“Hi-yo, Silver, away!” the Lone Ranger used to cry at the end of each episode. Silver, as the name suggests was a magnificent grey horse, the trusty steed of one of the most popular heroes of children’s TV in the 1950s and early 60s. I imagine this is why the rocking horse in the black and white photograph on my study wall is a grey.
Mounted on sturdy springs and a red metal frame, his mane was moulded rubber, as were his ears, his flowing tail and even the saddle. Only the reins and the straps holding the metal spurs were leather. The rest of the harness was red plastic with “silver” metal studs.
Seated astride this impressive, metal cast, beast is a boy not yet three-years-old, dressed in his Sunday best clothes (including that bane of small boys of the era – the bow tie on an elastic loop around his collar). The boy looks a little uncomfortable, in that way that children being told to strike and hold a pose often do. He’s looking down and to his left, where a small woman with glowing cheeks, lies propped up in her sick bed. The woman smiles up at the little boy, whilst holding a Pekingese dog firmly on the edge of her bed.
The dog was called Joey. The woman was my nanna (the term ‘grandma’ was strictly forbidden). The boy, of course, was me.
Lifting the photo out of its frame and turning it over, I find a typed copy of the story which accompanied the original newspaper edition.
“The secret wish of MRS HILDA HARRIS of 15 Nevis Grove, Astley Bridge, Bolton, (who has been in bed for the last three weeks with rheumatic fever) was for a rocking horse for her three-year-old grandson, MARTIN, who is a “hole on the heart” baby.
The Daily Mirror granted Mrs Harris’s wish and presented Martin with a beautiful big rocking horse.”
That plastic harness would one day get me in trouble. I’ll tell you all about it, tomorrow.
Read Martin’s story A Bedroom With A View