The connection that PL Travers had with Bowral was first made widely known in the town by her longtime English friend Patricia Feltham in the early 1990s when she visited her sister, who happened to have recently moved to Bowral.
Local historian John Simons undertook research during that decade on the author’s time in Bowral. Using family photographs provided by Patricia Feltham, she and John Simons were able to identify the former home of the author in Holly Street Bowral.
In 1999 Wingecarribee Shire Council hosted a symposium to celebrate the centenary of PL Travers’ birth that featured Patricia Feltham and John Simons.
When Paul McShane launched the BookTown Australia initiative in 2000, with the enthusiastic support of Garry Barnsley OAM (Bradman Museum founder and at the time Chairman of the Southern Highlands Business Chamber) the connection of PL Travers with Bowral was noted in the media publicity along with many other authors and literary links. This became part of the campaign to promote the Southern Highlands as Australia’s first booktown. In 2001 it was included in the first BOOKtrail brochure produced by Paul McShane in conjunction with the Southern Highlands Booksellers Association.
The Mary Poppins Birthplace campaign specifically had its origins with two events:
- 2004 Australian Festival of the Book
- 2004 Wingecarribee Youth Civic Design Competition
Since 2004 father-daughter team Paul & Melissa McShane have led a campaign that has drawn increasing community support and media coverage for Bowral’s increasingly compelling case to be recognised as the Birthplace of Mary Poppins.