Mary Bradbury (b. circa 1900): Introduction – Writing Lives

Mary Bradbury (b. circa 1900): Introduction

“With a deft movement, I was gripped firmly by my dress and plunged twice under the flood water and then held aloft spluttering and choking, after which I was carried out the river and carried over to my mother”

Mary Bradbury’s My End Is My Beginning focusses on her earliest memories as a child, both individually and with her father. Mary was born in Cotterdale, a small village near Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales.


Mary does not follow a standard pattern when writing her memories as they do not follow a chronological order. They also do not follow much of a logical pattern, going from major to minor incidents within the same page. What is clear within her writing is Mary’s ability to convey a story. She grabs her reader’s attention and lets them discover for themselves the key aspects of her life.

Mary describes her adventures involving the rivers situated around Cottardale, exploring her childhood, unshackled by the protected nature in which children are raised today. “I was barely five when I had my next second flooded adventure in the flooded river”. She describes another near death experiences as a ‘watery adventure’ when she got caught up with her current of the river and ‘plunged’ underwater, whilst ‘spluttering and choking’. Mary’s understated, yet gripping, style of writing is a key element of the memoir.

A key element of Mary’s memories is her relationship with her father. She may have been a single child since there are no mention of siblings, but her focus on her father is consistent throughout the biography. Her mother gets less than five mentions within the text. Most paragraphs, by contrast, start with ‘my father’. This is intriguing as it goes against the stereotype of the distant father figure within the start of the 20th century, and is a theme which I am eager to explore.

Traditional Farm Life in the 1900s

The autobiography gives an interesting insight into farm life in the early 1900’s and people who lived in rural communities. What I think is interesting throughout the memoir is the differences that Mary’s life contrasts with the urban life of that era, and also how her life is drastically different to a modern day life and a modern day childhood

Another key theme of the biography is her relationship with animals. From a family of birds, the parents being killed by her father, to her own beloved pony who occasionally puts hers and others life in danger, the relationship with animals are clear indications of memories which define her as a person. I am excited to delve into what these relationships have an underlying meaning, and finding these memories which are significant to her life and their connotations.

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


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