While in Darwin on holiday I took my daughter and husband to see, Saving Mr Banks, the story of PJ Travers and Walt Disney and the dance they did to get Mary Poppins to the big screen. What this movie did for me, besides make me cry, and fall in love with Mary Poppins all over again, was encourage me to find Allora, a tiny town in my home state of Queensland and find the house where Helen Lyndon Goff, aka PJ Travers had spent some of her childhood.
So I did, or we did. We travelled to Aratula, stayed the night with family. Next morning, we packed a picnic, bundled into the car and headed off. It was a glorious autumn morning, crisp and clear. The music was pumping through the car and we made good time as we travelled through Cunningham Gap and followed the New England Highway till we found the turnoff. Allora is between Toowoomba and Warwick and at the 2006 Census, there were less than 1000 people living there.
First impression quaint. The main road was wide, with shops on either side. Heaps of parking available, so we found a spot in the shade climbed out and locked up. There wasn’t much open seeing as it was Sunday, so we explored the main street, smiled and nodded at a few of the locals. They lived up my expectation of country people, very friendly, very chatty and extremely informative. . One lovely woman, owner of the dress shop for thirty years, gave us the information we were looking for.
When we found the house, I was in awe. It was magical. , stunning, truly beautiful old country cottage painted off white with blue grey trims. The veranda wrapped around two thirds of the house and was dotted with elegant outdoor settings a mixture of cane and wood, draped with fabric and big cushions. I ached to get over the white picket fence and onto that veranda. I could hear young Helen, talking to her beloved father as I gazed upon the manicured gardens.
I didn’t know at the time of my visit, but apparently, you can tour the house by appointment. I will be going back and doing that. I also discovered that no part of the movie was made in Australia, due to cost, but, that the house was copied, an exact replica, overseen by the owner of the house who redrew the house plans for the set designers in Hollywood and over the course of a year he liaised with photographs and they rebuilt it over there.
Our next stop was the cemetery to find the grave of Travers Goff. According to the ABC Southern Queensland article I sourced, the gravestone originally was very hard to find as it was weathered and some of the lettering had disappeared and the gravestone had sunk into the ground. Due to some fundraising ventures and a “considerable sum” donated by Colin Farrell, who played Travers Goff, the grave was restored. When we finally found Travers’s resting place, we stood quietly as we read the simple inscription on stunning stone.
It was a wonderful day. I would recommend a visit to this magical house to anyone visiting South East Queensland. Oh, and if you haven’t seen “Saving Mr Banks” do yourself a favour and go see it.
I've attached some photo's of the house, which has a little plate on the gate engraved with "Mary Poppins House"