Tuesday, June 23, 2009
peter pan garden
At a time when Kensington Gardens in London is set to celebrate its connection with JM Barrie’s Peter Pan with a million pound marquee and a series of spectacular events this summer, it’s sobering to reflect on the state of the Scottish garden that Barrie himself described as the true inspiration for his famous play: the ‘Moat Brae’ Gardens in Dumfries. This idyllic playground, adjacent to the school, Dumfries Academy, that he attended as a young man inspired his early creative imagination to such an extent that he wrote in his memoirs “When the shades of night began to fall, certain young mathematicians changed their skins, crept up walls and down trees, and became pirates in a sort of Odyssey that was afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan . . . For our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden, which is enchanted land to me, were certainly the genesis of that nefarious work.” Unhappily the garden is now in a ruinous condition, as is the Georgian house it once belonged to, and is the subject of a tug of war between a local and, so far, impecunious, charitable trust who wish to see the property restored to its former glory and a local housing group who currently own the site and who say it is not feasible to save the building in its entirety. In the meantime the garden, undeniably a piece of Scotland’s literary and cultural history, remains a wasteland.