Sir James Matthew Barrie

(J.M. Barrie)

1860 - 1937

J.M. Barrie
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

J.M. Barrie

Author and playwright. Born in Kirriemuir, the son of a handloom weaver who worked to ensure his children could better themselves, Barrie was educated initially in Kirriemuir and at Forfar Academy before being taken by his elder brother, a teacher, to continue his education at Glasgow and later Dumfries Academies. He went on to read English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. The first of several novels, Auld Licht Idylls, was published in 1887 and this was followed by A Window in Thrums (1890) and The Little Minister (1891) and his reputation was soon established. He turned to writing plays and had success with Quality Street (1901) and The Admirable Crichton (1902).

However, Barrie is best known for the creation of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, the inspiration for which came to him when he was a boy, playing in the garden of Moat Brae, a house in Dumfries. Barrie's own character in many ways mirrored his creation; he was a small man and this lack of stature had always upset him, perhaps explaining why he related better to children than adults. His life was full of tragedy; the deaths of a brother, sister and his mother affected him deeply, his wife had an affair with a younger man and left him, and two of his adopted children died tragically.

Barrie was knighted in 1913, served as Rector of St. Andrews University (1919-22), Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh (1930-37), and was awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1929.

He died in London but is buried with his parents in Kirriemuir. Royalties from Peter Pan are appropriately given to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London.

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