‘The Greatest Partnership of My Life’
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.
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;
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.