100 years ago today, JM Barrie's classic play Peter Pan was performed for the very first time. You know the story (girl meets flying pixie, girl flies off to magical land, girl has lots of adventures with pirates and crocodiles and fairies, girl flies home, girl grows up) but what you may not know is the fascinating background to the story...
1860 James Barrie is born in Kirriemuir (it's not far from Forfar).
1866 James's elder brother David dies on the eve of his 14th birthday in a freak skating accident.
1894 Barrie marries actress Mary Ansell, an actress in one of his plays. They remain childless.
1897 Barrie meets the Llewelyn Davis brothers in Kensington Garden. He plays with them and tells them stories (not that he was, erm, one of them). On New Year's Eve he meets their mother at a dinner party and subsequently befriends the family.
1901 Barrie goes on a camping holiday with the boys at Black Lake, near Farnham. On his return he writes The Boy Castaways ofBlack Lake Island, the story on which 'Never Never Land' will be based.
1902 Barrie publishes a novel called The Little White Bird, about a childless author who meets a boy called David in Kensington Gardens and tells him stories about a character called Peter Pan.
1904 The play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up premieres at the Duke of York's Theatre in London on December 27. It is a great success. Even the critics applaud at the end when asked to clap if they believe in fairies. "an artfully artless, go-as-you-please play which has all the pretty inconsequence of an imaginative child’s improvisation, all the wild extravagance of a youngster’s dream…" (Illustrated London News)
1906 Barrie publishes the short book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. The book is dedicated "to Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies and their boys (my boys)".
1907 Arthur dies of cancer, allowing Barrie to grow even closer to his widow and her children.
1909 Feeling rather betrayed by the whole situation, Mary has an affair and divorces her husband.
1910 Sylvia dies of cancer. Barrie becomes guardian to all five Llewelyn Davies children.
1911 Barrie adapts his stage play to write the novel Peter and Wendy, now more usually known as Peter Pan.
1912"There is a surprise in store for the children who go to Kensington Gardens to feed the ducks in the Serpentine this morning. Down by the little bay, at the south-western side of the tail of the Serpentine, they will find a May Day gift from JM Barrie, a figure of PeterPan blowing his pipe on the stump of a tree, with fairies and mice and squirrels all around. (the Times, 1 May 1912)
1915 Eldest son George Llewelyn Davies is killed in the trenches during World War 1.
1921 Middle son Michael Llewelyn Davies drowns in the Thames while a student at Oxford.
1937 JM Barrie dies, having donated the copyright to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1929.
1960Peter Llewelyn Davies, tired of being labelled 'the boy who never grew up', throws himself in front of a train at Sloane Square station.