Monthly Archives: December 2013

“Saving Mr Banks” movie highlights Australian origins of PL Travers and Mary Poppins

The recently released Disney movie “Saving Mr Banks” starring Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney highlights the Australian origins of the creator of fictional character Mary Poppins.

The film’s flashback scenes to her childhood in Queensland that feature young actress Annie Buckley are apparently in the period before her father’s death in 1907. PL Travers was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough in 1899 but only stayed there 2-3 years before her father (played by Colin Farrell) was demoted in his role as a bank clerk / manager to Allora on the Darling Downs. After her father’s death in early 1907 the mother and three daughters relocated to the town of Bowral in the state of New South Wales, about 128 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Sydney. The family lived here for 10 years, the longest period of residence in a single location for the family during the time P.L. Travers was in Australia. The modest Holly Street cottage they lived in was provided for by the wealthy family matriarch Great Aunt Ellie (played in “Saving Mr Banks” by Rachel Griffiths). Lyndon Goff was seven years old when she moved here and about 17 years old when she left.

This was a sad and difficult period of her life following the death of her father and her mother appears to have suffered a nervous breakdown, with an attempted suicide attempt, probably around July 1910. Research now strongly suggests it was during this period that she created the character of Mary Poppins as a bedtime story for her younger sisters, almost certainly modelled in large part on her Great Aunt Ellie. Her imagination seems to have synthesised many elements of her childhood and surroundings to create the magical nanny. One of the fears for Lyndon Goff was the family splitting apart even more so than it was and the character of Mary Poppins was a remedy for that fear. Later in life Travers admitted her time in Bowral was when Mary Poppins first emerged from her imagination, even publishing a story as teenager in a small magazine featuring the character.

Disney's movie "Saving Mr Banks" highlights the Australian origins of PL Travers and Mary Poppins

Click to see trailer for  Disney’s movie “Saving Mr Banks” which highlights the Australian origins of PL Travers and Mary Poppins

Bowral’s Mary Poppins Birthplace Statue is now unveiled!

On Sunday 8th December 2013, Mary Poppins was welcomed back to her “birthplace” in the Australian town of Bowral where the author P.L. Travers lived as a child and teenager and a century after the character of the famous flying nanny first emerged in her imagination and storytelling.

Appropriately, the fictional character of Mary Poppins is now immortalised in the town she was created as the finale event in Bowral’s sesquicentenary (150th) celebrations with the unveiling of an exquisite life-size bronze statue. Mary Poppins is now a “permanent resident” of Bowral in Glebe Park, adjacent to the Bradman International Cricket Hall of Fame and Museum, only a block from the cottage in Holly Street where her family lived from 1907 – 1917.

The statue was crafted by well-known sculptor Tanya Bartlett, who was also responsible for the nearby statue of Sir Donald Bradman “The Final Salute” that stands in the museum’s courtyard.

The unveiling of the Mary Poppins Birthplace Statue was performed by dozens of children and supporters, sponsors and dignitaries tugging on three long ropes. The unveiling was done in the presence of the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, who gave the command signal by raising an umbrella.

It was a 12 year old girl, Melissa McShane, who originally suggested the statue for Bowral in 2004 and has campaigned for it in partnership with her father, Paul, for almost a decade. Melissa was given the honour of officially cutingt the ribbon around the black calico covering the sheet prior to the unveiling with the assistance of sculptor Tanya Bartlett and Rose Treadwell, the grand daughter of the late Sean Crampton, a British sculptor whose 1966 sketches for a statue proposed for Central Park in New York were used as design inspiration for the Bowral project.

The Mary Poppins Birthplace Statue was then welcomed by the singing of a Mary Poppins medley by a choir from the Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council (SHYAC) and an “umbrella dance” to the tune of the Hokey Pokey by the audience.

Other dignitaries attending with the Governor included the Hon Bob Baldwin MP Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Trade and our local MP for Throsby Stephen Jones; the State Government was represented by the Hon Pru Goward MP for Goulburn and Mr Jai Rowell MP for Wollondilly. The Mayor of Wingecarribee Shire Clr Juliet Arkwright accepted the gifting of the statue to the community from the President of the SHYAC Allen Cupitt.

Visit these links to the photo gallery from the Southern Highlands News and the footage from HighlandsTV for how events unfolded on the day.

Photo Gallery of Mary Poppins Statue Unveiling

Photo Gallery Southern Highland News by Emma Biscoe










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