BLAKE, BRIDGET

1886 - 1956 from England


young writer, was born in England, the third child and second daughter of Robert BLAKE and Dorothea (Dora) Blake, née Herford. Dora had taken her two older children to England in late 1885 in advance of her husband who had remained behind in the Falklands to complete the season's work. Bridget was born at Bridge, the Blake home in Somerset, in July 1886. Over the years the Blakes had a total of eight children, four boys and four girls. Their mother had trained as a teacher and was a very talented water colourist, so the children did not lack for education. She was a strict disciplinarian, and the children had their own chores to do, besides school work. They spent their early childhood years growing up in great freedom at Hill Cove on West Falkland.

0041
41 Writer and pony.

At school in England, aged about twelve, Bridget wrote a small booklet, illustrated with photographs, to explain the very different life she had lived. The house (still inhabited today) is described, as are the additions to it required as the family grew. The valley to the west of the house where the gardens were is described, and there in the shelter the children played many games, including 'hairdressers' using grass clumps as customers. Their father had his tree nursery down in the valley, and the children their own small gardens. Bridget was very knowledgeable about the wild plants to be found, and those which were edible.

When the year's stores arrived there was great excitement as the children were allowed to help with the unpacking, and Bridget records that: 'Once a glass jar of French Plums had been broken on the voyage from England and we were allowed to have the plums for provisions in the Fort we were building up on the hill'. The simplicity of the children's lives is emphasised by Bridget's description of the Cottage, a playhouse made by their father, which had a small door at the front and a window at the back, with a ladder set against the side so they could climb on to the roof. Their chief treasures were kept here: 'an old coffee-pot, two or three chipped cups and saucers, a shiny blue sugar bowl, an earthen jar discovered in the middle of a gorse hedge when we were looking for hens' nests'.

By 1891 Dora thought that it was time to take her children back to school in England. The two eldest were getting beyond the stage where she could teach them for all subjects. She also felt that her daughters were running wild, for where in England would one find girls careering about bareback on a pony, or excitedly lassoing a pig? Her husband was less certain, and it was with mixed feelings that he kept to the agreement they had made. He had for some time been promising Dora that the whole family would make their home in Somerset if they could rent a suitable house; they could not afford to buy with so many children to educate. Dora and the five children, with Miss Firmin their governess, sailed in early 1892 for England, and were joined in June by Robert, by which time another daughter had been born. Robert left again four months later to oversee work at the estancia near San Julian,and to visit Hill Cove, and was not to return until February 1894. By this time it became obvious to Blake that he could not afford to keep his large family in England so, leaving the two eldest behind with Dora's sister, they returned to the Falklands for four years.

The children all learned to ride, for it was the only way to get from place to place. They had a long-suffering pony, Snipe, who lived in the house paddock, so was always available. Bridget says: 'When we were little, if we were going for a picnic, the things to eat would be packed in saddlebags and fastened on Snipe; the baby sat in front, and the older children took it in turns to ride behind and hold it on'. There is a photograph of Bridget as a girl with her horse, dressed in baggy trousers, gaiters and short boots.

In March 1898 they left the Islands for the last time. It seems that Bridget never returned, though her parents and sister Violet did as they were taken off the Oravia when she was wrecked on the Billy Rock in 1912. The Falkland Islands Magazine of March 1911 noted 'Miss Bridget Blake of Hill Cove has taken First Class Honours in English Literature at Oxford'. Bridget went on to teach at Ladybarn House in Manchester, a school run by her mother's sister, which had been started by her grandfather Herford. Little is known of the rest of her life, though she taught at Penarth in Wales and retired there. She and Violet became Christian Scientists in middle life which must have caused some comment in the family as they had been raised as Unitarians, just as all the Blakes were. Bridget died in 1956. Bridget's Book was published by the Alastair Cameron Memorial Trust in 2002.

Authors

Sally Blake