TWO MARYS: Mary Poppins (Carmel Murdoch) with the Poppins statue on the cnr of Richmond and Kent Sts.
TWO MARYS: Mary Poppins (Carmel Murdoch) with the Poppins statue on the cnr of Richmond and Kent Sts. Alistair Brightman

POPPINS PROOF: QLD town dismisses NSW rival's P.L Traversty

MARY Poppins is vain. She proudly flaunts her tape measure that shows she is practically perfect in every way.

Without doubt she is enjoying being at the centre of the friendly rivalry and threats of umbrella duels between Maryborough City and the NSW town of Bowral, both claiming birthrights to the world's most famous nanny.

As former Maryborough mayor Barb Hovard once commented, there is enough of Mary Poppins to spread the magic over many places. Just as well.

With every new rebirth of the Mary Poppins saga more wannabes are trying to hang off Nanny's skirts.

It's all quite jolly but Bowral needs to take a spoonful of reality in its claims to Poppins prestige.

Mary herself would not approve. Neither would her creator P.L. Travers, who went to live in Bowral when she was eight but - terribly sorry Bowralites - she had pretty bleak memories of the town in the Central Highlands.

Bowral's charming statue of Mary Poppins is laudable but claims it inspired the Mary Poppins story is laughable.

Mouths fall open like codfish at the tag the town has put on its nanny link, highlighted this week on Channel 7's Sunrise breakfast show.

 

Actress and Mary Poppins Enthusiast Taylor Dunn on Cherry Tree Lane in Maryborough where Author P.L Travers was born. Photo Lachie Millard
Actress and Mary Poppins Enthusiast Taylor Dunn on Cherry Tree Lane in Maryborough where Author P.L Travers was born. Photo Lachie Millard Lachie Millard

Councillor Paul Truscott ably defended our Poppins honour in some fun verbal jousting with Bowral's Paul McShane, who claimed P.L. never returned to Maryborough after she left.

Fraser Coast mayor George Seymour deflected that brolly jab with Trove research a day later showing a travelling repertory company performing in Maryborough included "Miss P.L. Travers, the Maryborough native of the company, who was charmingly graceful as Titania, and her lines flowed gracefully from her lips".

Travers popped into the world in Maryborough in August 1899, christened Helen Lyndon Goff in St Paul's Anglican Church.

No one called her Helen.

She was known as Lyndon and later chose Travers in memory of her adored father, Travers Goff, manager of the Australian Joint Stock Bank on the corner of Richmond and Kent Sts.

The Goffs were on a bit of a roll when their first baby was born in the upstairs room at the bank.

They held a prestigious position in the bustling Victorian community but when they left Maryborough (Lyndon was aged three.) the charming but tiddly Travers was heading downhill.

He died in Allora when P.L. was seven. She never recovered from his early alcohol-induced death. Neither did his wife.

Impoverished, she took her three little girls to an aunt in Sydney and, when P.L. was eight, to Bowral.

One rainy night Mrs Goff left her young children, announcing she was going to drown herself in a creek.

She didn't. Meanwhile 10-year-old Lyndon gathered her young sisters around her and told them a story about a unicorn.

Bowral has imagined the heck of out that and claims the unicorn was somehow Mary Poppins - and that, dear reader, is their claim to be the "birthplace" of Mary Poppins (carefully avoiding the fact that P.L. was born in Maryborough).

After four years in Bowral, Lyndon was sent to boarding school in Sydney, which would be her main home in Australia.

By then she had stored a swag of colourful stories and characters in her fertile mind that would emerge in the Mary Poppins books.

The parrot-headed umbrella was from Allora and some rather forbidding characters from Bowral.

It's a sure thing that childhood memories, especially those of Queen's Park and Admiral Boom's time cannon, were reawakened and reinforced by the pretty, prosperous town she visited as a 22-year-old.

She remembered Maryborough with fondness and forever after, according to biographer Valerie Lawson, she "remembered the town she wished it had been".

The east wind is dropping Bowral. Time to stop flying that kite.



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