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Mary Poppins' creator and the Queensland premier

This is a story of two people who made a difference to our world in their own realms. The memorial for one stands in Toowong cemetery in Queensland. A simple white cross with the name Boyd Dunlop Morehead. The simplicity of the headstone belies the actions of the man it remembers.

Boyd Dunlop Morehead, pastoralist, parliamentarian and Queensland premier. Source: Wikipedia

The other headstone is located on the other side of the world in St Mary the Virgin Church in Twickenham, England. It is a much smaller, even simpler headstone with just the name 'Pamela L. Travers'. She was the niece of Boyd but better known to the world as the creator of Mary Poppins.

Boyd was Premier of Queensland and colonial secretary between 1888 and 1890 representing the electorate of Mitchell, only resigning to make a long visit to Europe. He was not in favour of women having the vote, but was in favour of squatting, conservatism and self-help, being a well-heeled pastoralist.

Boyd didn't mince his words once describing the Brisbane Courier as 'a mendacious paper edited by a hireling'. His wit and undaunted pluck earnt him the title of 'guerrilla debater'. Morehead was at his best defending the pioneers who developed the colony's prosperity.

Morehead's grave. Source: Wikipedia

His niece Helen Lyndon Goff was born in 1899 and was only 6 six years old when her famous politician uncle died. Helen became what was termed 'a famed literary grande dame, more English than the English', changing her name to Pamela Lyndon Travers. Her pseudonym was a combination of her father's first and middle name (he was Travers Lyndon Goff).

Her first foray into the working world was on the stage, much to the horror of her mother and aunt. Her father had died when she was only young and as the oldest child, felt the burden of supporting her mother. Her first performance was as a dancer in the pantomime Sleeping Beauty followed by The Merry Wives of Windsor with Allan Wilkie's Shakespearean Company.

Her writings were noticed by leading arts journals as well as The Bulletin. She eventually moved to England to continue her career in the literary world. It was here that the character and persona Mary Poppins started appearing in Pamela's writings. She published her first novel in the Mary Poppins series in 1934.

Pamela Lyndon Travers in her acting days. Source: Wikipedia

Set in Edwardian London, the stories of Mary Poppins and her young charges were a tribute to the orderly society that was eventually destroyed by the Great War. Mary Poppins, the nanny, introduced wonder and magic into the closed world of the Banks family and their household. The book was an instant hit, not only in England but also in the United States.

In her personal life Pamela had a number of strong mentors and romantic attachments but never married. She adopted a young boy, John Camillus Hone, who was a twin although he was not aware of this until he turned 17, when through a chance meeting at a pub he met his 'other half'.

By 1959 the stories of Mary Poppins were so popular she was asked to sell her rights to Walt Disney Productions. She was never truly happy with the changes the American company put into her genteel English setting. When the premiere was released in Los Angeles in 1964 she was listed as a consultant in the credits and stated the movie was based on the stories of P.L. Travers. It went on to win five Oscars in 1965. The movie 'Saving Mr Banks' in 2014, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, is the story based on the making of the 1964 film.

Living the life of a recluse in the last decade of her life, Pamela, the niece of a Queensland premier and Australian-born, died in April, 1996.

The simple headstone of Pamela Lyndon Travers. Photo: Findagrave


* 'Pamela L. Travers',, accessed 20th March, 2020

* 'Boyd Dunlop Morehead', Wikipedia,, accessed 22nd March, 2020

*'Morehead, Boyd Dunlop (1843–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 March 2020.

*'Pamela Travers', The Big Book of Scandalous Australian Women by Kay Saunders, published by ABC Books 2014, ISBN 978-0-7333-3260-9

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