Casket’s return “a great day for Kirriemuir”

Sir James Barrie, surrounded by Kirriemuir Town Council, delivers his speech during the freedom ceremony in 1930.
Sir James Barrie, surrounded by Kirriemuir Town Council, delivers his speech during the freedom ceremony in 1930.

News that a silver casket that once belonged to Peter Pan author Sir James Barrie is coming back to his home town has been met with “great excitement”.

David Orr, Kirriemuir Heritage Trust chairman, this week said that the casket’s acquisition by Angus Council was “a great day for Kirriemuir”.

The box, which was auctioned last Thursday in Taunton, Somerset, was bought by the council for £7,200 and will go on display in the town’s museum.

It was presented to Barrie by Kirriemuir’s magistrates and council in 1930 when he received the freedom of the town and it still contains the original burgess ticket inviting him to accept.

Overseas bidding pushed the price well beyond its £2,000 and £3,000 and while the council is contributing £1,000 towards the purchase, the balance being divided equally between the Art Fund and the National Fund for Acquisitions (NFA).

It was the first time the casket had come up for sale since it entered a private family collection in 1938, when it was bought for £56 at Southeby’s in London during a sale of the late author’s belongings.

The heritage trust was also keen to see the casket return home and before asked local bidders to throw their support behind it owns bid. In the meantime, an unnamed benefactor had backed the trust with a “blank cheque” to ensure the casket returned to the town.

Mr Orr said: “I sat in on the call that Angus Council was making as they had an open line to the auction rooms. The plan was that if the council reached its limit, we would take over and we were quite prepared to go considerably beyond that. It was the only chance of our lifetime to get it back and we’re delighted that the council was able to get it at that price.”

He added that since he made his public appeal for local backing, he had been stopped in the street by people offering financial support.

Mr Orr continued: “Thankfully it didn’t come to that and we weren’t committing everything the people of Kirriemuir have. We had a backer for our bid, who basically gave us a blank cheque. He’s a fan of Barrie but mainly he was doing it for Kirrie, and I’m extraordinarily grateful as it made my life a lot more comfortable.”

Councillor Jeanette Gaul, museums spokeswoman, said she is delighted the casket will be returning to the town.

She said: “The casket has been in a private collection since 1938, so I’m delighted that we were successful with its purchase at the first opportunity we had.

“On behalf of the people of Kirriemuir and Dean and the wider Angus Community, I’m delighted that the casket has returned home. The casket will be on display at Kirriemuir Museum for the public to enjoy.

“The museum also holds a significant amount of material relating to Sir JM Barrie, including the pen with which he signed the freedom documents.”