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U3A Writing: Fairy Grandmother

Barrie Mansell recalls the day he saw Peter Pan, Wendy and Tinkerbell on the stage.

It was a hot steamy morning as we departed from our lodgings at Barons Court near the well known Coogee Beach on Sydney's coastline, just before Christmas 1943. We were off to a special treat in the city by tram, which was crowded with people many in uniforms of the many allied nations. The special treat was to see Peter Pan and Wendy in a large theatre, not a cinema but a place that had real people called actors and actresses.

On arrival at the theatre I remember being very impressed by the size of the building, it was huge compared with the Ozone and Astor in Mildura, the Ticket Office was even grander than anything I had seen before. But it was the marble stairway that took you up into the loftier parts of the theatre that gave an impression of grandeur. On ascending these stairs we were ushered to our plush seats and the view down to the curtained stage and orchestra pit gave just a hint of what was about to come.

The next minutes were spent examining the many details of the facades and lighting in this almost magical setting, there were many questions for my Mother, mostly, "When will it start?"

"Soon," was her persistent reply.

There was action in the orchestra pit, some initial tuning, quickly followed by the introductory music for Peter Pan and Wendy. The curtain opened and the real world emerged. What followed was a story of real people and beings who cast their spell over all us other beings. When Tinkerbell arrived, her magnificence and brightness fluttering about the stage captured us all, a real fairy before our eyes, her voice so clear and true.

It all ended so quickly, the curtain drawn, the music ceased the theatre lights bright. Tinkerbell gone, my first real fairy. I was so busy telling my Mother how wonderful Tinkerbell was and that I would need to look more closely in future for these beautiful little beings. My Mother just smiled and said "Yes dear."

As the years rolled by I looked everywhere for fairies, but the only ones I ever saw were dolls in toy shops and perhaps the odd fleeting glimpses in a night time garden. My children and grandchildren have sadly missed the joy of seeing Tinkerbell as I met her just that once a long time ago in Sydney.


Not long ago my attention was seized by a tribute in the Melbourne Age to a recently departed lady, which read;

BRIGHT (nee Darcy)
Tinkerbell passed away peacefully surrounded by her family at her ome in Brighton.
Much loved wife of Mchael and mother of Anna and Daisy.
Loved grandmother of Fenella and Phoebe. Away with her fairy friends forever.

BRIGHT Tinkerbell
You shone so brightly upon our stage in
those distant but not forgotten days.
The cast of Peter Pan and Wendy, The Royal, Sydney 1943/44.

After all those years to find she had lived not far from my own grandparents and I had never seen her again.

But those brief tributes said volumes, Tinkerbell was gone from the stage but not forgotten. In fact it seemed she was well loved by many. She was obviously now living in Fairy Land and her daughters and granddaughters were the new fairies to be found in some suburban garden, flitting from one intrigue to another.

Good bye Fairy Grandmother, the spirit of Tinkerbell lives on in my memory.

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