Kirrie Society promotes work of Sir J. M. Barrie

The launch of the JM Barrie Literary Society was held in Barrie Pavillion on Tuesday afternoon. Founder Cally Phillips was pictured with potential members.
The launch of the JM Barrie Literary Society was held in Barrie Pavillion on Tuesday afternoon. Founder Cally Phillips was pictured with potential members.

Auld Licht Idyllis, Better Dead, Sentimental Tommy, Quality Street, Peter Pan, the list can go on.

But if the latter is the only work of literature you recognise, then the J M Barrie Literary Society, formed last week, can help.

The above are all works by the novelist and playwright Sir James Matthew Barrie, born in Kirriemuir in 1860 where he wrote a number of successful novels and plays.

He was one of the highest-earning dramatists in Britain but today is mainly remembered for writing Peter Pan.

Now all that will hopefully change.

The Barrie Pavilion on Kirrie Hill was the appropriate setting last Tuesday - the 157th anniversary of Barrie’s birth - for the official launch.

Society founder Cally Phillips explained: “Founded 80 years after his death and partly in tribute to the recent death of one of his greatest advocates, Professor Ronnie Jack, our goal is to bring the works of J.M. Barrie out of the shadows of Peter Pan.

“We hope to encourage both reading for pleasure and critical commentary of his prose and drama.

“We welcome members who know a lot, or a little, about Barrie’s work.

“Our main interest is in exploring Barrie’s textual output rather than biographical fact or fiction. We hope for this to be a place where people can voice and share their opinions and where all can learn from each other in a spirit of community. In a very real way we appreciate that our society is who we are, and we think Barrie would both have appreciated and enjoyed the flexibility of this suggestion.”

The Society explains Barrie is a writer who has suffered more than most from an interest in his life taking over from an interest in his writing.

Their website explains: “A master of flexibility and mutability in identity in narrative and dramatic form, his own ‘character’ and identity have seemed mysterious and enigmatic and this may explain why people have been drawn to try and understand or explain (and often criticise and damn) him from reading and interpretations of his textual work.

“Yet if one thing that can be learned from studying Barrie’s texts it is that any and all attempts to explain or understand him through his texts are bound to failure. Barrie provides an example of the Daoist dictum ‘the way that can be explained is not the true way.’ The man resists being understood from his texts in part at least because the relationships he creates between author, narrator, character and reader are also part of a profound exploration of the ‘identity’ of text in and of itself.”

They believe there is much to explore and learn in Barrie’s writing - his intention was not to reveal himself in the process but to reveal and revel in the very nature of the creative process.

J. M Barrie was born in Kirriemuir and studied at Edinburgh University.

His father David Barrie was a weaver. His mother Margaret Ogilvy had assumed her deceased mother’s household responsibilities at the age of eight. Barrie was the ninth child of ten (two of whom died before he was born).

At the age of eight Barrie was sent to the Glasgow Academy in the care of his eldest siblings, Alexander and Mary Ann, who taught at the school. When he was 10, he returned home and continued his education at Forfar Academy. At 14, he left home for Dumfries Academy, again under the watch of Alexander and Mary Ann. He later moved to London where he wrote a number of successful novels and plays.

There he met the Llewelyn Davies boys who inspired him to write about a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The Little White Bird), then to write Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.

For more information on the Society email jmbarriesociety@gmail.com or visit www.jmbarriesociety.co.uk or www.facebook.com/jmbarriesociety