Mary Bradbury (b. circa 1900): Home and Family Life

Mary’s home life and her family are the focal point of her memoir as much of the content is centred on her experiences within the surrounding areas of her home in the rural north Yorkshire. David Vincent stated that “the moment (the autobiographers’) focus shifts from (their personal experiences) to a general history of the period, their autobiography suffers”[1], and this is pertinent in the case of Mary Bradbury’s home and family life. She does not discuss the happenings of the time but what she focusses primarily on is her life.

Mary’s family were not poor, but not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. This is shown when she describes her home, stating that “we had two extra large rooms known as the front parlour and the old parlour, the latter opening out of an inner hall beyond the parlour proper[2]” It is this decent amount of wealth which allows for Mary to have a care free childhood. She had luxuries which children in the city could only dream of. Pet ponies define her childhood as exciting and adventurous. “One year he also bought me a pony and a small new hunting saddle and bridle”. The love of her family, in particular her father, bring her these joys.

“My tall handsome father with his jolly and frequent laugh and jokes was the figure round which the household revolved”

Children in a Pony Cart 1919

It is the love of her father, who bought her the pony, which stands out. Her admiration for him is obvious, as seen when she opens a paragraph “my tall handsome father”. This is a consistent theme throughout. The memoir begins with her following her father out to the lake whilst he fishes. It is this desire to emulate his apparent adventurous nature which drives Mary to feel a love of nature. The James Baldwin quote stating that “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them”[3], is relevant towards Mary.  Her carelessness led to her many dangerous accidents, such as falling off her pony, despite the warning from her father. However, it is her respect and admiration for her father which can never be questioned. This is shown where Mary states that she “had toddled disconsolately after him across the road”, portraying the image of her having no other hope in the world other than to follow her father. At five years of age, all Mary cares about her father.

Julie Marie Strange writes in  of another working class autobiographer in her book Fatherhood and the British Working Class, “For Lawson, it did not matter that his father was illiterate and uneducated; to him, his father was one of the wisest men he ever met[4]”. This perfectly sums up Mary’s feelings towards her father. There is no telling what the truth is about her father. All we know are Mary’s childhood memories. It’s her affection for her father which is the loudest message throughout the memoir. Mary diminishes the stereotype of the absent father within her memoir. Her father is the main figure and the lynchpin of the family. She may have “rendered an ‘ordinary’ father exceptional”, as Julie Marie Strange puts it, but she idolises him for the person he is. This shows that her father is the symbol of her family and home life.

[1] David Vincent, ed., Testaments of Radicalism (London: Europa, 1977) P22

[2] Bradbury, M. My End is My Beginning, Burnett Archive 2:871 1973 P11

[3] Baldwin James, Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son 3, 1961

[4]Strange, Julie-Marie. Fatherhood And The British Working Class, 1865-1914. 1st ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Print.

Picture: http://www.vintag.es/2012/04/riding-ponies-in-1900s.html

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