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J.M. Barrie and the doomed Captain Scott

Kevin Telfer, author of Peter Pan’s First XI, explains in the Daily Telegraph how doomed explorer Captain Scott and author J.M. Barrie were great friends. It was an unlikely friendship as Barrie was a skinny bloke who played cricket very badly while Scott loved the glory of polar exploration. I read Peter Pan’s First XI last year (see the video review below) and the relationship between Scott and Barrie, who was drawn to brawny adventuring types, is particularly interesting.

Barrie was fascinated with explorers all his life. His favourite book as a child was R.M. Ballantyne’s The Coral Island. He moved from Scotland to London in 1885, at the age of 25, and soon after was a house guest in the Highgate home of John Scott Keltie, librarian at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). Keltie was later an influential figure at the RGS during Scott’s association with it, and one of Barrie’s best friends, Thomas Gilmour, married Keltie’s daughter. In the following years Barrie befriended a veteran of African travel, Joseph Thomson, and another explorer called Paul du Chaillu. They were both founding members in 1887 of the cricket team captained by Barrie, the Allahakbarries, whose members included Jerome K Jerome, Arthur Conan Doyle, AA Milne and PG Wodehouse. Also in the team was the novelist AEW Mason and it was he who introduced Barrie to Scott.

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