TIMELESS: Bray family and friends  with what could possibly be the new bicycle.
TIMELESS: Bray family and friends with what could possibly be the new bicycle. Tweed Regional Museum

Letters reveal family life in the Tweed back in the 1800s

TALKING HISTORY with the Tweed Regional Museum

Part 3: Bray Family

IN THIS third and final part of our series on the Bray family letters, we see how the family moves on after the death of Winnie, aged 19.

Letters written over the following years at significant times, such as Winnie's birthday and Christmas, reveal the family and Winnie's beau were still grieving and trying to come to terms with her loss, however life must go on, and they were able to find much to be happy about.

Both Dolly and Ethel wrote to Frank in May 1897 with exciting news of a new bicycle. Dolly writes: "Isn't it great Father getting us a bicycle eh! It is a lovely one, and easy to ride, it is called an 'Australian Rover' ...”

And Ethel: "... Fancy we have a bike! It came yesterday, Webspinner put it together, brought it out after dinner, such a beauty, it looks like new, although it is a second hand one, it is an 'Australian Rover' - there are foot rests, and a bell ... is it not awfully good of Father getting us one. We have been riding in turns all afternoon.”

TH129-40 Bray family members boating on the river at Kynnumboon, C.1900
TH129-40 Bray family members boating on the river at Kynnumboon, C.1900 Tweed Regional Museum

As well as personal recollections, the letters give a perspective on public events of the time. Dolly's letter of November 20, 1898, talks about the very first Murwillumbah Show. She writes: "The show is going to be next Thursday and Friday, and I have done a map of Australia, and entered it. Mother is going to show some preserved fruits, and Ethel some pictures, and Ethel is going to show some scones. Rex is doing a drawing of an engine or something which he is going to show. I wonder how it will go off.” (For more history of the Murwillumbah Show, pop into the museum in Murwillumbah for our latest exhibition, Chutney, Chooks and Champions: stories of the Show.)

The Hospital Ball of 1899 gets a mention from both Dolly and Shirley, with Shirley's letters being particularly amusing. She wrote: "I will tell you all about the Hospital Ball 28th July... On the Friday morning, Dolly, Marjorie, Clive and Raty went out to get the decorations in the cart, they got a big cart-load (Father told them we would supply the decoration). Clive and Marjorie drove them in. We all drove in ... after dinner to see how they were getting on with the tables and decorations etc, it was not much fun in there, only a lot of old woman, no nice fellows, so we didn't stay there long. We got dressed after tea and then went up. There was an awful crowd there, about 90 couples, there were 24 dances altogether. I danced about 16 ... who do you think I had my first dance with! Mr Burgess! - I was surprised to see him there ... bit of luck for me he came wasn't it? I won't tell you how many dances I had with him - you might smile ... The last two waltzes were great, only about six couples up, the floor was lovely, you could see yourself in it. The bumping was something frightful especially in the polka and round dances. I had a polka with the doctor oh! it was awful he nearly fell down two or three times.”

TH130-01 Three Bray family members in the garden at Kynnumboon, C.1900
Three Bray family members in the garden at Kynnumboon, circa 1900. Tweed Regional Museum

Newspaper reports of the time explain the ball was to raise funds to build the Cottage Hospital, which was finished in 1903. According to The Brisbane Courier, the Hospital Ball was the most successful held on the Tweed, raising about 60 pounds.

Full transcripts of all the Bray letters can be found on the museum's website: http://museum.tweed.nsw .gov.au/CollectionsAnd Research (follow the links to 'Search the collection on eHive').

* Talking History is a column supplied by the staff of the Tweed Regional Museum. It features the stories behind their rich collection.