Ponies, ponies, ponies
Cecil Aldin (1870-
Aldin was a keen drawer from an early age: from the windows of his nursery in the family’s house in Kensington, he would sketch the horses he saw. He studied art at the National Art Training College, which became the Royal College of Art, and was a pupil of Frank F Calderon, who specialised in animal art (and who later taught Lionel Edwards and Lucy Kemp-
Aldin acquired his first horse, an elderly grey polo pony called Sweetheart, in exchange for a portrait of the owner’s son, mounted on a donkey. Aldin was married and living in Chiswick at that point, and in theory had nowhere to keep the horse. He did, however, have a bicycle shed in his garden, and this was rapidly extended for Sweetheart. Aldin would hack out from Chiswick to hunt, and after he acquired another hunter, 17hh Daddy, in another picture exchange, he started work as hunting correspondent for Land and Water Illustrated. In 1914, Aldin became MFH for the South Berks Hunt with Eric Palmer.
When the First World War broke out, Aldin, too old for active service, was made a purchasing officer, and was in charge of a Remount Depot. The Army needed an enormous amount of horses, and they were bought from all walks of life -
Although Aldin did not see active service, his son Dudley did. He was killed at Vimy Ridge in 1916, aged nineteen.
Aldin had continued hunting the South Berks until 1919, but then struck off in a more unusual direction, becoming joint Master of a pack of bassets. They were, Aldin’s biographer Roy Heron said, “sedate afternoons, as the pack was hardly noted for its swiftness, and the joint Masters, Aldin and C H Carter, were themselves well into middle age.... Rarely did the bassets effect a kill, their outings generally providing nothing more than exercise for the hounds and their followers.” One of the bassets, Champion Merryman, was so heavy (and valuable) he had a specially appointed follower each hunt to heave him out of ditches.
Although Aldin only illustrated two pony books for children, he had a more lasting affect on children’s experiences with ponies. When his grandchildren complained that all the shows they went to only had a few classes for children, Aldin organised his own show, exclusively for children, on Exmoor. There were 14 classes, some of which had over 30 entrants. The show was a roaring success, and Aldin was asked to organise another. The next took place at Dunster Castle, and was an even larger affair, attracting entrants from all over England. The Dunster Show had a course designed by Captain “Chips” Russell Wood, and a Handy Hunter competition, which became the forerunner of today’s working hunter classes.
Cecil Aldin had a long-
Towards the end of his life, Aldin suffered acutely from arthritis, and his work rate slowed down. Many of his books used drawings he already had, although he continued to produce original work right to the end of his life. He was recommended by his doctor to try living in a warmer climate, and so he and his wife moved to Majorca with their five dogs -
Finding the books: first editions of the Jerry books with dustjackets can be pricey. Both books were reprinted many times; The Joker and Jerry with a different, non-
Links and sources
Roy Heron -
An article on Cecil Aldin, concentrating on his dog pictures.
Vulpes Libris’ excellent blog post on Cecil Aldin
Stella & Rose’s article on Cecil Aldin
A picture of the artist
Cecil Aldin: Time I Was Dead -
Equine non fiction written by Cecil Aldin
Ratcatcher to Scarlet
Scarlet to MFH
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1933
H F & G Witherby, 1935
Equine Titles illustrated by Cecil Aldin
R S Surtees: Jorrocks on ‘unting
R S Surtees: Handley Cross
Edward Arnold, 1912
Svend Fleuron: Wild Horses of Iceland
Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1933
Horse and pony stories illustrated by Cecil Aldin
Anna Sewell: Black Beauty
Eleanor Helme & Nance Paul: Jerry, the Story of an Exmoor Pony
Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 1930
Eleanor Helme & Nance Paul: The Joker and Jerry
Eyre & Spottiswoode, London, 193
(later reprinted under the confusing title The Joker and Jerry Again, with a non-