Edwin James Brady
E.J. Brady (1869-1952) was born on 7 August 1869 at Carcoar, New South Wales. He spent much of his childhood in America where his father fought in the Civil War before the family returned to Australia.
Although not well known now EJ Brady was in his day a successful and well known poet, journalist and contributor to the Sydney Bulletin which published his first book of poems, The Ways of Many Waters in 1899.
Brady and Lawson were friends from their first meeting in 1891, as he describes in ‘Mallacoota Days and Other Things’ in Henry Lawson by His Mates, published by Angus & Robertson in 1931.
Early in 1892 Brady, aged only 22 was editor of the official paper of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, The Australian Workman. He published without authorization Lawson’s poem ‘The Cambaroora Star.’ An unhappy Lawson entered Brady’s office to 'thank' him’ for paying him the 'honour' of stealing his poem’. As was often the case with Lawson the meeting ended at a pub and Lawson and Brady were to become life long friends.
Around 1907 after a the failure of The Native Companion, a monthly literary journal edited by Brady he disappeared from Melbourne and it was rumoured around the city that he had committed suicide. As it transpired Brady had, after a drinking bout, found himself on a hiking trip through East Gippsland and the district of Mallacoota.
Mallacoota is an isolated coastal area about 65km south of Eden just over the Victorian boarder. Up until 1922 the only access to Mallacoota was by bridle track or boat and even today Eden remains the closest 'big town'.
Brady was enchanted by Mallacoota. “We had, by happy accident, found an Australian Arcadia where Virgin Nature abided, an Arcadia yet innocent of progress, still undisturbed by despoiling hands” (Dreams and Realities, 1944).
In 1909 he set up a camp there for twelve months to write the story of his wagon trip to Townsville in 1899 (King’s Caravan). Henry Lawson spent 'some weeks' in 1910 in a Brady's bush camp at Mallacoota. Brady later recalled Lawson's visit, "We were in our first camp on Captain's Point, living like gipsies. The fishing was good, the shooting was good and a temporary solving of the economic problem had left one free to write when and what one liked - in blessed literary emancipation and far enough from all that vulgar, strident condition that is miscalled 'modern civilization'".
Around this time Brady was commissioned by George Robinson at £50 a month to write a book about Australia. 'Australia Unlimited' was published in 1918 and was to be his most financially successful book. The writing of this book took Brady all over the country in 1912 but by 1913 he returned to Mallacoota where he struggled to build a comfortable house for himself and his young family while preparing the proof for the new book. All new materials for building had to be shipped around the coast to Eden and then brought by cutter to Mallacoota.
'Mallacoota House was finally finished in 1922 and Brandy entertained many famous Australians there; writers Banjo Patterson and Katharine Susannah Prichard, artist Arthur Streeton, and former Australian prime minister John Curtin.
Brady called Mallacoota home for the rest of his life and was actively involved in community affairs. In 1932 he set up a writers community, the 'Mallacoota Community Farm' which was unfortunately short lived and ended in some acrimony.
Brady died in hospital at Pambula Hospital on 22 July 1952 and was buried at Mallacoota.
A Critical Biography of Edwin James Brady 1869-1952 by John B. Webb. M.A. 1972
Submitted to the University of Sydney in fulfillment of the requirements of the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Webb, John B., 'Brady, Edwin James (1869–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brady-edwin-james-5335/text9019, accessed 2 July 2012. This article was first published in hard copy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979
Faces in the Street by Pip Wilson http://www.henrylawson.info/