Writers

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J.M. Barrie

Significant Scottish playwright and novelist, James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937) was in kinship care during his childhood.

James Matthew Barrie was the 2nd youngest child of Margaret and David Barrie who, at the time of James’ birth, lived in a small cottage in Kirriemuire in the burg of Angus with their 6 children; the oldest, 18 year old Alick, was away studying at Aberdeen University.

When James was 7, his 14-year-old brother, David, died. Faced with rejection by his grief-stricken mother, biographer Lisa Chaney argues that Jamie coped by telling stories and conducting performances. In August 1868, 8-year-old Jamie travelled by train by himself to Glasgow (a distance of about 158 km) where Alick was teaching and his sister Mary Ann was keeping house. The motive was to expand Jamie’s outlook and improve his education. Despite being well cared for, the boy was often homesick and lonely.

Jamie returned to live with his family when he was about 10 as his brother was training to become a school inspector and did not have time to care for the boy. When Alick took up a post as an inspector for schools in the district of Dumfries (about 261 km south west of Kirriemuire), he argued that Jamie would be better off at Dumfries Academy and Jamie moved in with Alick and Mary Ann again.

On finishing at Dumfries Academy, 18-year-old Jamie returned to his parents’ home in Kirriemuire before attending the University of Edinburgh for 4 yeas. In 1885, and against the advice of his family, James Barrie set off for London. Based in Bloomsbury, Barrie earned (at first) a modest living as a freelance journalist, writing for various periodicals and gradually making a name for himself. He published his first novel, Better Dead, in 1987. By 1888, Barrie had won the support of three influential magazine editors and was the author of 3 novels.

James Barrie married Mary Ansell (1861-1950) in 1894 and around 3 years later, while walking the family dog, Barrie met the Llewelyn-Davis family. As Barrie invented stories to entertain the 5 Llewelyn-Davis boys, he developed the character of Peter Pan. The first appearance of Peter Pan was in The Little White Bird in 1901, followed by the stage play, Peter Pan, in 1904.

After Arthur (1863-1907) and Sylvia (1866-1910) died, Barrie became one of the guardians of the 5 boys.