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Moat Brae, Dumfries
For a man seemingly convinced that the end of boyhood is the end of life worth living — “nothing that happens after we are twelve matters very much” — it comes as something of a surprise to find that he recalled his five years spent at Dumfries Academy as being the happiest of his life. But Barrie had Found a Way; nor was there a need for him to play in secret, for on his very first day at school he met another boy who shared his own appetite for high adventure.
The boy's name, according to the school register, was Stuart Gordon: “But that wasn't the name he was known by at school. He came up and asked me mine. I told him. It didn't seem to please him. He said, “I'll call you Sixteen String Jack.” I asked his name, and he said it was Dare Devil Dick.” Dare Devil Dick was one of the characters in the “Penny Dreadful” comics so familiar to Barrie, a boy who had run away to sea and become a pirate. Gordon invited him to join his own pirate crew, and Barrie readily accepted. He later recalled:
"When the shades of night began to fall, certain young mathematicians shed their triangles, crept up walls and down trees, and became pirates ina sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan. For our escapades in a certain Dumfries garden, which is enchanted land to me, were certainly the genesis of that nefarious work. We lived in the tree-tops, on coconuts attached thereto, and that were in a bad condition; we were buccaneers and I kept the log-book of our depredations, an eerie journal, without a triangle in it to mar the beauty of its page. That log-book I trust is no longer extant, though I should like one last look at it, to see if Captain Hook is in it."
Moat Brae was derelict when I last visited it in 2001, but has since been saved from demolition and turned into a National Centre for Children’s Literature-
Well worth a vist - or two -- or three ...
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