18[Briden, Mollie, My Life in Port Hedland (unpublished), A short hand-written memoir written by Mollie Briden at age 77, two years before her death., 1983, Copy provided to the author by Mollie's granddaughter Cathy Wallace.]
[Mollie Briden was the youngest daughter of Harry & Annie Briden.
A copy of this memoir was made available by Mollie's granddaughter Cathy Wallace, Perth.
Mollie died in 1985, aged 79.]
My Life in Port Hedland by Mollie Elliott, nee Briden.
My Mother & Father migrated from England in the late 1800s. The landed at Albany & went to Greenbushes, a small mineing town. A short stay there, then they went to Fremantle, where they had an interest in a small business. There my sister Dolly was borne, after a while they decided to try their luck in the North West of Australia. They arrived by boat at Port Hedland, after a weeks voyage from Fremantle. Port Hedland was a very small town, from there they set off to [?Moolyelta] tin mines by horse & buggy about 100 miles inland. On arriving there, my mother, must of been surprised to find, only one white woman, [?Mrs. Chessman] among all the miners & bullock team drivers, a lot different from the life in England.
In 1900 my sister was borne at Moolyelta, a delicate baby, but did well on goats milk, & good nursing by Mum. After a while they moved into Port Hedland, where my father went into a grocery business, with a partner Bell. 1906. My mother came to Perth for a holiday, where I was borne, & returned soon after to Port Hedland. My brother Harry (Otto nick name) was borne, 13 months later. Now we settle down to a quiet life in our very humble little home, with make shift walls of Hesshing and some corrugated, & make shift floor from fruit cases. The Hesshing walls were white washed, to make them form a water proof. As time went on, our house improved, with the help of friends. In January 1912, my Mother became very ill, and had to go to Perth. I was only 5 years old, and remember crying as she was driven away in a horse & Buggy by a friend Mr [?Moones] the Butcher.
My fathers business wasn't a success, he decided to go to Broome for work, as there was none in Port Hedland. So arrangements were made for my sister Dolly and brother Otto to stay with friends in Hedland. Firstly I was sent to friends Mrs Hedditch in Marble Bar. The only memories I have of my father, are him taking me down to the train, early in the morning, it was dark the stars were still shining. The train took all day to do the 100 miles to Marble Bar. The carriage was only a guards van with a wooden seat all the way round. I was happy with the Hedditch family, Kathleen & Lucy were round my age. Soon after my sister Ida arrived, & stayed with friends the Scriminger family. My father set off for Broome, on the Koombana March 1912 her maiden voyage but ran into a cyclone and completely disappeared, nothing was ever heard of her, all lives were lost, leaving us fatherless.
A few months later my Mothers health improved enough, for her to return to us. With Dolly and Otto she came to Marble Bar to take Ida and myself home. From then on it was a hard time for my Mother the wellfare assistance was very small, but we were a very happy family, she was a wonderful Mother. Things got better, as Dolly started school teaching, & Ida went to work. I was 9 years old and earning two shillings & sixpence, a week, looking after a baby after school. My uncle Percy arrived from England & lived with us, in a way he took the place of our father. He built himself a room on the back, & was working on the railways.
We got most of our pleasure from the beach, which was just at the bottom of the hill, where we lived. We swam, fished, crabed & picniced, after the high tides we enjoyed collecting the drift woods on the beach. Uncle Percy made us a small cart, a harness for our Billy goat, which we used for getting wood, from the marshes, the mangrove roots were good burning saved Mum buying wood. Billy was often harnessed up at the weekend to take us, for picnics to a lovely sandy beach, he would pull the loaded cart, we were well equipped with tent, water & eats, & thought nothing of walking the miles to the picnic spot we always had. Our friends the Greys with us, [?Girlie] & I were very great friends did, & went, every where together.
How we come to have old Billy, we had goats, Mum used to sell the milk, Otto used to deliver it, carrying 6 billy cans, 3 hooks on two sticks, the goats were a great interest too, after milking in the morning they were let loose & went out to the one mile to feed, always about 4-30 PM they came home, & each one went into its own pen which Uncle Percy had made, they were milked and tied up. Apart from the milk they were real pets, & we loved the little kids when they arrived. Mum also sold eggs, & bread, at 10 pence a loaf. Soon Mum got a cow, instead of the goats. Dolly milked the cow, Otto still delivered the milk, some families came for theirs.
Old Billy had become a bit of a nuisance, so Dolly, Ida, myself, Girlie & Jessie Grey decided to take old Billy on a rope out to the 4 mile ridge where there were a lot of wild goats. We set off very early on a Saturday morning. Billy came along nicely, and we let him loose near the goats, then we crossed over the sand hill to the beach where we had our picnics and slowly walked home along the waters edge, only to find when we got home, that Billy had got home before us.
Another of our pleasur as children, was Guy Fawkes, for weeks all the boys & girls with Otto, would work for days, building up a big heap of rubbish, ready for the 5th November. They would make an old Guy cart him round the town, a penny for the Guy, this would buy the crackers. Otto always seemed to be the leader. Then Guy Fawkes night, all the families arrived, at our place, after the bonfire, and crackers, there was cool drinks & cakes, it was a real fun evening.
