Wednesday, 16 July 2014

J.M. Barrie and Kirriemuir

Statue of Peter Pan in
the Kirriemuir town square

Courtesy of the BBC
So most of you lovely readers know my particular love (see: obsession) with Peter Pan, right?  Well the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, was born in Scotland, in a little town named Kirriemuir which is in the Dundee & Angus region.  During our research day in Scotland, I decided to take a journey to Kirriemuir to see the town as well as the J.M. Barrie Birthplace Museum. I had originally been planning on writing my research paper on J.M. Barrie, but as things go, this did not work out. However, I was still set on visiting the museum.

It was a little more convoluted to get to Kirriemuir than I had originally thought. I had to take a train to Dundee, then walk completely across the town to the bus station to catch a bus to Kirriemuir.  The day I decided to go was very rainy and dreary, which doesn't make for pleasant travel when you know where you are going, let alone when you don't.  Needless to say, by the time I made it to Kirriemuir, I was almost fed up with the whole experience.

But I wasn't going to give up that easily. Who knows when I will have the chance to visit Scotland again?  I got off the bus in the middle of Kirriemuir and began wandering.  Even though the town does not seem like the biggest tourist destination, there were thankfully some signs pointing me toward the house.

For some reason, I was expecting the museum to be bigger and more elaborate than it actually was, but upon more thought, I realized that it was just right; it was supposed to be a recreation of Barrie's childhood home, and it utilized the space very nicely.

The museum shared the space between Barrie's house (number 9) and the adjoining house (number 11). Most of the museum was presented in the upper rooms of Barrie's house, recreated to look as it would have when Barrie lived there as a child.  I was not able to take pictures myself of the inside, as many of the documents and photographs were still under copyright, but I was able to find some online.

The National Trust of Scotland manages the museum, and has created a wonderful museum with the the little they had.  The lady working at the museum informed me that Barrie was one of Scotland's first celebrities, and he was very well known and very popular while still alive. People would take pilgrimages to Kirriemuir to see his house and the gardens where he would perform his first plays as a child.  Barrie loved his hometown and the people that lived there so much that he would give away his possessions to friends and family in Kirriemuir. Much of what was in the museum were items donated to the National Trust from ancestors of these friends and family.

Here are a few images from the inside of the museum, borrowed from the BBC and from National Trust Scotland:

The second picture shows what could very well have been Barrie's office when he got older. From what I was told, the furniture in the room was original to the house, and the desk in the center was Barrie's writing desk.  One really interesting piece of information I learned from this room was that Barrie wrote with both his left and right hand, so there were scuff marks on the desk on both sides from where his arm would rest as he wrote.  Under the glass of the desk was the original screenplay manuscript for Peter Pan. The museum supplied visitors with a copy of the manuscript to flip through and see Barrie's notes written in the margins.

After I visited the museum, I went in search for the Camera Obscura that Barrie donated to the town. Unfortunately, after walking for a good half hour and not finding anything, I had to give up and make my trek back to Edinburgh. I did look at a map later, after I got home and realized that I was most likely very close to making it to the Camera before I turned around, which was extremely disheartening.  Hopefully I will make it back to the town and the museum one day.

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