J.M.Barrie is best known for creating Peter Pan and for working with other giants of British culture, such as H.G.Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle. He is less well known for writing The Little Minister and working with my ancestor, H.H. Weltch (left).
Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up is such an important piece (or pieces, really – a 1904 play and 1911 novel), with countless film, TV, and other adaptations, it has overshadowed the rest of Barrie’s huge catalogue of work.
That catalogue includes three novels, set in the small Scottish town of Thrums (modelled on Barrie’s own home town of Kirriemuir), the last of which was The Little Minister, published in 1891.
Six years later, Barrie adapted it as a play, which opened at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, on Saturday November 6, 1897. Among the cast, as Thwaites, was one H.H. Weltch, my great grandfather’s brother (pictured, left, in the role).
Henry Herbert Weltch (my great great uncle) was principally a musician and teacher, but he trod the boards too – notably in this Barrie production, which spawned several film adaptations. Most of these were silent productions, but a big-budget sound version in 1934 starred Katharine Hepburn.
Henry was 10 years older than my great grandfather, Herbert Lea Weltch (whom I met a couple of times), both born in Bromyard, Herefordshire to clergyman and schoolmaster, Henry William Weltch, the vicar of Stanford Bishop.
While Herbert Lea became an engineer, Henry Herbert pursued an artistic career, and in most records is described as a professional pianist. A graduate of Oxford University and Freeman of the City of London, I wonder if any of his achievements surpassed his appearance in this J.M.Barrie première at the Haymarket.