One historic use of the Fell Pony was for packing. Clive Richardson wrote in his most recent book on Fell ponies, “At one time over 300 Fell ponies left Kendal every working day for destinations all over the country carrying cargo as diverse as woolen stockings, fresh fish, tanned hides, live chickens and bolts of cloth.” (1) I have occasionally recreated this historic use of the breed, so anything that references it is usually of interest to me. A poem was recently brought to my attention for this reason.
As a child, I was given a card game called Authors. As I remember it, there were thirteen authors represented on cards, with four works by each author, making up the full deck. I played the game often enough with my brother and sister that the authors and their works were indelibly imprinted in my mind. Among the authors represented was Rudyard Kipling. His poem “A Smuggler’s Song” was the one brought to my attention the other day, so it had added interest because of its connection to my childhood. I did not know until I started poking around on the internet that Rudyard Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907.
While not about Fell Ponies explicitly, the poem does seem to capture two parts of the breed’s history: the first of course is packing and the second is its use for more illicit purposes, usually attributed to the Border Reivers. The poem also reflects the diversity of loads that the ponies carried, mirroring the citation from Richardson above. There are several versions of the poem on the internet: written, spoken, and sung.
Thank you to my friend Eddie McDonough, Fell Pony enthusiast extraordinaire, for bringing this poem to my attention.
1) Richardson, Clive, The Fell Pony. J.A. Allen, Allen Guides to Horse and Pony Breeds, 2000, p. 5.
(c) Jenifer Morrissey, 2012