October 23, 2014
JM Barrie’s childhood academy to become center for children’s literature
by Julia Fleischaker
In the late 1800’s, JM Barrie spent five years at the Dumfries Academy in southwest Scotland, and later credited the bucolic location with inspiring his classic children’s story Peter Pan. After a tenuous few years threatened by the wrecking ball, a local campaign has succeeded in saving the historic townhouse, called Moat Brae. A trust, supported by Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley, has secured funding and is now moving forward with turning the grounds into Scotland’s first center for children’s literature.
Moat Brae had fallen into disrepair after becoming a hospital, then a nursing home, in the 20th century, but was saved from demolition by a local trust in 2011. Supported by the actor Joanna Lumley, the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust has since been raising funds to repair and restore the existing building and gardens.
According to the website of The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust, they will “conserve, celebrate, promote and make accessible the unique mix of heritage at Moat Brae: the House, the Garden and its literary associationsm,” and their vision includes “inspiring exhibitions and activities which will enable visitors to learn about, experience, and enjoy the built, natural and literary heritage it affords.” The Moat Brae house itself will be restored, and the gardends surrounding will be “reinvented” as Neverland.
Barrie himself reflected on the importance of the location in December 1924, when he was awarded the Freedom of the Burgh of Dumfries. Referring to his time there as one of the happiest of his life, he said:
“… when the shades of night began to fall, certain young mathematicians shed their triangles, crept up walls and down trees, and became pirates in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan. For our escapades in a certain Dumfries Garden, which is enchanted land to me, were certainly the genesis of that nefarious work”.
The plan for the property is described in detail here, and there’s a slideshow of Barrie’s time at the academy here.
Julia Fleischaker is the director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.