Mary Bradbury (b. circa 1900): Life and Labour

Life and Labour – Mary Bradbury

What is clear throughout Mary Bradbury’s memoir is the amount of labour she completes alongside her father and his workers. What makes this endeavour interesting is the portrayol of this work. She does speak of her childhood work as a chore or as hard, labourious work. Instead, there is a passive nature about her language which suggests she seen the work as simply a normal way of living. Mary almost reminisces on her young work life with nostalgia, fondly remembering the memories with her father and the extra men who helped out.

Mary mentions that she worked hard, although it is not presented with negativity attached. She states how she worked hard, but she focusses on the people she worked with, their personalities and individual quirks. This is shown when she describes the extra help her father employed as “Jolly, good tempered men”, showing that it was not a depressing work life she was experiencing at a young age. Although the work was tough, having these friendly people around “seemed to lighten the heavy work”. These are all indications of the hard work, but not these thoughts are not presented negatively, ultimately showing fond memories of her youth.

Young women working on a farm

“It was hard work for a girl, especially considering I was out on the field for six in the morning”

The description of the men her father brings in to lighten the work load is in minute detail, showing that she gets to know these people on an intimate level. She knows their personalities and traits which is a clear sign of her devotion to working on the farm, helping her father. The relationships she has with her father is evident in these minute details, such as knowing that Anthony Holme, a man who helped out with the farm, was “Usually humourously good tempered, but was apt to fly into a sudden violent temper”. It is interesting to see a young girl develop these relationships with working class farmers. It is a testament to Mary’s character that she can be taken seriously in a masculine world. She states that they were “on good terms”, as “she saw more of him than anyone else”. Another man she describes in detail is “Old Nick”. A man with a “loud, raucous laugh”, who was a “good and cheerful worker”. It is clear that is these characters who make Mary’s work as a child memorable and enjoyable. Whilst he’s singing “Bonnie Mary of Argyle” whilst they work together, he’s creating a lasting impression on Mary, which fondly stays with her until the day she writes her memoir, reflecting on her youth.

“The middle of April would bring our extra help for the busy lambing season, a tweny-four day being usual at the beginning of the century”

The work on the farm consists of her, her father and several outsiders working tirelessly from dawn to dusk. This is throughout the summer months which is obviously a large chunk of her young life. Mary never expresses how successful the farm is, but it can be presumed it was successful due to their ability to hire help from outside. This determines the values and strength and independence of Mary’s family. There is no indication of how Mary’s life evolved from her memoir, but it is a fact that this tough and disciplined childhood will give her the necessary tools to be in the best possible position to start a life. What is clear throughout the memoir is the fondness Mary possesses when recollecting on these experiences. in John Burnett’s Destiny Obscure, a lot of the autobiographers recount their own personal experiences of their upbringing with misery and sadness. Mary is the complete opposite of this as, despite the hard labour which she completed during her childhood, there is a sense of gratitude and fulfilment of her life working on the farm.

It is the responsibility which a young Mary takes on the farm which is a clear indication of the person Mary was shaped to be via her upbringing. Mary, although its not clear how old she is, is still a child and “looks after the few orphans, as pets”. Her clear pride in the responsibility she brings upon herself is visible in her passion to look after the animals on the farm, therefore reducing the burden of work for her father. Mary shows the benefits of being raised in a system which requires each individual putting hard graft to collectively produce solid results, leading to a successful business, such as her fathers farm.


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

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