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15 Sept 2023

New Peter Pan memorabilia at J M Barrie’s Birthplace

Written by Paul Williams
Programme from the early stage productions of Peter Pan at the Duke of York Theatre in London, dating back to 1905
A collection of memorabilia of Peter Pan’s first stage shows from the turn of the century have been donated to our charity to add to the magic of J M Barrie’s Birthplace.

The items – including programmes from the first UK and US productions of the stage show dating back to 1905 and 1906 respectively, alongside other memorabilia – have been donated to our charity, which cares for the birthplace of the successful playwright and author J M Barrie in Kirriemuir, Angus, where he was born in 1860.

We received the donated items from a private collection of Peter Pan memorabilia that was curated by Ms Christine De Poortere. Ms De Poortere, who managed the Peter Pan legacy for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity for 12 years until her retirement in 2016, established a personal collection of various Peter Pan memorabilia that she was unable to donate to Great Ormond Street as it had no museum, or place to display the items.

Ms Christine De Poortere said: ‘Over the years I looked after J M Barrie’s amazing gift to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), I had great fun collecting Peter Pan-related items, ranging from early theatre programmes, books and other memorabilia. They are witness to Peter Pan’s huge and timeless popularity from the start, and also show how every generation had their own vision of the story, long before Disney’s interpretation. Having retired a few years ago, I felt the time was right to part with the collection, but as GOSH no longer has a museum, J M Barrie’s Birthplace was the natural choice, as Kirriemuir was Peter Pan’s first Neverland. I am delighted the National Trust of Scotland has chosen some significant items which will enhance their own collections and displays.’

Images of the programme from the premiere of the US Peter Pan stage production, showing Hook and Pan

The collection of Peter Pan memorabilia will be displayed at J M Barrie’s former childhood home in Kirriemuir as part of a new exhibition that is set to be unveiled in March next year. Other items acquired by our conservation charity include a book of letters written by children to Pauline Chase, the actress who played Peter Pan between 1907–1914, a music sheet from the silent movie production and a US published Peter Pan puzzle story book.

Scott Byrne, Operations Manager for Angus, said: ‘J M Barrie, the man behind Pan, was born in Kirriemuir and spent his childhood at the home that we still care for and share today. He went on to establish a highly successful career as a playwright and author long before he wrote Peter Pan; the first stage production of the play was first performed at the Duke of York Theatre in London in December 1904 when Barrie was already 44 years old. He left Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital a lasting legacy by donating the royalties from performances of Peter Pan in perpetuity.

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“It feels like a natural fit for these items to return to his birthplace, which can also be considered the birthplace of Peter Pan, and we’re incredibly grateful to Ms De Poortere for the opportunity to add these important artefacts to our collection.”

‘The new items will enhance our knowledge and help us to add more colour and context to the origin story of the famous flying Peter Pan, the early UK stage productions and its successful transition to the US just a year later, that would be the catalyst for what would become a global phenomenon. Thanks to our members and supporters for their continued generosity in supporting the work we do to protect and share this special place, for future generations to enjoy.’

The new collection items at J M Barrie’s Birthplace supports our vision to provide access to nature, beauty and heritage for everyone as part of our 10-year strategy: this project contributes to our conservation and engagement objectives to provide inspiring heritage visitor experiences.

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