HRH Duchess of Rothesay visited Moat Brae this week, Scotland’s recently opened National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling in Dumfries.
Moat Brae was once the ‘enchanted land’ where JM Barrie played as a child. His pirate games by the River Nith became the inspiration for one of the most well-loved and legendary stories of all time – Peter Pan. As the new National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling, Moat Brae is nurturing and developing children and young peoples’ interest in reading and storytelling whilst maintaining the heritage of the house and garden as inspiration for JM Barrie’s ‘Neverland’.
HRH Duchess of Rothesay was welcomed by the Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries Fiona Armstrong alongside three children dressed as Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and Captain Hook who performed a Highland dance. The Duchess of Rothesay was then introduced to The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust Trustees and Trust Chairman, Dame Barbara Kelly, and the Centre Director Dr Simon Davidson who gave a tour of the house and gardens where HRH was welcomed by children in colourful costumes. Later, a group of young people from the organisation’s youth group The JMB Creatives, aged 11 to 15, read to the Duchess in the amphitheatre, and parents and their young children aged 2-5 demonstrated a creative writing class and story-themed yoga.
During her visit, Her Royal Highness was shown ‘The Clown’ Magazine, an original 1875 manuscript of secret early writing by JM Barrie, loaned for the occasion by Dumfries Museum, and was introduced to Anne Bennett, JM Barrie’s great great niece, who raised thousands of pounds for the Trust and is an active volunteer. Before leaving, the Duchess of Rothesay unveiled a plaque commemorating her visit.
Mementos of her visit were gifted to the Her Royal Highness including 4 copies of ‘Sixteen String Jack’, Barrie’s first work of fiction which was a ‘log-book’ of pirates and adventures played in the garden at Moat Brae, now a picture book created by Tom Pow and Ian Andrew presented to her by Captain Hook, and four signed copies of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan – a graphic novel by Stevie White and Fin Cramb presented by Peter Pan. At just 11 years old, Lilian Ong is one of the youngest JMB Creatives. She wrote a poem to mark the occasion which was read aloud by 14 year old Alice Glass and gifted framed to the Royal visitor.
An anthology of Scottish writers and illustrators travelled to the National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling for the occasion including Frank Cottrell Boyce, Stevie White, Ian Andrew, Pamela Butchart, Ross Collins, Tom Pow, Susi Briggs, Alan McClure and Heather Molloy.
On her visit to Moat Brae today, HRH Camilla Duchess of Rothesay said: “I’ve been a great reader of JM Barrie, Peter Pan is a book I adored as a child. I’d heard about Moat Brae and they say that seeing is believing… and they are right. The work that has been done here is absolutely phenomenal.”
Dame Barbara Kelly, Chairman of The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust said: “We were honoured and delighted to welcome HRH to Moat Brae to tell her the story of the development of this exciting and inspirational project. We are aware of HRH’s deep commitment to the importance of children’s literature and much enjoyed celebrating with her the royal visit to the house. A very happy day for Dumfries, for the region and for Scotland.”
The Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust was set up in 2009 to save Moat Brae House and garden from demolition and to celebrate its international literary connection as ‘The Birthplace of Peter Pan’.
The Trust’s vision is to create a world where reading and storytelling are an integral part of growing up and therefore everything it does in some way contributes towards the realisation of that vision. The Trust’s driving motivation for its vision is the belief that reading and storytelling improve the life quality of children of all abilities and backgrounds.