J M Barrie
image: Wikipedia/National Media Museum

 

James Matthew Barrie (normally referred to as J M Barrie) was born at Kirremuir, Scotland, on the 9th May 1860, and became a well-known playwright.

In 1894 he married actress Mary Ansell, who bought Black Lake Cottage, adjoining Alice Holt Forest in Farnham. Barrie wrote the plays Peter Pan (1904) and Dear Brutus (1917) at Black Lake Cottage.

Black Lake Cottage was a summer retreat from Kensington, and here he entertained the Llewellyn Davies family, who rented a cottage at Tilford to be near him. Barrie made a book using photographs of the Llewelyn Davies boys that he took during one summer. He created a story out of the pictures, The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island (1901). He made two copies, one for himself, and one for the boys but the boys’ father left their copy on the train, so only one copy of this book exists. Black Lake near the cottage became the South Sea Lagoon in the book. Barrie’s dedication in the first published edition of Plays of J M Barrie (1928) suggests the games with the boys at Black Lake Cottage were the inspiration for his play. He became the boys ‘adopted uncle’ after the death of their father in 1907 and mother in 1910. Further tragedy occurred when George Llewelyn Davies was killed in 1915, and Michael Llewelyn Davies drowned in 1921. J M Barrie and the Lost Boys by Andrew Birkin (1979) has many pictures of the boys at Black Lake.

Barrie’s play, Peter Pan, opened at the Duke of York’s Theatre, on December 27th 1904. The Jekyll family believe that while visiting Munstead Wood he thought of the name Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Barrie was later to be best man at the wedding of Bernard Freyberg and Barbara McLaren (nèe Jekyll), Gertrude Jekyll’s niece in 1922. In 1929, Barrie gave the copyright of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, and the hospital has received royalties from all Peter Pan play productions, books and products.

In 2003 a new Peter Pan film was made. Rachel Hurd-Wood, aged 13, from Godalming played Wendy Darling, having only acted in Rodborough Technology College plays. Her uncle is actor Hugh Laurie.

Barrie, a keen cricket player formed his own amateur cricket team, the ‘Allahakbarries’, an Arabic word and his surname. He held an annual cricket week, practising on the cricket-sized lawn at Black Lake Cottage. They played at Tilford, Pasture Wood near Goddards, and on Sir Edgar Horne’s private pitch on Hall Place Estate, now Aldro School, in Shackleford. In 1890 Barrie published Allahakbarries C C.

Barrie divorced in 1909, and was knighted in 1913

Barrie died on the 19th June 1937 and was buried in the family grave at Kirremuir, where he was born.

Godalming Museum © 2010

 

 

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