Categorised | Heritage, Top 100 Irish Australians

Pamela Lyndon Travers (Helen Lyndon Goff)

Pamela Lyndon Travers1899 – 1996
Writer

Born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland, on August 9, 1899, Pamela Lyndon Travers moved to Allora, when she was three.

After the death of her Irish father in 1907, the family – her mother and two sisters – moved to a cottage rented for them by a wealthy aunt in Bowral, NSW.
The family lived there until 1917, though Lyndon did attend boarding school in Normanhurst, Sydney, from 1912 until 1916, returning to Bowral for the holidays. The family then moved to Ashfield in Sydney in 1917 where a statue has been recently erected in her honour.

Taking the name, Pamela Travers, she pursued a career on the stage, touring with a theatre company through regional NSW and New Zealand during 1921-22. By this time she had begun to write and publish poetry, as well as newspaper columns.

In February 1924, she fulfilled a long-held dream and sailed for England and Ireland and began her career as the writer, PL Travers. She only ever returned once to visit Australia, for two weeks in 1963.

In England, she worked as a journalist, becoming friendly with WB Yeats and George Russell, while some of her poems were also published in The Irish Statesman.

In 1934, she wrote her first novel – Mary Poppins – and the endearing story of the magical nanny was an immediate success. She went on to write seven other Mary Poppins books.

The Disney film of Mary Poppins (1964) later became a huge international success, though Travers is understood to have despised Dick Van Dyke’s portrayal of Bert.

“Mary Poppins is both a joy and a curse to me as a writer,” Travers once said.  “As a writer, you can feel awfully imprisoned, because people, having had so much of one thing, want you to go on doing more of the same.”

Travers never married but did adopt an Irish baby boy. She died in London in 1996.

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