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JUNE 19th

On this day in history in 1937, died J M Barrie.

Barrie was a journalist, dramatist and novelist, best remembered for his creation of the character Peter Pan. 

Barrie was born in 1860, at Kirriemuir, Angus, the son of a weaver. He was educated at Dumfries Academy and Edinburgh University. His childhood was blighted by the sudden death of a brother and the consequent anguish of his mother, who never recovered from the shock. It is said that Barrie subconsciously wished to recover the happy years, before his family was stricken, and so preserved childlike traits in adulthood.  

Barrie worked for the Nottingham Journal, before moving to London, in 1885, to begin his writing career. His early novels set in Kirriemuir, called Thrums in the texts, were highly sentimental, yet humorous, sketches featuring a small boy whose life pivots between fantasy and reality.

In 1894, Barrie married actress, Mary Ansell. The marriage was childless and, according to some commentators, unconsummated. In 1897, Barrie became attached to Sylvia Llewellyn Davies, an aunt of Daphne du Maurier, and her husband and their five sons.  He became almost a surrogate father to the boys and invented the Peter Pan stories for their amusement. The play, Peter Pan, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, first appeared in 1904. It featured the theme of a boy hero of a fantasy world, prevailing over evil forces, represented by the squalid symbol of maturity, Captain Hook, whose nemesis is a crocodile, with an alarm clock in its belly, representative of death. The play was an immediate hit and has continued in popularity ever since. Barrie donated the royalties to the Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Barrie was divorced in 1910 and Sylvia Llewellyn Davies died four months later. Barrie was appointed guardian to her five sons. Barrie was created baronet in 1913, awarded the Order of Merit in 1922. He became Chancellor of Edinburgh University in 1930.

Barrie died in 1937 and is buried in Kirriemuir Cemetery [Kirriemuir Cemetery, Kirriemuir, Angus DD8 4DJ], alongside his parents and brother, David. There is a museum to his honour in the house where he was born, which includes original manuscripts, and where you can see the washhouse, which was the inspiration for the Wendy House in Peter Pan. [9 Breechin Road, Kirriemuir, Angus, DD8 4BX]

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