E. J. Brady

[Editor: This article provides biographical information about E. J. Brady; for various works by him, click here.]

Edwin James Brady was born in Carcoar, New South Wales, on 7 August 1869. Both his father (Edward John Brady, a mounted policeman) and his mother (Hannah, née Kenny) were Irish immigrants.

Brady spent a large part of his boyhood in Oberon, in the Blue Mountains, where he went to school. In 1880, the family moved to the USA, where they stayed in Washington, D.C.; however, Hannah Brady was homesick for Australia, and so they returned in 1882, living in Sydney.

The vista of the ocean captured young Brady’s imagination, and it was to have a lasting hold on him. His first book of poetry, The Ways of Many Waters, was a collection of his verses about sailors, ships, and life at sea.

Leaving school at the age of fifteen, Brady worked as a chainman on a sewerage line going from Bellevue Hill to Ben Buckler, east of Sydney. After a year of manual labour, he decided to give schooling another try; but he was not committed to the task, and left without graduating.

He got a job as a timekeeper on the Sydney waterfront, which put him in the right place to develop his love for, and knowledge of, ships and sea-going life. In 1890 the big Maritime Strike began, and Dalgety and Co. (the company Brady worked for) demanded that a number of their employees enroll as special constables; but Brady refused to do so, and therefore lost his job.

It appears that this incident was a key part of the radicalization of Brady. He subsequently joined the Australian Socialist League and the Labor Electoral League; he also became editor of the LEL’s newspaper, The Australian Workman, in 1891 (although he lost the editorship some months later, due to factional in-fighting). Through his involvement with Labor politics, he became friends with William Holman (later Premier of NSW), Ernest Lane (brother of the trade union leader William Lane), and Chris Watson (later Prime Minister of Australia).

Brady married Marion Cecilia Walsh in October 1890, but after his new wife gave birth in April 1891, to a baby which was not his, he then sought a divorce, which was granted in 1894. Not long after his divorce was finalized, he married again, this time to a fellow active socialist, Creo Stanley, but unfortunately things didn’t work out, and they separated soon afterwards; however, as his second wife was a Catholic, she refused to agree to a divorce, and so he remained married to her for many years, albeit in name only, until her death in 1942.

Writing for the Sunday Times and Truth, Brady was able to make a living from journalism, as well as from his published poems. In 1904 he became editor of The Worker, but a heavy hand from the managing board made his work untenable, and he left a year later. In 1906 he left Sydney for Melbourne, where he set up the Commonwealth Press Agency; he also took on the editorship of The Native Companion, although the magazine folded at the end of 1907.

During a hiking trip through East Gippsland in 1907, Brady discovered Mallacoota and fell in love with the place. He spent a year there in 1909, writing The King’s Caravan: Across Australia in a Wagon. In 1914 Brady moved there permanently, buying several hundred acres of land, building a home, and beginning work on his planned book, Australia Unlimited. He also tried, with aid from charitable groups and some government assistance, to enable some unemployed people to become self-supporting in Mallacoota, but the scheme failed.[1]

Australia Unlimited, published in 1918, turned out to be his most successful book.[2] It was a thick tome about Australia, which was designed to attract migrants to the country. He envisioned Australia as a land with a large population, saying “The further I have gone the more I have learned to believe in Australia. Australia is capable of carrying 180 millions of people in comfort.” Connected to this, Brady was an advocate of a White Australia policy; in an interview with The Sunday Times, he said “The great point I wish to drive home is that we cannot possibly hope to keep Australia for the white man without effective occupation. If we do not make use of our great expanse of idle territory someone else will, either by forcible immigration or by seizure and partition. . . . The great question of Australia’s destiny will be determined within the next decade, and Australians of all political creeds must unite in protecting our real ideal of a White Australia.”[3]

He cautioned Australians about the military danger posed by Japan; but, Cassandra-like, his warnings fell on deaf ears. John Webb wrote that “Had Brady’s warnings been taken seriously, Australia might have entered the war with Japan better equipped to defend herself. As it was, he was branded as an alarmist and his warnings were ignored. Whatever his shortcomings as a man of letters or as a journalist, he was never deficient as a patriotic Australian.”[4]

Brady struggled financially somewhat; a situation not uncommon for men of letters who are more concerned with expending their talents on literature and ideals, rather than on lucre and income. Nonetheless, he wrote as much as possible for various publications, and produced a significant number of books, including some in manuscript form which were never published. The paper shortage in Australia during the Second World War contributed to his precarious situation.

However, his later life was not entirely one of hardship and disappointment. In 1942 he married Florence Jane Bourke. Then, when Brady was 77 years old, his wife gave birth to a daughter, Edna June Brady.

Brady died in Pambula, New South Wales, on 22 July 1952; he was buried in the Mallacoota West cemetery, Victoria.

E. J. Brady was a leading figure of Australian literature, an idealistic fighter for Australian workers, and a fervent Australian patriot; in all three areas, he tried to improve Australian society. For all these reasons, he should be long remembered.

Works by E. J. Brady:
Works of E. J. Brady

Articles about E. J. Brady:
E. J. Brady’s verses: “The Ways of Many Waters” [29 April 1899]
A review of The Ways of Many Waters.

References:
John B. Webb, “Brady, Edwin James (1869–1952), Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
John B. Webb, “A critical biography of Edwin James Brady 1869 – 1952” (Phd. paper), University of Sydney, 1972
[1] E. J. Brady, “Cinderalla”, in: Edna J. Brady, “Love of Mallacoota”, second edition, January 1998, pp.14-17, Mallacoota Accommodation Hotline & Edna Brady Real Estate (accessed 12 March 2015)
[2] John B. Webb, op. cit., p. 41
[3] ““Australia Unlimited” — An enthusiastic visitor”, The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 2 June 1912, p. 22
”Australia Unlimited.” Interesting chat with Mr. E.J. Brady”, The Geraldton Guardian (Geraldton, WA), 16 July 1912, p. 1
[4] John B. Webb, op. cit., pp. 38, 39 [“Australian might” corrected to “Australia might”]

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