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Friday 2 December 2016

Bookish Places: JM Barrie’s Birthplace

photos by Sarah Steed

The Kids' Book Review Bookish Places posts are a chance to celebrate museums, galleries and other places with a connection to children’s literature and reading. The posts are compiled by KBR's Consultant Librarian, Sarah Steed, our intrepid traveller and hunter-gatherer of amazing places!

JM Barrie’s Birthplace is a National Trust for Scotland property which you’ll find at 9 Brechin Road, Kirriemuir (be sure to check the opening hours before you make the trip as it’s not open all year round).

Kirriemuir is a rather picturesque town known as Scotland’s 'Gateway to the Glens', and JM Barrie’s Birthplace is a weaver’s cottage near the centre of town. Although he lived elsewhere for much of his life, he always had a strong connection to Kirriemuir, where his father was a weaver who worked from the family home. While it may look unassuming, it provides a fascinating peek into the life of the author who is now best known for writing Peter Pan.

JM Barrie birthplace

James Matthew (JM) Barrie was born in the cottage in 1860. As you work your way through it, you’ll see where James would have slept as a child (sharing a bed with some of his many siblings), the trunk that contained all his belongings when he left for school, and copies of his books (there are more titles than you might realise). There are also photos, original documents, pieces of furniture and memorabilia from stage productions of Barrie’s work. Outside is the wash house where he performed the plays he wrote as a boy.

JM Barrie birthplace wash house

You’ll also discover that when James was six years old, his fourteen-year-old brother David died in an ice-skating accident. This had a great impact on James and his mother in particular, and young James’ response was almost like he was trying to replace David. It appears to have had quite an influence on his life and writing. His brother was the original boy who would never grow up, reflected in the story of Peter Pan.

Kirriemuir Peter Pan statue

An essential part of your visit is to cross the path to the grassy garden area established between other cottages, where a statue of Peter Pan is located. And as you wander through the centre of Kirriemuir, and explore the rest of town, make sure you look for the crocodile weather vane which is another tribute to Barrie’s most famous work.

Interested in taking a Bookish Places trip around the world with Sarah? Enjoy this sensational map, also created by Sarah, and check out our other Bookish Places posts here.