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BB and Fairy Belief December 4, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

BB (Denys Watkins-Pitchford, obit 1990) was a superlative writer and illustrator, who spent most of his time celebrating gnomes, the English countryside and fowling: his pseudonym comes from the BB shot used to bring down wild geese. For present purposes, we are interested in BB and gnomes for the man wrote two excellent gnome books The Little Grey Men (1942, winner of the Carnegie Award) and Down the Bright Stream (1948) that describe the last of England’s gnomes. There is also a fairy book: the Meeting Hill (1948). Beach read, many years ago, the first two, and can recommend them in the highest possible terms. He has not yet read the Meeting Hill, though he is intrigued.

Where did BB get his interest in gnomes from? According to the BB website – there are a lot of fans out there:

At the age of four a significant event occurred, which was to colour [BB’s] whole life.  It happened one bright summer evening in the nursery at the top of the house where he incontrovertibly saw a gnome.  Never was he to be shaken in his belief in the existence of the ‘little people’.

A Daily Telegraph article (thanks to Invisible for this) claims that B.B. ‘always swore that he actually saw a gnome, as a child, near the family home in Lamport, Northamptonshire, and he never lost an almost childlike mysticism.’ Childlike mysticism blah, blah, and this is in apparent contradiction with the first statement: unless there were two sightings? It would be useful to find the exact source, in which BB describes his witness account: or perhaps there are many different recountings. There is apparently no biography of B.B. though there is a lot of semi-autobiographical writings: e.g. A Child Alone. Perhaps somewhere there? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com  Also are there other books in which BB describes fairy beliefs or fairy traditions (fairy here including gnomes)?

Just to add something new into the brew. Beach recently came across a reference to a letter of BB in an archive (the letter does not to the best of my knowledge survive) in which B.B. allegedly described how a friend of his had a close experience with half a dozen fairies on a road in Devon (as you do). Let’s hope that there are other B.B. memories out there.