Aussie Grandmother

In Manly: William, Jane, Elly, Robert, Grandma Brigden

Dad had achieved a great deal during his short life in Australia, but when Mum was left with five children to support, on her own, life was difficult.

A Christmas hamper from the Smith Family, an odd parcel of food supplies from some religious institutions, was welcomed, but it was the Blacks from Applegate Farm who gave us, without fully knowing it, a surrogate Grandmother.

We were without family; all our relatives were in Holland and in no position to assist.

One day, there was a knock at the door, and before us stood a kindly old lady with a welcoming smile. We milled around Mum’s legs. The lady commenced by addressing the children, with hellos, and how lovely we were. Generally, children were ignored, not by this lady. And this was our introduction to a very pleasant surprise in our lives. 

Mrs. Brigden introduced herself and said she lived in Manly, together with her bachelor son Alan.  She said she owned a little holiday cottage, located beside the Applegate Farm entrance. 

Mrs. Brigden explained, “I heard from a neighbour that you are new Australians, from Holland, and you are a widow bringing up five small children”. 

“Excuse me for intruding”, she continued, “but I want to say hello, and let you know that my son, was a pilot in the Australian air force. He was shot down over Holland and is buried there. You see, I have a bond with Holland. I am unable to have grandchildren of my own. May I give your children the love of a grandmother”?

My mother invited her in for tea, and Mrs. Brigden spent time talking and listening to us. She and her best friend, Miss Tout, spent regular weekends at their little cottage next to Applegate Farm, and we had tea and fairy cakes with them regularly. 

Mrs. Brigden lived in Manly. She was a founder of the Far West Scheme, which was, a retreat providing holiday accommodation for children from outback farms doing it tough in Australia. 

We felt privileged to be the special kids who had her, as our grandmother. She often invited Jane and me to her home in Manly on school holidays. Or else, we would stay with Miss Tout at Fairy Bower. Jane and I walked to Manly beach, or across to the wharf to swim. Sometimes we went to see a movie, and Mrs. Brigden washed our hair in lavender water at night. 

We had fresh fruit loaf with butter and honey for breakfast and we were introduced to traditional Australian baked dinners. We were allowed to watch television and we listened to her stories before bedtime.

Mrs. Black conveyed our plight to Mrs. Brigden, shortly before she left Welby, but had no idea that this little old lady would take us so closely into her heart. We loved her, and will never forget the love she gave us.

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