Joanna Cannan

Joanna Cannan

Joanna Cannan (1898-1961) was a writer of pony books and detective books. Her pony books were aimed primarily at children.

Youngest daughter of Oxford don Charles Cannan and Mary Wedderburn, also cousin of Gilbert Cannan, it is perhaps her children she is best known for, being mother to Josephine Pullein-Thompson, Diana Pullein-Thompson, Christine Pullein-Thompson and Denis Cannan. One of three daughters, she was the sister of the poet May Cannan, also sister of Dorothea Cannan and grandmother to Charlotte Popescu, Phillip, Mark and Lucy. In addition she was a great grandmother to 8 children (Oliver, Daniel, Anna, Benjamin, Thomas and Hamish, Edwina and Maxwell).

Though born and brought up in Oxford, she had a fondness for Scotland, which was the destination for many family holidays and part of her maternal heritage. Her ancestors participated in some of the seminal events in Scottish history, such as the Jacobite rising and Battle of Culloden. [ Pullein-Thompson, i] It is no surprise, then, that many of her books are set there. The wilds of Roshven in the West Highlands must have seen a dramatic and romantic location in comparison to sedate Oxford, especially when the Cannan children were 'provided with an unrelenting diet of boys' adventure stories'. [ Pullein-Thompson, vii]

During World War I she became a VAD nurse; it was during her nursing duties in Oxford when she met her future husband Captain Harold J "Cappy" Pullein-Thompson, whom she married in 1918. [ Pullein-Thompson, x] Although she became Joanna Cannan Pullein-Thompson, she only published as Joanna Cannan. As he was badly injured during the war, she was the main income for the family, producing a book every year until she died. After their marriage she moved to Wimbledon. Disapproving of traditional education, she encouraged her daughters to write and to be self-reliant. However she did impose a wide variety of strict house rules including "Don't talk horses at meals", a rule that was hard for her daughters to follow.

Most of her pony books were published before or during World War II; after the war she began to experiment with detective stories, because she felt the world she used to write about was beginning to disappear. [ Pullein-Thompson, xviii] In the early 1950s her health began to decline: she was evetually diagnosed with tuberculosis. [ Pullein-Thompson, xix] She died in 1961, four years after her husband.

A painting of Joanna Cannan is hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

As well as the books listed, she also contributed to a few magazines during her lifetime. =Books=

Pony Books

*"A Pony for Jean" (1936)
*"We Met Our Cousins" (1937)
*"Another Pony for Jean" (1938)
*"London Pride" (1939)
*"More Ponies for Jean" (1943)
*"They Bought Her A Pony" (1944)
*"Hamish: The Story of a Shetland Pony" (1944)
*"I Wrote A Pony Book" (1950)
*"Gaze at the Moon" (1957)

Dates unknown:-

*"The Vanguard Book of Ponies and Riding" (co-writer)

"We Met Our Cousins" was republished by Fidra Books in 2006 with a twenty page biography of the author by her daughter Josephine Pullein-Thompson. "London Pride" (the sequel to "We Met Our Cousins") is now available to buy from the same publisher.

Other books

*"The Tripled Crown. (A book of English, Scotch and Irish verse for the age of six to sixteen)" (co-author) (1908) [Like her daughters, this first book was written in collaboration with her sisters]
*"The Misty Valley" (1922)
*"Wild Berry Wine" (1925)
*"The Lady Of the Heights" (1926)
*"Sheila Both Ways" (1928)
*"The Simple Pass On" (1929)
*"No walls of Jasper" (1930)
*"Orphan of Mars" (1930)
*"The Hour of the Angel: Ithuriel's Hour" (1931)
*"High Table" (1931)
*"Snow In Harvest" (1932)
*"North Wall" (1933)
*"Under Proof" (1934)
*"The Hills Sleep On" (1935)
*"A Hand to Burn" (1936)
*"Frightened Angels" (1936)
*"Princes In The Land" (1936)
*"Pray Do Not Venture" (1937)
*"They Rang Up the Police" (1939)
*"Idle Apprentice" (1940)
*"Death at The Dog" (1940)
*"Blind Messenger" (1941)
*"Little I Understood" (1948)
*"Murder Included" (later republished as "A Taste of Murder" and in the USA as "Poisonous Relations")(1950) [ [ Ruemorgue Press' page on Joanna Cannan] ]
*"And all I learned" (1951)
*"Body In The Beck" (1952)
*"Long Shadows" (1955)
*"People to be found" (1956)
*"And be a Villain" (1958)
*"All is Discovered" (1962)

Dates unknown:-

*"The Lady Of The Valley
*"Oxfordshire" (non-fiction) [Date is unknown for this book, as all early copies held by the British Library are undated, but it is thought to date from the mid 1940s]

Persephone Books are also republishing "Princes In the Land".


*"London Pride", Introduction by Josephine Pullein-Thompson, Edinburgh: Fidra Books, 2007
*"British Library"
*"Rue Morgue Press"



* [ A useful article about collecting old pony books, featuring her works and those of her daughters]
* [ Fidra Books page about Joanna Cannan]
* [ An article devoted to the author, including book scans]
* [ Persephone's page about the author]
* [ Persphone's page about her book "Princes In The Land"; also contains more information about the author]

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