The Little Grey Men – B.B.

The Little Grey Men - B.B.

The Little Grey Men was written in 1942 by Denys James Watkins-Pitchford MBE under the ‘nom de plume’ of B. B. It was written as a children’s book but although I loved the book I am not sure it would appeal to ‘the yoof of today’, well not unless they were tweed wearing yoofs. It has a sort of middle class Edwardian feel to it and although I would not call it a picture book there are many small illustrations by the author amongst its pages.

The story is of the last gnomes in Britain (well three of them, Sneezewort, Baldmoney and Dodder) who go in search of the of the fourth, their brother Cloudberry who a year previously went in search of the source of the stream. Two of the brothers,  Baldmoney and Sneezewort build a boat called the Dragonfly and head upstream. The remaining brother Dodder (who did not want to go originally)  starts to miss them and tries to catch up by getting a lift on the back of an otter. The boat falls foul of a watermill, Baldmoney and Sneezewort are forced to abandon ship and the dragonfly is presumed lost. Dodder and the otter discover the boat and eventually all three brothers are reunited. After several adventures including killing the giant (human) Grum by putting leaves down the barrel of his shotgun they get marooned on poplar island because under the effects of sea sickness they did not tie the boat up properly and it really does sink this time.

All looks lost as there is no food on the island and all they can do is pray to the god Pan. The next day a small boy that they had seen earlier gets a large model clockwork steamer for his birthday. He fills it with cargo (blackberrys and sweets) and his mother puts it in the lake but neglects to set the rudder. The next morning Dodder finds the boat (which is called the Jeanie Deans) on the island. He works out how to use is (there was a spare clockwork key on board) and they proceed further up the stram for a while but it is getting cold and the stream is getting too small for the boat so they sail it back home where they find Cloudberry who had not gone to the source of the stream at all but got a lift with some geese to Spitzbergen.

There is a sequel to this book entitled Down the Bright Stream and anyone that enjoyed the book might be interested in The Little Grey Men Trail in Northamptonshire.