Peter Pan at Great Ormond Street Hospital

Peter is playfully leaning backwards on one leg, with his left hand stretched up to the sky. On his index finger is a thimble, which his trusty friend Tinkerbell is trying to wrestle off. In Peter’s other hand he has a palm of invisible fairy dust which he is blowing onto passers-by as they walk through the doors of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Discover the 80-year-old story of how the Peter Pan came to be a GOSH.

The history of Peter Pan

Peter Pan was written by James Matthew Barrie, who was born in Kirriemuir, Scotland, on 9 May 1860.

Peter Pan first appeared in Barrie's "The Little White Bird" (1902), in chapters titled "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens", Peter is a seven-day-old baby and has flown from his nursery to Kensington Gardens in London, where the fairies and birds taught him to fly.

Peter then returned as the centre of a play by Barrie titled "Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up", in 1904 at a theatre in London.

Following the success of the play, Barrie's publishers took the Peter Pan chapters from "The Little White Bird" book and published them in 1906 under the title "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens".

Barrie then later adapted the stage play's storyline as a novel, which was published in 1911 as under the title "Peter and Wendy".

Peter Pan and GOSH

In 1929, after the popularity of the play and the novel, Barrie unexpectedly and generously gifted his copyright of "Peter Pan" to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Barrie was a supporter of GOSH for many years and in 1929 he was asked to sit on a committee to help the hospital buy land to build a new wing. Barrie declined but said that he "hoped to find another way to help". A few months later, the hospital was surprised to learn that Barrie had donated all his rights for "Peter Pan" to GOSH.

Barrie later explained the reason for his gift:

“At one time, Peter Pan was an invalid in the Hospital… and it was he who put me up to the little thing I did."

Through this gift GOSH began to receive royalties every time a production of the play was on, as well as from the sale of Peter Pan books and other products.

Barrie requested that the amount raised for the hospital should never be revealed, and GOSH has honoured his wishes.

In 1988, the House of Lords voted in favour of a special clause in the UK’s Copyright Designs & Patents Act. This amendment gives the hospital the right to a royalty from "Peter Pan" in perpetuity.

For more than 80 years, the story of Peter Pan has continued to benefit the seriously ill children who come to GOSH for life-saving treatment.

Read more about JM Barrie's gift of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

A sepia tone photo of JM Barrie.

JM Barrie