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‘The Greatest Partnership of My Life’

  Don & Jessie Bradman,Glebe St. Bowral, 1932
 
Don & Jessie Bradman,Glebe St. Bowral, 1932.
While the Bradman’s were residing in Shepherd Street, Bowral, Jessie, the daughter of  Glenquarry farmer James Menzies came to live with the family in 1921 as a weekly boarder. It was Jessie Menzies first year at the Bowral school and as there was no transport to Bowral from the Menzies family farm the arrangement suited both families. Each day Jessie would walk to and from school with Don across Glebe Park (now Bradman Oval). The following year Jessie was considered old enough to bring her two sisters to school by sulky and so she returned home to Glenquarry. However a firm friendship had developed between Don and Jessie. Bradman recalled in his speech at the opening of the Bradman Museum of Cricket in 1989 that, as a twelve year old, he decided he would like to marry her but kept this to himself until they were much older.

In 1926 James Menzies bought a house in the Sydney suburb of Burwood and moved his wife and daughters there so that the girls could get a better education. Two years later Don Bradman moved in with the Pearce family in the neighbouring suburb of Concord and he became a frequent visitor to the Menzies household. A flourishing romance commenced which culminated in the marriage of Don and Jessie in St Paul’s Church, Burwood on 30 April, 1932. After a short break in Melbourne the couple joined Arthur Mailey’s cricket team tour to Canada and the U.S.A. which lasted from May until September – a truly memorable honeymoon! During that time the couple visited Vancouver, Banff, Moose Jaw, Winnepeg, Toronto, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles amongst other towns and cities. Bradman even met baseball legend George ‘Babe’ Ruth in New York.

After returning to Australia the couple settled in to Sydney life renting a house at McMahon’s Point. Now that Bradman was married, he set about securing a career away from cricket. Not knowing what the future held and always keen to maintain cricket as an enjoyable pastime rather than a job, Bradman was interested by the offer of South Australian cricket administrator and stockbroker, Harry Hodgett, of a six-year contract with his business. This offer also allowed Bradman to continue to play regular First-Class cricket.

Don and Jessie Bradman, Adelaide, 1935.  

Adelaide, 1935.
 
Don and Jessie Bradman arrived in Adelaide early in 1934. The Australian Test tour of England was looming and they needed to establish themselves in their new city. An architect was approached and they commenced the construction of a new house in the Adelaide suburb of Kensington Park. At the end of the 1934 tour Bradman fell gravely ill with acute appendicitis and peritonitis while still in England. After surgery he teetered on the edge of life for several days. Jessie frantically commenced her journey to England, first by train to Perth and then a subsequent sea voyage of several weeks. When they were reunited in England Don had made a steady recovery but the couple stayed on for some months until he was fully fit. They finally returned to Adelaide in April 1935.

On 28 October, 1936 Jessie gave birth to a son who sadly lived only a few days. At the same time Don had been made Australian Test cricket captain for the forthcoming England tour to Australia. Three years later, however, Don and Jessie were thrilled at the birth of John Russell Bradman born 10 July, 1939. Two years later their daughter Shirley Jane Bradman was born on 17 April, 1941.

Don and Jessie balanced family life with work, cricket and the constant adulation of Don by cricket lovers around the world. Suburban Adelaide was a quiet and relaxing place to bring up a family and it suited the couple's desire for privacy as they went about their daily lives. After Bradman’s retirement from the game as a player his cricket administration work-load increased and he and sometimes Jessie would travel throughout the country and occasionally back to England when Australia was playing there.

In 1949 Don Bradman was knighted ‘for services to cricket’. In his response to the award he singled out his respect for Jessie;

  At the opening of the Bradman Museum (Stage 1), Bowral, October, 1989.
 
At the opening of the Bradman Museum (Stage 1), Bowral, October, 1989.

I must confess that I felt a sense of pride that my wife could thus share in a positive way some reflected glory and she always bore her new-found status with grace and dignity worthy of any title.'

He wrote of himself at the time;

But for me personally, as a private man and a citizen, I always preferred to think of myself just as plain Don Bradman, the boy from Bowral.’          

Without hesitation, Sir Donald described his life with Lady Bradman as ‘the greatest partnership of my life’. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in April 1997. She died four months later on 14 September 1997.

In 2000, as the cricket world assessed the last one-hundred years, Don Bradman was voted by Wisden as ‘The Cricketer of the Century’. On 25 February 2001 he died peacefully at his home in Adelaide aged ninety-two. It was a life given to the service of cricket.

Always meant to be together, Sir Donald’s and Lady Bradman’s ashes were scattered by their family, around the gardens and Oval in Bowral, where they had so many happy memories.

 

Sir Donald and Lady Bradman, Adelaide, 1993.

Sir Donald and Lady Bradman, Adelaide, 1993.
 


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