Friday, January 9, 2015

Peter at the hospital

There is no more fitting place for a Peter Pan purist to visit than London's Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The hospital has had a long association with The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. In 1929, J.M. Barrie declined to sit on a fundraising committee to help it expand into the vacated Foundling Hospital adjacent--and instead donated the royalties from stage performances of Peter Pan to GOSH, funds which they receive to this day. (For more information about the copyright extension in the UK and Europe that allows the hospital the continuing right to royalty, see the GOSH website. There you'll also find additional history--and better pictures than I have here, but that can't be helped.)

"At one time Peter Pan was an invalid at the Hospital for Sick Children," Barrie said in a GOSH fundraising speech in 1930, "and it was he who put me up to the little thing I did for the hospital."

At one time, the hospital maintained a museum of Peter Pan books and memorabilia. While that museum has fallen victim to the hospital and charity's need for additional space, the collection is still available for public viewing by appointment. Of course, I could hardly visit London and not at least attempt to see the collection. 

The hospital was officially named
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in the 1990s,
 as it had become so closely associated with the street.

When I made my appointment, I wasn't certain if I should admit to my involvement with The Stowaway and especially this blog. But I knew I wouldn't be able to keep that to myself and didn't want to spring it upon the staff, so I gathered my courage and confessed via email. And because I did, I was able to have a splendid visit with people who understand my devotion to Mr. Barrie's tale.

The collection being kept in this room was pure
coincidence, I'm sure, but a most fortuitous one.

Christine De Poortere, Peter Pan Director, and Emily Beahan kindly allowed me to babble about my own collection and thoughts about Peter and the Captain, and let me photograph the figurines, plates, magic lantern slides, and other memorabilia that have been given to the hospital over the years. These include the bell that was Tinker Bell's voice in the original 1904 stage production of Peter Pan. And yes, I got to ring it.

The bell in the back right corner was
 used to voice the original Tinker Bell.

GOSH has more Peter Pan books than I do--
two cupboards worth.

Casts of London productions of the play still put on performances at the hospital for patients, as they have done for decades. And Peter's influence is felt throughout the halls.

Art students of the University of Wolverhampton
 created and donated this tiled mural in the late 1980s.

Peter appears where he is not expected, as is his wont.

Since it opened its doors on Valentine's Day of 1852 as the Hospital for Sick Children, GOSH has grown tremendously, expanding into many surrounding buildings in its neighborhood of Bloomsbury, where Barrie lived for a time just around the corner from the original hospital. It's part of the National Health Service, but funds raised from donations help them with redevelopment, research, medical equipment, and support services for families.

The charity staff at GOSH couldn't have been more gracious, and I'm certainly glad I was able to meet them and take the tour. Of course I'm also pleased to know they are still receiving the benefit of Barrie's donation, and putting it to the best of uses.


  1. I didn't know about this hospital at all. What a treat for you to visit.

    1. It's another thing we can do when we make that trip to London! :-D