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The Old Man of Lochnagar
The Old Man of Lochnagar.jpg
Author Charles, Prince of Wales
Illustrator Hugh Casson
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's fiction
Publisher Hamish Hamilton
Publication date
November 1980
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 46
ISBN 0-241-10527-7
OCLC 219806186

The Old Man of Lochnagar is a children's book written by Charles, Prince of Wales, and illustrated by Sir Hugh Casson. The story revolves around an old man who lives in a cave in the cliffs surrounding the corrie loch under the Lochnagar, a mountain which overlooks the royal estate at Balmoral in Scotland where the Royal Family spend much of their summer holidays.

The story of the old man of Lochnagar was one Prince Charles had told some years earlier to entertain his brothers, Andrew and Edward, when they were young. The book was published in 1980 in aid of The Prince's Trust charity.

The book was later made into an animated short film by the BBC, with Robbie Coltrane providing the voice of the hermit and Prince Charles narrating. The film was titled The Old Man of Lochnagar in the UK and The Legend of Lochnagar in North America. The book was also adapted into a musical stage play. In 1984, Prince Charles read the story on the BBC children's programme Jackanory. He has also read it in Welsh and Scottish Gaelic translations on television.

In 2007, National Youth Ballet of Great Britain received permission from the Prince of Wales to create a new ballet based on the story. With choreography by Drew McOnie and a commissioned score by Nigel Hess, the ballet received its première at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London on 14 October 2007 and was performed from 24 to 27 October at Leatherhead Theatre in Surrey.


The story starts with Prince Charles entertaining some bored children at Balmoral. He tells them about an old man who, in search of peace and quiet (and a hot spring bath), has made his way to a remote cave at Lochnagar. He comes across a cave and, dragging a bathtub inside, claims the place as his own. The old man makes a lot of noise and mentions that his neighbours used to complain about the banging and noise coming from his home late at night. He chats to an animal he names Maudie, the original occupant of the cave, while setting up the apparatus for running his long awaited bath.

Finally, all is ready and the Old Man appears in his tartan dressing gown, ready to step into the bath. But, as he jumps in, he realises that the water is freezing and his squeals echo round the loch. He tells Maudie that he will have to wait for a bath until he has found a way of heating the water, and pulls the plug on his full bath.

Unknown to the Old Man, his cave is near the underground home of the Gorm, a clan of Scottish pixies, who are responsible for pushing up the spring flowers in Scotland. The Gorm King is an inventor, and has created a curious device (which looks and sounds like a set of bagpipes) which reduces full grown flowers back to seeds. The seed will turn back into a flower when it gets wet and the Gorm Queen and Princess declare that the King has changed the way everyone will work from now on. However, as they are discussing this, a flood pours down unexpectedly from above. When the Old Man emptied his bath, the water followed his complicated arrangements of pipes and into the Gorm's underground workshops, ruining the flowers and flooding out the workers. The Princess and her younger brother end up being washed away from their parents and come out of a tree stump alone and wet. They look up to find a 'giant', tending to a huge pot over a roaring fire and the young Prince fears that they will be made into soup.

In fact the 'giant' is the Old Man, who has found a way to heat his bath by lighting a huge fire underneath it. As he waits, still in his tartan dressing gown, he is suddenly hit by the Gorm King's device, which has been picked up by the young Princess. He immediately shrinks to the size of a pixie and is taken away by the Prince and Princess, to see what his bathwater has done to their home. At first, he thinks he is having a strange dream, and so he appears callously unconcerned at the devastation, stating only that "I've never dreamed in colour before". This delusion lasts until he falls down a hole, hitting his head. As he exclaims at the pain in his head, it dawns on the Old Man that since you can't feel pain in a dream, what he's seen must be real and the damage is his fault.

The Prince and Princess take the Old Man back outside but, to their shock, the whole world seems to be on fire. The fire underneath the Old Man's bath has spread and is threatening the countryside. The Old Man offers to help, but he needs to be bigger before he can do anything. The Princess is reluctant to help the Old Man, but she relents and tells him that he needs to 'get watered'. With the help of Maudie, the Old Man is catapulted into his bath and returns to normal size. He pulls the plug again, flooding the area and putting out the fire, while protecting the pixies' underground home from further damage.

The Old Man has learned that his actions affect others and that he must think of the consequences. The story ends with the Gorm sharing a huge bath with the Old Man, complete with water wheels and boats. When he is finished, the Old Man drains his bath using more of his special plumbing skills to reuse the water to reactivate the magic seeds and causing flowers to pop up all around.

The story closes on the Old Man of Lochnagar and returns to Balmoral and Prince Charles. The children tell him that it was a good story, but that's all, just a story. Charles replies that you never really know, and lifts a set of bagpipes from his desk and begins to play. After a few notes, the Prince is affected in the same way as the Old Man, shrinking to a tiny size and suggesting that his story was inspired by true events. The children he has been entertaining then race off through the house to find the bathtub, to restore the Prince to his rightful size.

Links to Gaelic folklore

The Gorm, meaning "Blue", may have been inspired by "Na Fir Ghorma", the Blue Men, a tribe of faeries reputed to live in The Minch or similar folklore stories. The same idea of blue-skinned fairy folk is also to be seen in The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett.

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