The years are going by. It was a happy life, every one was happy and friendly, school sports were a big thing, with good money prizes. 5 shillings was good money in those days. The skipping was the big event for the girls, we would skip up to a hundred or more often. Our school concerts, & fancy dress balls, were a once a year thing. The costumes were always good, & everyone took part. Our concerts were good, and Mrs Mosely put a lot of work into teaching the songs. She was teaching me the Piano so we always played a Duet at the opening.
I must be about 12 years old now, & have two jobs, cleaning the Bank before school, it was only a small bank. Then after school, I swept out the school, one large room with verandah all round. My wages were £1-5-0 ($1-50) per month. Once during the school holiday Dolly, Girlie, & myself, went to the Poondina Hotel for a weeks holiday. Poondina was a railway siding 20 miles from Hedland, & supplied water from the river, when Hedland ran out of rain water, the water train brought in tanks of water & we bought it for 5/- shilling 100 gallons. Girlie & I wanted to play Tennis, so to learn, we used to get up early at the week ends & spend about an hour on the tennis courts. Later in life Tennis was one of our main entertainments. At the school holidays I went out to [?Nuniningarra] Station to look after two little children. Before this my Uncle Bert arrived from England. He was a watch maker. He didn't live with us, but I used to tidy up his shop at week ends. Uncle Percy & he went to the world war one. Uncle Percy was killed only after 12 hours in the firing line, Uncle Bert came through without a scratch, he was a signaller. He returned to Hedland after the war. His fiancee came out months later they were married in Hedland, and the wedding breakfast was held on our side verandah. Mum did all the catering.
When I was 14 I went out to Pilga Station to work for Mrs Good. I stayed with her for 3 years, during that time I had a trip to Perth with her as nurse maid to her 2 little girls. Otto was working after school in Uncle Bert's cool drink factory. Uncle Bert had a small boat, & often took us over to Finicane Island for a picnic. Bullock, Camel & Donkey teams delivered all supplies to stations etc., so when I went to Pilga Station about 50 miles from Marble Bar, Mr Good met the train at Marble Bar, we spent the night at the hotel, got an early start next morning by Buggy & pair Horses. We had to rest the Horses a while, while we had lunch, and arrived at the station by about 4 o'clock. I was happy here, I really learned about house work, washing, ironing & bread making. Otto came out for a weeks holiday. I was very happy about that. The Marble Bar race week made me very excited. Mrs Good made me a nice dress, Mum also made me a pink dress.
Mum & Mrs Grey did the catering for the race Ball. A lot of Hedland people came up for it by train also the Station people close by came in there were still no Cars.
I could dance well. Our school turn outs taught us to dance properly. Once with Eric Molloy we won a waltzing competition. Ida had gone to Broome to work. Dolly still teaching in Hedland. Now I returned to Hedland. I was 17 and glad to be home. I went to work at the Esplanade Hotel as a waitress. The first morning 7 o'clock I was too shy to go into the dining room, all men, never having been in men's company. Mrs Marmion(?) was kind & understanding, and sent me to a table of 6 old men for a start. I soon got used to it & really loved the work. I was there 5 years altogether. The first 2 years I didn't even have one day off, it was 7 days a week too. Then Ida came back from Broome and came to work at the Hotel as Housmaid. So I had a couple of weeks holiday at Pilga Station. I was a friend of the girl who took my place there it was a nice holiday. Mr Good had a car now, we used to go out on the round with him & the children sometimes swim in the water tanks. Now back to work at the Hotel. We were able to send Mum home to England with Uncle Berts wife (Aunty Agnes) for a years holiday.
Hedland was still the same small quiet town about 3 Cars, still no Electricity. To keep things cool we had the Koolgardie safes a frame with Hesshin round it a tray of water on the top, & wet pieces of cloth dripping down the sides to keep them wet, & it really did a good job. Our life went on like one big happy family. The Bridens that's us, the Greys, Moores, Wilson, [?Cromartys], Lawsons, [?Pedalars], [??s], Daddows, Werrys, we all grew up together. Tennis, Wed, Sat, & Sundays, Moonlight picnics at Pretty pool. Surprise parties & once a fortnight Fridays a Euchre party & dance. The boys paid 2/6, the girls brought a plate of cakes for supper. They were happy days.
When the passenger ships were in Port, we all went on the boat, in the evening, & often a dance was put on for us. Then once a year the big Race week about August. The Hotels were full, all the Station people had Cars now. Friends stayed with friends. I was very busy in the dining room, but never too tired to enjoy the entertainment. Saturday & Monday Races. In the afternoon I was able to go to the races, 1 day. Friday night usually a small dance, Sat usually a concert, stall or something which children could go to. Sunday cricket, Monday night the Ball. It was a big event, always new dresses, we even had dance programmes & they were filled up in no time, such lovely old fashioned days. Then [?last a] dance to finish up for the few people left behind. Oh for those times again, and for my many nice boy friends.
By now Otto was working in Dalgeties. Ida had married Bert Hanks, & gone to Broome. Dolly was married, to Frank Trembath. Mum arrived home from England, a fortnight after I was married, April 26th, 1927, to Nic Elliot. We left Hedland. Vic died 1952. Now I am 77, happy amongst my four children, 13 grandchildren.
My Life's Story.