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James Matthew Barrie
Dumfries and Galloway

James Matthew Barrie and Dumfries & Galloway

James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937) was a playwright and novelist whose best known play was Peter Pan, which was first presented in 1904.

Association with Dumfries

He received most of his secondary education at Dumfries Academy and was granted the Freedom of the town in 1924.

Personal History

James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937J. M. Barrie was born on May 9, 1860, in Kirriemuir, Scotland. He was the ninth child and third son of David and Margaret ( Ogilvy ) Barrie. His father was a handloom weaver.

Barrie attended Glasgow Academy, Forfar Academy and Dumfries Academy. In 1887he enrolled in Edinburgh University, where he graduated in four years with a master's degree. He worked as a journalist for the Nottingham Journal before moving to London in 1885 to freelance.

When Barrie was six years old his older brother David died. Barrie set himself to console his mother, and later attributed this as his start down the road to becoming an author.

In 1894 he married the actress Mary Ansell. The marriage was childless and ended in divorce in 1909. However, he was friends with Arthur and Sylvia Llewellyn Davies, and when they died, became the legal guardian to their five sons: Peter, John, Michael, Nicholas and Arthur.

In later life, Barrie was struck by writer's cramp, and being ambidextrous, switched hands. He mentions in several places that what he wrote with his left hand had an altogether eerier quality than the more rational right.

Barrie died on 19th June 1937. His grave is in Kirriemuir cemetery, and his birthplace at 4, Brechin Road is maintained as a museum by the National Trust for Scotland.

Barrie's work

When he began writing stories and novels , he set the majority of the stories in a fictionalized version of Kirriemuir, which he called Thrums. Success came with a series of sketches of life (Thrums) contributed to the St. James Gazette, published in 1888 as Auld Licht Idylls, followed by When a Man's Single and A Window in Thrums (1889).

Peter Pan (1904) is a story of a boy who refuses to grow up and creates his own world of Indians, pirates and fairies. As the conceited leader of the Lost Boys of Never Land, he forever dodges the world of adulthood. It is said the material for 'Peter Pan' came out of the stories he spun for thethe Gordon boys, sons of a local solicitor whose family were then living at Moat Brae in Dumfries.

The play was adapted as a play with music (1950), and as a musical comedy (1954, revived in 1979) that was also performed on television. 'Peter Pan' was also made into a silent film (1924) and a feature-lenght animated cartoon (1952).

Barrie retold the play in narrative form as 'Peter and Wendy' (1911). Because he wanted his creation to benefit youngsters as much as possible, Barrie donated his rights to 'Peter Pan' to a London children's hospital.

Sherlock Holmes fans will know that Barrie was great friends with Conan Doyle (the only exception on Barrie's cricket team, the Allahackbarries, to whom the rule "The more successful they were as authors, the worse they played" never applied). Together Barrie and Doyle wrote wrote the libretto for Jane Annie, a light opera at the savoy, and Barrie wrote a Sherlock Holmes parody to commemorate the occasion.

His dramatised adaption of The Little Minister was enormously successful, persuading him to write increasingly for the stage. Notable amongst his early plays are Quality Street (1902), The Admirable Crichton (1902) and What Every Woman Knows (1908).

Honours followed - a baronetcy in 1913, the Order of Merit in 1922, the Rectorship of St.Andrews University, to whom he delivered a moving address on Courage (1922), and the Chancellorship of Edinburgh University.

His later plays include Dear Brutus (1917), Mary Rose (1920) and The Boy David (1936). A final work of fiction, the ghost-story Farewell Miss Julie Logan, appeared in 'The Times' in 1931.

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