Mary Bradbury (b. circa 1900): Habits, Culture and Belief

Mary Bradbury’s enjoyment of the community spirit which existed within Cottardale is present throughout her memoir. A particular example of this are the community events which take place during her childhood, such as the “fifth of November bonfire at Dreibeck”. The week long celebrations of the bonfire is clearly a proud moment within the community, as she states that “tribute was exacted from every farm”, and failure to do so resulted in “no member of such a family might attend” the festivities. Regina Gagnier suggested that “Most working-class autobiographies begin not with a family lineage or a birthdate but rather with an apology for their author’s ordinariness”. Although Mary does not start in a chronological fashion, this is not the case when it comes to Mary’s memoir. She fills her memoir with the excitement of her childhood, showcased perfectly with the celebrations Mary’s community hold for Bonfire Night.

Jonathan Rose stated that “autobiographies will probably prove to be the richest sources for a history of audiences”, and this statement proves to be true regarding Mary’s memoir. Her words and memories are facts behind the lives of children who were born in the early 20th century, showcasing the strong feeling of togetherness which existed within the community during this time period. It is the seriousness of the festival which brings the sense of pride, particularly shown with the length of time that Mary reminisces on this festival. Although they may not be the wealthiest, it is clear with these rules and guidelines that there is an order to the event, forcing each family to contribute to their wider society. It is the feel of a broader family which brings the strong bond which lies within their community. This is clear in the Life and Labour blog, where the community pulls together to bring the farm the best harvest possible, showing that it is not just recreational activities where the people use their togetherness for the common good.

In the early 1900’s the amount of hours people worked were reduced, along with the introduction of bank holidays and the rise in wage resulted in more recreational events such as Cottardale’s bonfire week of celebrations. This along with the rise of organised sports, such as football resulted in more family and personal time for the individual. Mary clearly has fond memories of the new introductions to everyday life, as she reminisces with a sense of nostalgia.

1908 football team

“The first part of the evening was usually allotted to the children, who danced round the fire or played games nearby”

The almost idyllic image of the children dancing round the campfire and Mary’s father playing the “fiddle, mouth organ or clarinet” whilst the community “join in some of the beautiful old country dances” is paramount to Mary’s childhood. These memories define the individual and are significant in terms of how an adult can reflect on their childhood. The clear love and friendship which exists within her life is very interesting to reflect upon how the modern day child spends their spare time. It is not a guarantee that modern day children will experience memories such as Mary’s. With a clear focus on materialistic products such as game consoles and mobile phones, the community spirit, friendship and love may not be expressed in the manner in which Mary experienced these values.

There is a fundamental theme of togetherness throughout the description of the bonfire week celebrations. Mary uses the repetition of “we” whilst describing the event. It is an occasion created by the people, for the people, showing that without the togetherness of each other events like this would not occur. Mary states that the “the company was widely scattered, laughter rang out and jokes were bandied about, and the fun was at its height”, showing the close-knit community in it’s best light, proving that the memories of her childhood consist heavily of the recreational activities her community conjured up together.


Bradbury, M. My End is My Beginning, Burnett Archive 2:871 1973

Beaven, B. (2005). Leisure, citizenship and working-class men in Britain, 1850-1945. 1st ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Rose, Jonathan, ‘Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences.’ Journal of the History of Ideas. 53. 1 (1992)

Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies 30.3 (1987): 335-363

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