unknown:

The title The Impossible Horse has also been published under the name of Christine Keir, which may have been a pseudonym, as it is the same story. Also, the book Riding (1983) which is part of the Granada Guides series, has also been published under the same name.



  1. Who's Who 2009
  2. Josephine Pullein-Thompson (obituary), The Telegraph (London), 20 June 2014.
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11951324/Diana-Pullein-Thompson-author-obituary.html
  4. Christine Pullein-Thompson (obituary), The Telegraph, 6 December 2005.
  5. "Golden Pen Award, official website". English PEN. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  6. The Follyfoot in the title relates to the Monica Dickens books and the Yorkshire Television series
  7. Based on Julip horses, sold exclusively through their catalogue
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