News | 27 February 2024

In honour of our late Club President, Kathy Peyton

Laura Thorogood recently gave this wonderful address about Kathy Peyton at her funeral that we wanted to share with all our members.
Kathy Peyton 2nd August 1929 – 19th December 2023
Essex Farmers Branch of the Pony Club was founded just after the war, over 75 years ago, and run by a group of farmers for many years, hence the name. Now the members are no longer only farmers’ children, but come from all walks of life, but we still rely on the parents input to help run our rallies, competitions and camps.
Kathy became involved in Pony Club because Hilary was a member, and so started many years of volunteering.  She was the clubs’ inaugural secretary and held the post for a number of years. She continued to volunteer for the rest of her life, and was awarded the prestigious Cubitt award to prove it! She later went on to become Branch President, a position which she took very seriously. Always encouraging the members and dishing out hospitality and charm to the land owners who we rely so heavily upon.
She always took a keen interest in the members, from when they were tiny tots on the lead rein through to their teenage years, and potentially representing the branch at competitions. She particularly liked looking at the names and dates on the club trophies at camp prize giving. She had an amazing memory for the past members and their ponies, and often had a story to tell, especially if the story involved some mischief. Kathy was particularly keen on good horsemanship and enjoyed seeing our members develop their skills. She had a genuine and deep affinity with horses and ponies.
I was lucky enough to spend some time with Kathy, from her 70th birthday onwards. Her birthday celebrations fell in camp week. We celebrated her 70th birthday at summer senior camp, which that year we held at Towerlands Equestrian Centre in Braintree, as it was becoming increasingly difficult to find land owners willing and able to host 44 teenagers, horses and ponies, their respective living accommodation, mess tent etc. etc. Funny that! She really felt that Essex Farmers camp should stay in Essex Farmers country and kindly offered us Rookery Cottage grounds to have a few rallies. I guess these went OK from her point of view because she then offered her home as a venue for senior camp. I’m sure there were many times when she regretted this decision but for the branch it offered our members eight years of incredible camps, and the opportunity to forge life long friendships, as well as bonding with their horses and ponies.
We actually were quite a nuisance, from blowing all of hers and Hilary’s electrics on an almost daily basis, to using so much water that they were unable to use their washing machines. Our saving grace though was the large pile of horse manure we left behind. Kathy’s roses were legendary!
Our members have very fond memories of her twice daily visits, always accompanies by the lovely Jacko, and she took time to speak, and most importantly, listen to them. They in turn were very proud of their ‘famous’ author host and President and many a discussion was had about her pony books at hot chocolate time.
Coming back to camp prize giving at the end of the week. I think Kathy presided over these for about 20 years. Never happy about the lack of silver polish on the cups as they came back from last years’ winner. She was utterly charming, but woe betide any member who forgot to say thank you, or in the case of the boys, remove their hat to receive a prize.
Kathy was quite traditional and was somewhat alarmed when during this period, pony club equipment went from being all things black and brown to being all things bright and glittery, and mainly pink and purple. With typical alacrity, she managed to ‘rub along’ with this trend, although I suspect, never quite approving.
The current committee were thrilled that Kathy was able to attend her favourite rally last summer. This was a picnic ride with our youngest members, along the bridleway on the old Railway Line, which she had fought to keep open for horse riders in the 1970s, eventually having to win the battle in court. Hilary tells me this was one of her favourite days in 2023. She was, no doubt, glad to see her vision for the branch was continuing under the current committee.
Kathy’s message lives on through The Presidents’ words on our Branch Website.
‘So enjoy your membership and don’t be afraid at the beginning of making mistakes. You will make friends for life and in your old age remember the wonderful days in our lovely Essex countryside.’