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The Story of P.L Travers

Pamela Travers was born in Maryborough on the 9th of August in 1899 to parents Margaret and Robert Goff. They named their first born child Helen Lyndon. Her father was the manager of the Australian Joint Stock Bank and she was born in a bedroom of the second storey residence of the building. After spending the first few years of her life in Maryborough, her family moved to Brisbane then Ipswich, Allora, Bowral and then Sydney.

In Sydney, Helen began a career as a dancer and an actress appearing mainly in Shakespearean plays in Australia and New Zealand. As a young woman in her twenties she moved to England seeking literary fame and fortune, and used the name P.L Travers for her writing.

It was under the name P.L Travers that in 1934 she wrote the first ‘Mary Poppins’ novel about the magical and exceedingly efficient nanny. It was an immediate success and the Mary Poppins series – there were eight books in total – went on to be translated into more than 20 languages.

However it is really the Disney Movie by the same name which made Mary Poppins – and Travers – famous. She initially did not want the movie made but Walt Disney had his heart set on turning her book into film. He first approached Travers for the movie rights in the late 1940’s – she finally relented in 1961 and signed the contract after an offer she couldn’t refuse.

The movie starring Julie Andrews won five Oscar Awards and became one of the most successful movies of all time. 

By many reports, Travers was unimpressed with what Disney had done with her creation – with some reports claiming that she sat in the audience and cried at the premiere.

The author died in 1996 aged 96. If she could fly by umbrella (as her magic nanny of her stories does) and revisit her birthplace of Maryborough, she would most likely be surprised at the attention she has gained since her death.