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Story of the Peter Pan Statue

Few people realise the special significance of the statue of Peter Pan at the entrance to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. It was erected by Vyvyan and Gwen Watson in remembrance of their son Peter who died of diphtheria in 1923, long before a children’s hospital existed. 

The statue was commissioned in 1959 by Mr Vyvyan Watson, a WW1 veteran and Chairman of the Red Cross building committee in the 1950s. He was instrumental in the fundraising and construction of the Hospital and a source of inspiration to all those involved in the early days. His daughter, Clemmie Hannay Robertson is a long time donor and supporter of the Children’s Hospital Trust and volunteers every week in D2.

Long before the Hospital was built he lost his son Peter aged 4 to Diphtheria. Some time after the Hospital opened he paid a visit to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London and was greatly affected by all the Peter Pan references there. J.M. Barrie, who wrote the story of Peter Pan bequeathed the future proceeds of all his Peter Pan books, stage plays and films in his Will to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

On his return from London, Mr Watson commissioned famous sculptor Ivan Mitford Barberton  to create a statue of Peter Pan to commemorate the memory of his son. The statue was  handed over to the Hospital in 1959 where it has remained ever since as a memorial to childhood. 

The recently opened Circle of Life Garden of Remembrance at the Hospital was dedicated in memory of Mr Vyvyan Watson at a moving ceremony. This lovely walled garden, filled with indigenous flowers and trees, has been established to honour donors who left a gift in their Will to the Children’s Hospital Trust. 

Vyvyan Watson left an enduring legacy and the statue of his son stands as a reminder of the eternal need for specialised medical treatment for desperately sick children.

Legacies and bequests are a vital source of future financial support for the Children’s Hospital Trust and by leaving a gift in your Will to the Trust (PBO 930004493) you will provide much needed long-term funding for future projects at the Hospital. For more information on the Trust’s Circle of Life legacy programme, to book a speaker about the Hospital or to pay us a visit please contact Liz on or +27 21 686 7860


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