Bid to bring Barrie casket “home”

The Barrie "Freedom Casket, which goes on sale in Taunton today (Thursday)
The Barrie "Freedom Casket, which goes on sale in Taunton today (Thursday)

Kirriemuir Heritage Trust (KHT) has taken the unusual step of actively dissuading bidders for an artefact connected to J.M. Barrie.

A silver casket that belonged to the Peter Pan author, presented to him by the provost, magistrates and council to commemorate him becoming a freeman of the town in 1930, is due to be auctioned in Taunton, Somerset, today (Thursday) and is estimated to sell for between £2,000 and £3,000

But, keen to bring the casket back to Kirriemuir, the trust menbers have asked local bidders they know to be interested to support its own efforts to acquire the casket.

David Orr, KHT chairman, said the organisation has made the move in an attempt to stop the auction price from rising.

He said: “We have already spoken with a number of local people who thought that it would be a good idea to buy the casket in memory of a family member or just as a kindly philanthropic gesture for Kirrie, but this will only serve too raise the auction price.

“We have asked those we are aware of to refrain from bidding and instead support KHT in our efforts to bring the casket back for the good folk of Kirrie, but we feel the auction estimate may persuade people of modest means to think it would be a good idea to bid for the casket to bring it back to Kirrie on our behalf.

“We at Kirrie Heritage Trust believe there is no need for these additional bidders, as we are clearly intending bringing the casket home and we are fortunate that we are building a strategy along with a like-minded Kirriemarian who has agreed, in conjunction with Angus Council Cultural Services, to ensure that we will be successful in acquiring the casket for the people of Kirrie.”

Made of Scottish silver the casket was made by Edinburgh sliversmiths Brook & Son in 1929. The cover carries a presentation inscription and the sides are decorated with panels featuring buildings in Kirriemuir of relevance to J.M. Barrie including the Window in Thrums, the cricket pavilion and camera obscura, the author’s home and Peter Pan.

Also contained inside is the original Burgess Ticket conferring Barrie’s Freedom of Kirriemuir.

It was bought after Barrie’s death at a sale of his belongings, held at Sotheby’s on April 11, 1938, for £56 and has remained with the purchaser’s

family ever since.

Mr Orr said the trust is determined to do “whatever it takes” to acquire the object.

He continued: “It is our one chance for this generation to bring the casket ‘home’ to Kirrie. We therefore would ask that any Kirriemarians or ex-Kirriemarians, that may have had this thought, support KHT and pledge any sums they may have intended to bid at the auction to KHT, instead of competing with us.

“These false bidders have been known over the years by colourful nicknames such as ‘puffers’, ‘by-bidders’, ‘cappers, and “white bonnets.” Puffers lack an intention to purchase when they bid. They simply bid to stimulate higher bidding by others attending the auction.

“We at KHT are acutely aware that such white-bonnets will drive up the price to us as bona fide bidders and we can only ask that ‘do-gooders’ don’t push up the price against us. Most members totally agree that our plan for a single bidder with an unlimited budget would be the best plan.

“We are so looking forward to the good news for Kirriemuir soon after the auction.”