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

What is clear throughout Mary Bradbury’s memoir is the amount of labour she completes alongside her father and his workers. But Mary does not speak of her childhood work as a chore or as hard and laborious. Instead, she reminisces on her young work life with nostalgia, fondly remembering the memories with her father and the extra men who helped out.

Rather than focussing on the hard work, Mary 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” even though Mary noted it was unusual for a young girl.

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 great detail, showing that she gets to know these people on a personal level, developing friendships. 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 details. 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 within 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 twenty-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 the memoir suggests that her tough and disciplined childhood gave 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 will have became, as her tough upbringing will have shaped her life . 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 the 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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