WHILE the dream of Poppins Plaza didn’t make it across the line, a statue of the famous fictional nanny is a spoon full of sugar for 17-year-old Melissa McShane.
What began as three schoolgirls’ vision of a Mary Poppins themed Corbett Plaza has led to a monument that will recognise Bowral as the former home of author P.L. Travers.
Since 2004, Melissa has been pushing for the local link to be recognised.
At the last council meeting that wish was granted when councillors approved a spot in Glebe Park right next to Bowral’s favourite son Sir Donald Bradman.
Despite stepping off a plane from France just hours before, Melissa attended the meeting and was woken from her jet-lag snooze in the public gallery just in time for her to hear the announcement.
“I am just thrilled that finally after all this time something will be done to recognise the link,” Melissa said. “There was no way I wanted to miss the decision. I am just glad I am still in town to see this happening because I will be off to university next year.”
Melissa’s dad Paul McShane said while he was excited by the Council decision, they now needed community support.
“Now it is all about the fundraising; we estimate it will cost at least $60,000,” he said.
“We are asking the community to really get behind this project - it is an important and significant part of our history.”
Melissa entered a youth civic design competition in 2004 for the redesign of Corbett Plaza and co-opted two of her friends to help after she had been shortlisted.
The plan, developed for a competition run by Mittagong architects Allman Johnston, included a chiming clock tower linked to a musical fountain, a Mary Poppins statue and kites flown from graphite rods.
Melissa also helped out with the 2004 Australian Festival of the Book in Bowral by doing chalk art in the plaza as part of the Mary Poppins booktrail.
After years of research, Mr McShane said they believed Bowral could finally be recognised as the birthplace of Mary Poppins.
Pamela Lyndon Travers (originally Lyndon Goff) moved to Bowral with her mother and sisters after her father died in 1907.
In a letter to a friend in later years, she recalled that a family drama when she was about 11 years old, and living in Bowral, was the origin of Mary Poppins. It was during a huge storm that Travers is said to have made up stories of the magical nanny to placate her siblings.
Bowral is the only one of P.L. Travers’ four Australian homes that has not yet publicly recognised its famous former resident.
“This spot is perfect for the statue. It is right next to a playground, just around the corner from where she lived in Holly Street and right next to the Bradman Museum,” Mr McShane said.
Bradman and Travers were neighbours in Holly Street and he was the same age as her youngest sister.
The Mary Poppins Group are planning to celebrate the centenary of the first telling of her adventures by erecting the statue during an inaugural Mary Poppins festival in July.
This will coincide with the premiere of the blockbuster musical Mary Poppins in Melbourne.