by Alison MacRae
Celtic Guide magazine
Memories, such wonderful memories, growing up in Glasgow.
I was brought up during the live theatre era of pantomimes. December always brings to mind the pantomimes. It was non-stop, going to the theatre to see them.
One of my top favourites always done at Christmas time was Peter Pan.
The novel Peter Pan was published on 27 December 1904. The "Peter Pan" movie was released in 1953. I don't know anybody that has not read the novel or seen the movie that didn't enjoyed going into that world of fantasy.
The author was J.M.Barrie, shown below.
James Matthew Barrie was born in Kirriemuir, in the Burgh of Angus, Scotland, on the 9th May 1860.
I found it interesting that Kirriemuir it was identified with witchcraft, and some of the still older houses feature a "witches stand to ward of evil".
Also of significance is that the Kirriemuir Sculptured Stones are a series of Class 11 and 111 Pictish stones that date back to the 9th and 10th century.
From an early age, James Barrie was not just into storytelling but also acting out his stories.
At only 5.3 1/2 in. tall, he was the smallest of his ten siblings.
He had two older siblings who taught at the Glasgow Academy, so at the young age of 8 he was sent to the Academy (which is a co-educational independent day school for pupils aged 3 - 18. Founded in 1845 it is the oldest continuously fully independent school in Glasgow).
After a few years, James went on to Dumfries Academy. This is when he and his friends formed a club and spent a lot of time in the garden playing pirates. Later he would use his pirates in his Peter Pan story, and who can ever forget Captain Hook?
He was such a voracious reader and huge imagination which comes out in the in his writing. James wanted to follow a career as an author, his family wanted him to choose the Ministry. He was able to work out a compromise and would attend the University and study literature. He went to Edinburgh University where he also wrote drama reviews for a newspaper. He graduated and obtained a Master of Arts Degree in 1882.
He then worked for a while as a staff journalist. He returned to Kirriemuir and wrote stories and submitted them to a London newspaper where the editor liked them so much he called it "That Scottish thing." He ended up writing stories for them. These served as the basis for his first novels.
On 9 July 1884, Barrie married a young actress named Mary Ansell. He divorced Mary in 1909, Mary had not been faithful to him and this was something he could not tolerate. He did continue to support Mary after she had re-married by giving her an annual allowance.
In 1893 James wrote a comic opera called "Jane Annie" with Ernest For did the music and the libretto by Conan Doyle. This was brought about as Gilbert and Sullivan had disbanded their partnership.
The Theatres were struggling to find new work. This opera was closed after one-night in London. This was the first real flop the Savoy Theatre had.
This was before Barrie's success with his fantasy world of Peter Pan.
It was in 1897 that James met the Llewelyn Davies family. He used to go for walks in the Kensington Gardens where the nurse with the Llewelyn Davies children also took walks. He befriended them and he used to entertain them regularly with his imagination and storytelling. The boys were part of his inspiration in writing the Peter Pan novel.
The character of Peter Pan was born to entertain George and Jack and baby Peter Llewelyn Davies. He would say that their little brother Peter could fly. He claimed that babies were birds before they were born and that was why parents put bars on the windows so they could not fly away. This is what grew into a tale of a baby boy who did fly away.
The Llewelyn Davies family parents both died young. Sylvia Jocelyn du Maurier was the mother of the boys, her husband was Arthur Llewelyn Davis. Daphne du Maurier the famous author was a cousin to the boys.
James became a regular part of their lives. He became the boys' trustee and guardian, along with their maternal grandmother. They called him Uncle Jim.
Adventures in Kensington Gardens along with Peter Pan story began as one chapter and grew into a book-within-a-book, and more than a hundred pages during the four years he worked on the novel, making it two novels by the time he had finished.
In 1913 James was appointed a baronet by King George V. He was later made a member of the Order of Merit in 1922.
In 1929, before he died, he had made the Great Osmond Street Hospital (previously known as Children's hospital for sick children) the recipient of playwright copyright of Peter Pan.
James died of pneumonia at a nursing home in London on June 19, 1937. He was buried next to his parents and two of his siblings in Kirriemuir. The home he was born in 10 Brechin Road is maintained as a museum by the National Trust for Scotland.
They are 6 Peter Pan Bronze sculptures by Sr. George Frampton, located in Egmont Park, Brussels, St. John's Newfoundland, Canada. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Queens Park, Western Australia, New Jersey, U.S.A.
In the town of Kerrimuir, there is also a Peter Pan Statue. It was commissioned by either the now-defunct Angus Mining Company Limited or its associate company, Hamlyn Milling Limited.
I believe my love for Peter Pan, inspired me to write a children's novel based on faeries. After all who did not love the faerie Tinkerbell?
ABOVE: Bronze statue of Peter Pan located in Kenisington Gardens, London, England.
BELOW: A drawing of Peter Pan, with a pirate ship in the background – just one of many drawings, statures, films, plays, books, and articles revolving around this lovable character.