Mary Poppins Birthplace

Bowral in the Southern Highlands of Australia

Where did Mary Poppins come from? An Australian town has a compelling claim to be her birthplace. Read on to find out why…

Mary Poppins, the magical nanny, is a fictional character created by author, P.L. Travers. One question pondered by many readers of the Mary Poppins books and fans of the movie has been: Where did Mary Poppins come from?

The question was frequently put to the author during her lifetime, but she invariably offered a vague or evasive reply. It is a mystery that may finally now have an answer, thanks to detailed biographical research by Sydney-based journalist/author Valerie Lawson and the flash of insight by a 12 year-old girl Melissa McShane.
And the answer? Well, the place with the strongest claim to be the “birthplace” of Mary Poppins – both in a symbolic and literal sense – is a town called Bowral.
Yes, strange but true! Bowral, an Australian country town in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, has a compelling claim to be considered the birthplace of Mary Poppins. Why this is so is explained on this website. And the real-life story of Mary Poppins’ origins are as dramatic and magical as any fictional tale, revealing much about the author’s motivation in creating the character as well as the underlying themes in her later stories.
Of course, claiming to be the birthplace of a fictional character is a little quirky, to say the least. The author of Mary Poppins, PL Travers (who was christened Helen Lyndon Goff), was born in Maryborough Queensland in 1899. But just as cricket’s greatest batsman, Don Bradman, was born in Cootamundra and moved to Bowral as a child, so did Lyndon Goff move from Queensland.
And just as Bowral was the place that Bradman was to learn his cricket and develop the prodigious talent that was to make him a sporting icon, so did Lyndon Goff begin her life as a storyteller and create the essence of a fictional character that was eventually to become an icon of childrens literature.*
Appropriately enough, the town of Bowral is the heart of the Southern Highlands BOOKtrail and Australia’s first booktown project. The district can also lay claim to being home to both the author of the first book for children published in Australia (A Mother’s Offering to Her Children 1841) and also the first work of fiction written by an Australian-born woman (Gertrude the Immigrant 1857). So the association that PL Travers and Mary Poppins has with the region enjoys an excellent literary pedigree.

“Don’t you know that everybody’s got a Fairyland of their own?”

― P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins

Who is Mary Poppins?

Mary Poppins is a fictional character created by author, P.L. Travers. She is a mysterious woman who has magical powers. She enters the lives of the Banks’ family at 17 Cherry Tree Lane as their nanny. Nothing is ever really the same for family after that.

PL Travers, Mary Poppins Author

It surprises many people to learn that P.L. Travers, the creator of these stories set in London featuring an English nanny, was actually an Australian. She was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland, on 9th August, 1899.

Bowral, Mary Poppins Birthplace

As the family was without a breadwinner, it led to her mother, Margaret, and two sisters, Biddy and Moya, later that year moving to a cottage in Bowral NSW that was rented for them by a wealthy aunt. Lyndon was around eight years of age at the time of her arrival in Bowral and was enrolled in the local branch of the Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School.

World Record

The town of Bowral welcomes homes Mary Poppins to her birthplace on 7th May 2011, when 2,115 people held umbrellas aloft for ten minutes and set a new Guinness World Record for the Largest Umbrella Mosaic.

Mary Poppins Statue

The main focus of the Mary Poppins Birthplace Project has been the erection of a life-size bronze statue of Mary Poppins in the town of Bowral to commemorate the literary link with the author PL Travers, who lived in the town for a decade.

The Campaign

Why is Bowral the Birthplace of Mary Poppins? BookTown Australia Convenor Paul McShane sets out a summary of the main reasons why Bowral can confidently claim to be the Birthplace of Mary Poppins.