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J M Barrie to George Llewelyn Davies - 1912

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Letter from Barrie to George, 27 July 1912, with instructions to him (and Peter) on how to get to Amhuinnsuidh.[Not in Peter's “Morgue”](Read More)

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Letter from Barrie to George, 27 July 1912, with instructions to him (and Peter) on how to get to Amhuinnsuidh.

[Not in Peter's “Morgue”]


by Tarbert,
Island of Harris


My dear George,
I enclose £15 for both your fares. You had better travel third class, and get single tickets. You bok to Portree and after that pay on boat. You leave Kings Cross at 7.55 p.m, arrive Fort William about 10 a.m where you change into train for Mallaig, which you reach about 11.30. Here you get boat for Portree which you reach about 6 p.m (You will probably have to change boats at Kyle about 2 p.m). You stay the night at Portree, & leave about 6 a.m by boat for Tarbert where you will be joyfully met!
The hotel you stay at in Portree is the Royal, & a day or two before you set off you should send a wire thus, ‘Manager, Royal Hotel, Portree. Please reserve a double-bedded room for –– (date) & sign it ‘Davies’. Also some hours before you start send a wire to Kings Cross reserving 2 corner seats: “Superintendent of Line, King's Cross station, London. Please reserve two corner seats third class tonight to Mallaig – Davies.”
I think that is all. It sounds complicated but is really simple. Keep this letter to refer to.
Note: You must leave London on Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday. The other way of getting here on other days is not satisfactory.
The Lucases & Hawkins are here now, & all had perfect passages.
There is dire want of rain & now there’s no wind, so that fishing is for the time poor. But Michael has got 80 sea trout & the fact that Mr. Lucas who never had a rod in his hand except at Duartmore has caught three in Scourst & three in Halladale, all with fly & averaging
over one pound each shows how good it is.
I hope all goes well at Eton. Be sure to send exact camp address.
Your affec

[AB: This letter, and several before and after, seems to have eluded Peter when he was compiling his Morgue in the 1950s. I have a feeling that Cynthia Asquith had them, for whatever reason (and maybe no reason at all, just the chance shuffling of effects after Barrie died) and that she sold them along with numerous other ms to Walter Beinecke Jnr for his JMB collection, now housed in the bomb-proof basement of a building named after him in the precincts of Yale University.
In the summer of 1976, Sharon and I undertook a grand tour of Scotland, ostensibly for the sake of my TV trilogy and vague thoughts of a book, but really because we were so immersed in the Barrie/Llewelyn Davies story by then, so obsessed one might say, so in love with the whole saga, that we had to follow them all in their ghostly footsteps.
Amhuinnsuidh was then owned by one with the evocative name of Sir Hereward Wake. Nico had made annual fishing trips to the baronial pile for the 20-odd summers prior to our visit, having only stopped in 1974 with the onset of emphysema, so it was easy for him to make the necessary introduction.
After exploring the castle itself, still much as it would have been in 1912, we were taken off to Loch Voshimid by Sir Hereward's daughters to find Mary Rose's Island (there are photos of said expedition in the database) as well as trying in vain to teach us fly fishing for salmon. Having taken our leave, we stayed the night at the Harris Hotel in Tarbert.
The next morning at breakfast I was airily speculating on whether Barrie and George or Michael might not have sat at this very table when my eyes refocused from the view beyond the window to the glass itself - and to my shock I saw "JMB" scratched into the glass.
The hotel had no idea what the initials betokened, but amazingly still had the visitors book for 1912. Leafing through August, there on the 3rd we found Barrie, along with E V Lucas's wife Elizabeth, their daughter Audrey (who grew close to Michael over time), and the flourishing signature of Anthony Hope Hawkins - though no mention of his wife Betty. Given that Barrie was writing to George from Amhuinnsuidh on July 27th, I presume that he had gone to Tarbert on the 3rd to meet Anthony Hope and the Lucases off the boat from the Kyle of Lochalsh.

Now here's an irrelevant little coincidence. I remembered staying in this same hotel myself, along with a helicopter crew, a camera operator and my friend Hayley. To cut a long story short, I was working on Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", initially as a tea boy, then - thanks to a lucky break - as a location scout, AD on Special Effects, and now - in November 1966 - as 2nd unit director, shooting footage for the "Jupiter & Beyond the Infinite" sequence, skimming low over mountains and lochs that would later be colour-transformed to resemble alien landscapes.
And there was the visitors' book for 1966 - and lo, there we are - the operator Jack Atchelor, helicopter pilot Bernard Mayer, "Boots" (Hayley's pseudonym) and me. Two tales a half century apart - in fact three, as Sharon and I must have left our inky marks in 1976.
All this has precious little to do with Barrie and the Davies boys, and yet .... ]


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