J. M. Barrie’s creation Peter Pan is one of the most enduring fictional characters in British literature, best known for his eternal youth. Neverland, the fictional land occupied by Peter and his pals, is the other creation of Barrie’s which has caught the public imagination, with its landmarks including Neverwood, Neverpeak Mountain, the Maze of Regrets and Pixie Hollow.
So what is the origin of this fabled land? J. M. Barrie was born in 1860 in Kirriemuir, in Angus, just under 20 miles north of Dundee, and spent his early years sharing the family home, a typical weaver's house, with his large family. The countryside around Kirriemuir is enhanced by views of the snow-capped Cairngorm Mountains, which may have contributed to Barrie’s imaginings of Neverland. However, it is a property on the other side of Scotland at Dumfries that is credited as being the birthplace of Peter Pan.
|J. M. Barrie's birthplace. Photo by Richard Slessor, via Wikimedia Commons|
Barrie moved to Dumfries from Kirriemuir in 1873, where he stayed with his older brother and attended the Dumfries Academy. While at the Academy he began to hone his writing skills, writing for the school magazine. From the ages of 13 to 18 Barrie frequented the Georgian house known as Moat Brae, built in the 1820s, where he played pirate games with his friends in the grounds surrounding the property, described by him as the ‘enchanted land’. It was these exploits that were to provide the inspiration for the Peter Pan story.
|Moat Brae house. Photo by Darrin Antrobus, via Wikimedia Commons|
Today, the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, with Joanna Lumley as its patron, is trying to raise money to create a National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling, complete with an adventure garden to give the kids a chance to recreate Barrie’s childhood activities. Meanwhile, back in Kirriemuir, the NationalTrust for Scotland has taken ownership of Barrie’s birthplace, located at 4 Brechin Road. The house is stuffed full of exhibits and memorabilia pertaining to the author. Fans of Barrie who want to visit the grave where he was buried upon his death in 1937 will find it in Kirriemuir Cemetery.
|Barrie's grave. Photo by Darrin Antrobus, via Wikimedia Commons|
Map of Dumfries