Angus Council J.M. Barrie blunder penned into poem

Jim Smith
Jim Smith

An embarrassing Angus Council blunder has been immortalised in a poem.

In May, the local authority was forced to rip up slabs in the redeveloped Kirriemuir town centre after it emerged it had misquoted the town’s famous son, Sir J.M. Barrie.

The quote that started it all

The quote that started it all

Barrie, who was born in the town, is best remembered as the creator of the boy who never grew up, Peter Pan.

As the wraps came off the new-look Square days before the popular BonFest was hosted in Kirrie it emerged that a quotation, which wound its way around the Peter Pan statue, attributed to Barrie was inaccurate.

Local historian David Orr questioned the authenticity of the line: “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting”.

He said Barrie experts checked online about the quote and no one seemed to know where it came from, nor how it came to be widely attributed to J.M. Barrie.

The correct quote which is now at the foot of the Peter Pan statue

The correct quote which is now at the foot of the Peter Pan statue

He added the line didn’t appear to come from the 1953 Disney’s Peter Pan film either.

One theory online is that the quote could be an amalgamation of lines from the 1991 film Hook, directed by Steven Spielberg.

Angus Council stated at the time that, while the quotation has been “widely attributed” to the famous author, there was “a lack of absolute certainty over its origins” and felt it “appropriate” to replace it with one that was “incontrovertibly traced to the work of the great J.M. Barrie”.

So, the council went back to the drawing board.

And, in October the authority made good the gaffe, replacing the quote with: “Come on we’ll fly... I’ll teach you how to jump on the wind’s back and then away we go,” which is found early in Barrie’s book Peter and Wendy and the first act of the play Peter Pan.

Now, Kirriemuir man Jim Smith has penned the blunder into a poem titled The Peter Pan Mix-Up or The Stushie in the Square.

He got in touch with us after seeing our Review of the Year from the first half of 2016 in last week’s paper in which we featured the original story about the error.

Jim said: “I just felt it was something that should be put into poem.

“People remember poems more than they remember articles.

“Going back, in the old days people couldn’t read or write.

“Poems were the way they told stories and they could remember them better because they were in rhyme.”

Jim said David Orr was happy with the poem.

He added: “David told me ‘I never thought I would be included in a poem’.”

Jim (82) has written poems since he was a boy.

He has had several printed in magazines and newspapers over the years but didn’t publish his first book of poetry - My Take on Life - until 2015 at the age of 80.

He published his second book in 2016 in which he translated Robert Burns’ famous Tam O’ Shanter into English verse.

A Barrie fan, he and his wife, Muriel, have given several talks about him at various clubs in Angus.

Jim also wrote a poem about Andy Murray’s achievements in 2016, which include him becoming Britain’s first world number one tennis player, winning Wimbledon for a second time and winning a gold medal in the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The poet called for him to be knighted.

The tennis player was named in the New Year’s Honours list to receive a knighthood.

Jim is a former president of the Kirriemuir Probus Club, a private member of the Robert Burns World Federation and a founding member of the Kirriemuir Literary Society.

Angus Council was asked for a comment but did not respond.

The Peter Pan Mix-Up (The Stushie in the Square)

by Jim Smith

In the wee town square at Kirriemuir there’s a statue of Peter Pan,

To honour his author, J.M. Barrie, the town’s most famous man,

On his pedestal young Peter stands, charming all the passers-by,

He’s firmly rooted to the spot, though we know he’d prefer to fly.

Now the Kirrie square is a busy place, gets a lot of wear and tear,

From the countless townsfolk and visitors that daily pass through there.

So the Council thought they would spruce it up, and with money in their gift,

They drew up a plan they were proud of, to give it a good facelift.

They put in some fancy paving stones and new benches on which to sit,

And bonny plants and wrought iron work, but that wasn’t the end of it.

For they cleaned up Peter’s pedestal, and laid round its foundation,

Smart granite setts engraved on which was a Peter Pan quotation.

Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away” it read,

“And going away means forgetting.” that’s what the engraving said,

But scarcely was it all unveiled, when some people began to doubt

That Peter had actually said those words, and wanted to find out.

The local Barrie faithful all said they would take another look,

Which just confirmed the view that it didn’t come from a Barrie Book,

They deduced it might be a set of words that some screenwriter wrote,

For one of the films about Peter Pan, and that’s where they got this quote.

But the Angus Council were singing dumb and wouldn’t make a move,

Until local historian, David Orr, challenged them to prove,

That this was a genuine Barrie quote, or have the setts re-made,

With a known quotation from Peter Pan, and then have them re-laid.

The red-faced Council chiefs were forced to go back to the drawing board,

For the uproar caused by the sad mistake just couldn’t be ignored,

The designer spoke to everyone who wanted to have a say,

And came up at last with a saying from the original Play.

“Come on! We’ll fly... I’ll teach you how to jump on the wind’s back and then

away we go”, that’s what Peter said to the Darlings’ young children.

And so those chosen words were chiselled, on a brand new ring of stones,

And laid around the pedestal’s base, to stop all the moans and groans.

Now all the fuss has quietened down in the square in the “Wee Red Town”,

And nobody knows what Peter thinks as he stands there looking down,

With that enigmatic smile of his, but I’m sure I heard him say;

“This must have cost a pretty penny, I’m glad I don’t have to pay”.