Emily Bradman, loving mother of The Don

25/05/17 Category: Blog, Events, News Posted by:

About Emily Bradman’s Diary/Notebook

The Bradman Museum holds a digital copy* of Emily Bradman’s diary/notebook, the place where she expressed her hopes, fears and philosophies together with some good old-fashioned recipes.

An earnest and devout woman, Emily gives us a glimpse of Don Bradman’s upbringing in Bowral through the pages she wrote. The Museum believes she commenced writing around 1912 continuing well into the 1930s.

Emily Whatman was born in Mittagong in 1871, the sixth of nine children. Her father was William Whatman and her mother Sophia Cupitt. Emily met George Bradman when on a visit to Cootamundra while attending a bush dance. The couple were married in 1893.

Five years George’s senior, Emily found being a farmer’s wife challenging, battling the deprivations of the Australian bush with five young children ~ Islet, Lillian, Elizabeth May, Vic & Don.

In 1911 the family relocated back to the Highlands closer to Emily’s family. George took up a role as a carpenter at Alf Stephen’s Timber Yard making a name for himself as an excellent craftsman and fence-maker.

At different stages in her life Emily suffered from various medical issues and her writings contain all manner of ‘cure-alls’ for minor ailments. The scrap book contains remedies on topics as broad as how to deal with indigestion, thinning hair, scaly skin, rheumatism, tired eyes, circulation and dental care. There’s even recipes for making soap, linement and a ‘pick me up’ tonic.

The book is clearly a place of reflection for Emily. Prayers and religious verse are commonplace. Her neat hand cites numerous wise sayings which dot the pages. It is clear she found these writings a comfort in how she lived and raised her family. was central to her identity;

‘I would desire for a friend the son who never resisted the tears of his mother.’
‘The boy who has a sister to tone him down makes a better man than the one who has none.’
‘Youth fades, love droops, the leaves of friendship fall, but a mother’s secret hope outlives them all’

And a dim view of alcohol;

‘He who learns strong drink to despise will find himself healthy, wealthy and wise’.

Or a persistent theme of hard work, application and toil;

‘What glory has ever been rendered manifest except through suffering’

Music is also an obvious interest with many songs and verses featured headed by titles such as ‘Kissed His Mother’, ‘Help For Others’, ‘Bowral’, ‘Womens Sphere’, ‘Marriage Rhymes’ or ‘The Hotel Bar’ and ‘Sing A Song of Whisky’ once-more parodying alcohol. Of particular interest is one called ‘The King of Games’ where the cricket is celebrated as ‘the happiest game of all’ or Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ with changed lines referencing cricket and finishing ‘To one named Bradman, who’s a Don, my son’.

The other role of the book was to track the progress of her children. For example Emily has recorded when Don started primary school (13/9/1913), when he sang at the Kangaloon music concert (24/8/1920), when he first went to Sydney (1920), and when he first played competitive tennis aged 10 years and ten months. She even recorded when he caught the measles on 19 May1915.

Don Bradman honoured his mother and father while they were alive, often returning to Bowral to visit them. While overseas playing cricket regular correspondence was maintained between he and his parents and it is clear that both of them had a very strong and enduring influence over their son. Certainly Bradman’s lifelong values of duty, honesty, diligence and accepting responsibility, were shaped by both George and Emily Bradman.

Emily recorded the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling in her diary/notebook. She adapted the poem to provide wise advice for her son who became a champion on the cricket pitch.

If you can hear the tributes that men utter
And read the words of praise that hosts have said
And never let such things produce a flutter
Ice your nerve or make you lose your head

Read the full version here.

“The King of Games” is an interesting cricket poem found recorded in Emily Bradman’s diary/notebook.

Read the full version here.

*The original is in private hands

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