When the owner of a Yorkshire coal-mine decides to mechanize to increase profits, the mine's pit ponies are scheduled to be destroyed. So, three children plan to steal them to keep them ...
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When the owner of a Yorkshire coal-mine decides to mechanize to increase profits, the mine's pit ponies are scheduled to be destroyed. So, three children plan to steal them to keep them safe. But when they're caught, it's up to the mine owners and the miners themselves to decide what's right.Written by
Alastair Sim, in his last screen role, tasks the manager of his colliery with making it profitable. The proposed solution is to install machines to move the coal about and retire the pit ponies -- and by 'retire' is meant 'send them to the knackers.' Three of the children in the neighborhood work out a scheme to save them.
There's some inconsistency in the writing in this script, particularly in the way Sim's character behaves; it's surprising given the writers: Burt Kennedy and Rosemary Ann Sisson. I also never saw children who could muck about in coal pits and remain so clean as the three the movie centers on, not to mention pit ponies. Nonetheless, the performances are excellence, and Chloe Franks gives a particularly lively and engaging performance. Good location shooting in Yorkshire adds to the pleasures of the film. All in all, it's a strong Disney movie, with milder humor and some actual fear and sadness under the direction of Charles Jarrott.
Equines of many types were used in the mines. In the US, it was mostly mules, but in Britain, it was ponies, who could move through the confined spaces more easily. the first recorded use of ponies was in Durham about 1750. In 1887 the British government began to regulate their use, and the Pit Ponies' Protection Society (later the National Equine Defense League) was founded in 1907. Ponies' use peaked in 1913, with an estimated 70,000 working underground. Use declined with rising mechanization, and the last known pit pony, "Robbie" retired from a Welsh mine in 1999. The last known living pit pony was Tony who died in 2011 aged 40 at the Newcastle Cat and Dog Shelter.
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