Where did the idea of Mary Poppins come from?
Is it possible that Maryborough born Pamela Travers may have drawn some inspiration for her famous novels from some of her early experiences in her birthplace?
Unfortunately, Travers rarely spoke about her childhood and would rather talk about her writing than her personal life. She was a bit like Mary Poppins, who cheerfully informs her employer Mr Banks, “I never explain anything”.
However there are some interesting associations. In the novels, the father is a bank manager – called naturally enough “Mr Banks”. Her father was a bank manager in Maryborough.
This building where she lived (for the first couple of years of her life) is just a short stroll from Maryborough’s majestic Queens Park. It is very likely she was a regular visitor to the park with her mother.
Heritage listed Queens Park is one of Australia’s earlier botanic gardens, and with its heritage listed features it shares many similarities with the park of the novels near the Bank’s home, which the children and Mary Poppins frequented.
The first book includes a party at the zoo among the animals, and in the years before and after Travers youth Queens Park also hosted a zoo and aviary. It was also a common social practice for people to dress in their finery and promenade through the park along the river.
There is also Admiral Boom, the former naval officer who lives next door and fires his cannon to mark the time. In Maryborough, it was once practice to fire a canon every day at 1pm to mark the hour, and let the workers in the cane fields know it was time for lunch.