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The Boy That Never Grew Up – The Peter Pan Statue

13 September 2017

Peter Pan Statue, Queens Gardens

I think I’ve always known about the Peter Pan statue in Queen’s Gardens but I certainly didn’t know anything about it.

That was until someone said to me that no one knows it’s there, no one knows why it’s there or who put it there. I disputed the first part – lots of people know it’s there but he may have had a point with the rest.

So I did a bit of research.

Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up was the creation of novelist and playwright Sir James M Barrie first appearing as a character in 1902, a 1904 play, and then in the much loved 1911 novel also featuring Wendy Darling.

In 1902, Barrie, who lived near Kensington Gardens and used them as inspiration when writing his first Peter Pan story, commissioned sculptor Sir George Frampton to create the Peter Pan statue which was erected in the Gardens in 1912. The statue features Peter standing on top of a tree stump surrounded by squirrels, mice and fairies.

In 1927, the Perth Rotary Club, lead by Mr McGibbon sought donations to fund the erection of a replica of the statue in Perth.

A number of replica statues had already been made and Sir George Frampton made the mould for what would be the last replica very soon before his death in 1928. His wife ensured that the final statue was completed after his death. As a dedication to Frampton, JM Barrie wrote a short dedication which is cast in the bronze above his signature.

“Queens Gardens Perth australia” by Phillip Choi Licensed under a CC BY 2.0.

When Peter had arrived in Kensington Gardens it was a though he had been ‘put there by fairies’ and so it was in Perth. On the morning of 8 June 1929 ‘there was a surprise in store for the children who went to Queen’s Gardens to feed the ducks in the miniature lakes this morning. Down by the oak trees in a little oval on the eastern side of the main gate in Hay Street, they found a centenary gift – a figure of Peter Plan blowing his pipe on the stump of a tree, with fairies and mice and squirrels all round. It is the work of the late Sir George Frampton, and the bronze figure of the boy who would not grow up is delightfully conceived…Today the children found Peter Pan there as is he had grown out of the turf.’

Peter Pan’s arrival in Queen’s Gardens was the source of much delight. Almost 100 children wrote letters of appreciation and a letter to the Editor of the Daily News closed by saying ‘there are no words to convey the gratitude of old and young for the wonderful gift of this beautiful piece of statutary’.

But while young and old were rejoicing in Peter’s presence in Queen’s Gardens, a battle also raged amongst those who thought he and his friends didn’t belong there. It had been originally intended that the statue be erected in King’s Park, and that it be moved there. Others suggested that Hyde Park was a better alternative. The argument prompted the Mirror on its 15 June 1929 front page to say that ‘Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, has caused a lot of trouble in Perth, not among the ordinary boys of today, but among some citizens who have also refused to grow up’.

But in Queen’s Gardens he has stayed. In 1933, Peter Pan was given to the City of Perth, with the Rotary Club stipulating that he should shall receive proper care and attention. At the same time, Peter was moved from the eastern corner to a permanent home at the western end of the gardens, the decision having finally been made that it was the best location for him and his friends.

Leigh Barrett, Executive Officer, Heritage Perth