In 1999 journalist and author Valerie Lawson published her biography Out of the Sky She Came: the life of P.L. Travers, creator of Mary Poppins (Sydney, Hodder).
The 380-page comprehensive work is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the life of the author and the origins of her famous character. Many of the facts that are now routinely quoted concerning Travers were revealed through this biography, although others in earlier times, such as Patricia Feltham and the late John Simons in Bowral, had already featured the author’s Australian origins. The McShanes have always endeavoured where reasonable to credit Ms Lawson’s biography for the tremendous assistance it has given them, though media outlets do not always include that credit in their subsequent reports.
The biography has since been re-published as Mary Poppins She Wrote (Aurum Press) to coincide with the 2004 West End stage show in London and later the extended Broadway season in New York Design Comptetition. At the time Ms Lawson encouraged the McShanes to explore the primary research material held in the form of Travers’ collection of private papers in the Mitchell Library. The McShanes took her up on that advice over the next several years, undertaking their own review of the historical evidence.
Valerie Lawson was the first person to highlight the crucial role that Bowral played in the genesis of the Mary Poppins character. The relevant extracts are quoted with permission elsewhere on this website. Lawson’s biography also points out that a number of key characters in the Mary Poppins books were derived from people living in Bowral at the same time as the young Lyndon Goff. In fact it seems these characters were imported in to the books without even a change of name. These include Nellie Rubina and Uncle Dodger as well as the forbidding sweetshop proprietor Mrs Corry and her two gigantic twin daughters.
The McShanes wish to acknowledge the debt owed to Valerie Lawson’s early encouragement and to her detailed biography in helping shape their own research into why Bowral has a compelling claim to be the birthplace of Mary Poppins.