Memories of Peggy

My new book A Connemara Journey has just been published and I’m awash with nostalgia and memories of those two ponies which took me a thousand miles through western Ireland in 1984.

 Particularly Peggy

As the years have passed and we have far more understanding of how horses’ minds work, my appreciation of the efforts that Peggy put into getting me to understand her wishes and needs has grown enormously.  I think about all the advantages that dogs have … even to the extent of evolving the ability to raise their eyebrows to look more appealing. A dog can fetch its dinner bowl or lead to make it perfectly obvious what they want us to do. Horses have a far more limited repertoire, and are expected to do what we want, despite their superior strength. 

It’s been 37 years since that Irish adventure and I think I needed that elapse of time to fully appreciate just what a special pony Peggy was. What set her apart from any other horse or pony I’ve known was her intensely sociable nature. I took her away from her companions, and even from temporary mates that she shared a field with for occasional nights. Because she was such an extrovert, and needed company as much as rest and food, she eventually bonded with me and gave me my some of my most special animal memories in a lifetime of special animals.   Initially I treated her just like any other horse that I had hired for a ride. I imposed my will on her and made little effort to understand her. By the end of the trip, however, Peggy completely had my measure and I reflect with a smile at her success in getting her own way.

It started with the simple expedient of allowing her to stop when she wanted to open her bowels. Fair enough, I thought, I wouldn’t want to continue walking under such circumstances. Within a matter of days she’d learned that whenever she felt like a short break all she had to do was squeeze out a dropping. By the end I feared she’d do herself an internal injury by straining so hard.  More important was providing her with enough water in a hot summer. The first time she tried to tell me that she was thirsty I was mystified. She walked slowly along the road, smelling the tarmac and then stopping to scrape it with her hoof. It was only when she spied a woman walking across her garden carrying a pail of water that I understood – Peggy looked at the bucket and gave a little whinny. The woman obligingly brought her some fresh water and after that I got the message.

One lesson I never properly learned, however, was how to recognise The Wrong Sort of Grass. To me if the grass at my chosen campsite was lush and green it was gourmet grass. So I failed to understand Peggy’s eloquent hints when I turned her loose into a lovely enclosed area, bordered by a stream and a high bank, and carpeted in green.  Peggy took a mouthful or two of grass, then went and stood by the luggage as though to say ‘OK, I’m ready to go now’. I ignored her and set up the tent and started to cook my dinner. She took an uncharacteristic interest in my soup, and after I’d pushed her away I looked up and found that she’d taken it upon herself to pack up the tent; she was standing with a guy rope in her mouth dangling its tent peg. Still I didn’t understand.

Next morning I was woken at six by Peggy stamping and snorting around the tent until I got fed up and shouted  “For heaven’s sake go away!”. She did. An hour later I emerged  to find that Peggy had gone. The last time that had happened was with Mollie – and I had found my beloved pony dead at the bottom of a cliff. This time it was two hours of sheer panic before I’d scanned a distant field of cows with my binoculars and spotted one brown one. Yes, it was Peggy.

Peggy put this experience to good use, ensuring that I always took care of her needs  before my own.  If I tied her up outside a pub so I could enjoy a glass of Guinness she would call me out with heart-rending neighs. She even resented me slipping off for a meal when I could be cooking my soup companionably in her field – I would hear her neigh and have to rejoin her and assure her that I still loved her and would never tell her to go away again.

I’ve never experienced anything like the bond I had with Peggy – not with a horse, and I’ve looked after a fair number in my time. But then I’ve never spent almost every minute of the day and night with a horse. Peggy was exceptional – no wonder I’m smiling as I type this!

To order a copy of A Connemara Journey or sign up for a talk about Mollie and Peggy go to

Why Dorothy Wordsworth is not as famous as her brother

Today is the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth. Here’s a different take on his most famous poem.


“I wandered lonely as a…

They’re in the top drawer, William,

Under your socks –

I wandered lonely as a –

No not that drawer, the top one.

I wandered by myself –

Well wear the ones you can find.

No, don’t get overwrought my dear, I’m coming.

“I wandered lonely as a –

Lonely as a cloud when –

Soft-boiled egg, yes my dear,

As usual, three minutes –

As a cloud which floats –

Look, I said I’ll cook it,

Just hold on will you –

All right, I’m coming.

“One day I was out for a walk

When I saw this flock –

It can’t be too hard, it had three minutes.

Well put some butter in it. –

This host of golden daffodils

As I was out for a stroll one –

“Oh you fancy a stroll, do you?

Yes all right, William, I’m coming.

It’s on the peg. Under your hat.

I’ll bring my pad, shall I, in case

You want to jot something down?”


Lynn Peters

A noble sober mouse

Back in 2013 I told about my mouse problem which had sparked a long-held memory of a poem I learned by heart when I was a child — probably around 12 years old when I kept a lot of pet mice. The school task was to learn a poem and whilst the other girls chose Daffodils or other poems studied in class I picked one that had appeared in, I think, my mother’s WI magazine. I quoted some of it in the blog and anguished that I could still remember it except for three lines. A year ago I received a message from an 80-year old in Australia who also remembered loving the poem but couldn’t supply those missing lines, then a few days ago I received an email from David Hipperson who asked if I could send him the poem which he also remembered and loved from long ago. Alas, I said, I was missing three lines. Next day he wrote back:

Thank you for your reply. Like you my Google search only came up with your blog, which was why I contacted you. However, I have just now found a copy of the poem which I attach.

My first knowledge of this poem was back in the 1960’s when I worked as a biology technician in a local grammar school. Those pupils who were studying for their A levels used genetically pure strains of mice that were paired together to determine how genes were passed from both parents to successive generations. They only did 3 generations and the resultant families of mice were normally either given away to pupils as pets or kept in single sex colonies at the school. Needless to say I looked after a lot of mice!!

It was one of the sixth formers who brought the poem to my attention and I just loved it.

I managed to find a contact to this person and he was able to tell me the name of the poet and to supply a copy.

So, thanks to the internet and to David’s persistence, here’s the complete poem. It brings both a grin of happiness and a lump in the throat. It’s by Walter Meade.

The Mouse

I live in sober Suffolk,
In a dim and sober house
And I share this dim sobriety
With a noble sober mouse.

On an eager April morning
I discovered that the mouse
Had minced a first edition
To lend comfort to its house.

I set a trap to catch the mouse
I bated it with cheese
And bacon rind and honeycomb
The harvest of my bees.

The mouse was caught
It looked at me with eyes of velvet brown
It looked at me, I looked at it
I could not put it down.

Of course I should have drowned it
It was weak of me, but oh!
The velvet eyes were starred with hope
I had to let it go.

But all who gaze in velvet eyes
Must pay a settled price.
And now my first edition warms
Some newly published mice.