I learned a few days ago of the death of Mrs. Ailie Newall, breeder of the Dene Fell Ponies in Northumberland. I had the pleasure of first meeting Mrs. Newall in 2005 at the Fell Pony Society Stallion and Colt Show. Then in 2008 I interviewed her for an article for the Fell Pony Express, the newsletter of the Fell Pony Society of North America. Since then we’ve talked on the phone a few times and exchanged Christmas cards.
In the last letter I received from Mrs. Newall, she said, “I still have eighteen Fells ranging from 30 years old down to 2 year olds, and of course my stallion Rebel…. I also have sixteen Shetlands. They all live outside but are hayed and the Shetlands get a trough feed. I love your picture of Fells in the snow.”
Mrs. Newall always wrote on her stud stationery or sent a card featuring her ponies. One of the cards she sent me is pictured here. The hand-written caption on the back indicates that this is a painting by Tom Carr, done in 1964. The inscription says, “3 champion Dene Mares & Foals: Dauntless, Black Beauty, Honor, with champion Roundthwaite Lucky Jim.” Lucky Jim was her much beloved stallion that she found in Cumberland. “He suited every mare and was the perfect gentleman. In Cumberland he ran with cattle and sheep, but he had such a wonderful temperament; we were on his back in just a week.”
One of the things that Mrs. Newall and I had in common was that we called our ponies our best friends. I had been meaning to call her and talk to her about these friendships. When I didn’t receive a card from Mrs. Newall this Christmas, I feared I had put the conversation off too long. This week’s news confirmed that the Dene Fell Ponies had indeed lost their best friend. Likewise, the Fell Pony breed has lost one of its ardent supporters. Thank you, Mrs. Newall, for all that you did for Fell Ponies.