Treasure Island characters were Capital neighbours

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HE was famously the narrator of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island.

And now research has revealed that Jim Hawkins may have been named after the Edinburgh neighbour of the real Long John Silver.

Author Jeremy Hodges has discovered, through research, that a Margaret Hawkins lived in the same flat stair on Bristo Place as William Henley - Stevenson's inspiration for Long John Silver.

The 1881 Scotland Census states that the 68-year-old widow was living with her daughter Jane at 19 Bristo Place.

Mr Hodges, who made the discovery by studying the census at Register House, said: "She had been born Margaret Wight in Jedburgh and married a James or Jim Hawkins, who had been a butler. That's the little gem that Treasure Island grew from."

He added: "Hawkins is a moderately unusual name so I had started searching for a Jim."

Henley, who had tuberculosis in both his legs, arrived at the old Royal Infirmary on Drummond Street in August 1873.

The 24-year-old threw himself on the mercy of Joseph Lister, a pioneer of antiseptic surgery.

The Gloucester-born poet had already lost his left leg to the disease and was in danger of losing his right, until Lister agreed to help him and managed to save his leg.

After 20 months in hospital, during which time he was introduced to Stevenson by a magazine editor to whom they both submitted work, Henley took up residence at 19 Bristo Place, close to Bristo Port.

"Stevenson visited Henley's flat regularly and ended up staying with Henley when he (Stevenson] wasn't very well and didn't want his parents to know," said Mr Hodges, 56. "Bristo Port becomes the Port of Bristol in Treasure Island."

Henley, who was friendly with Peter Pan author JM Barrie, had a daughter called Margaret and when Barrie visited the family home, she would call him "my fwendy", because she couldn't say the word 'friend'.

Mr Hodges said: "Barrie was so taken by this wee kid who called him fwendy that fwendy became Wendy in Peter Pan.

"The sad thing is the girl got tuberculosis and died very young. Henley was devastated and blamed himself."

Mr Hodge's book Lamplit, Vicious Fairy Land is an account of Stevenson's life in Edinburgh and continues to throw up insight into his life.

It is being serialised free of charge at www.robert-louis-stevenson.org.