Moat Brae survives. Moat Brae is the 1823 house and garden in Dumfries, Scotland, where J.M. Barrie, age 8 in 1868 and playing at pirates, conceived Neverland, the land of eternal childhood. That’s the good news. Moat Brae lives – for now.
The bad news is that for two years the Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust’s board of directors, after restoring the house, has tinkered with undoing that good work. They want to build two modernist additions to contain a National Centre for Children’s Literature – at the cost of trashing the house and destroying the possibility of ever restoring the garden.
How Moat Brae has managed to hold out this long I do not know, but opponents of this crime against childhood dreams hope to convince the board to change its plans and instead build a more sensitive addition to house its program. Luke Moloney, chairman of the Dumfries Historic Building Trust and a leading opponent, asked the trust to embrace a more fitting plan but was told that such a proposal would be “pastiche” – a derisive modernist word for imitative – and thus out of the questions.
Two years ago I devoted a column, “Help save history and Peter Pan,” to Moat Brae and a similarly threatened treasure – Winchester, the original capital of England. Winchester’s citizens have fought a crudely inept development in court and on the hustings for two years. Now, in Dumfries, citizens who would save Moat Brae are calling on those around the world who remember growing up with Peter Pan to sign a letter to the trust pleading for a last-minute reprieve for Moat Brae and the garden that inspired Neverland.
To sign the letter by Roger Windsor, who started the trust, lost control of it after ensuring the preservation of the house and now leads the opposition to its desecration, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.