20, Glebe Street, Bowral, Australia. A house with slanted roof, brick wall and brown thicket fence. Few wild, wanton shrubs and a bunch of perfumed rosemary in the corner. In the tiny town of Bowral (New South Wales, Australia), this ordinary-looking house bats for eternal fame. For here lived the greatest ever. A man with a near-impossible batting average of 99.94. The one who hit 29 centuries in 52 matches. A cricketer like no other.
They called him the Boy from Bowral. His name: Donald George Bradman. Facts were etched on the steel nameplate: “20, Glebe Street. Bradman lived in this house from 1924 to 1928”. Bradman, however, was not born in Bowral which in the early 1900s was a getaway for the rich. He was born 265 miles away in Cootamundra on August 27, 1908, to George and Emily Bradman. One fateful day in 1911, George picked up his carpentry tools and moved to Bowral with Emily and the three-year old Bradman junior. They settled first in 52, Shepherd Street, a modest house from where Bradman walked to Bowral Public School.
A letter typed by Bradman on April 18, 1986, from his home in Adelaide.
It was in the Shepherd Street house that Bradman practiced the tank tap – he’d tap a golf ball with a cricket stump against a curved course of bricks supporting the family’s water tank. A decade later, George & Donald Bradman built their home in Glebe Street where the family lived for nearly four years. The house now belongs to Bradman Trust and is the official residence of the curator of International Cricket Hall of Fame Hall.
Bradman Wall in Bowral’s International Cricket Hall of Fame.
I was in Bowral on a Cricket Legends Tour to meet the cricketer who lent this squat town its cherished fame. Here, the air is laden with Bradman’s memories – about his long walks around the town. About Jessie, the woman he loved and married (he met her in Bowral). Stories about how he pushed the dowels into the wooden planks as his father hunched over to build this house; of glum days, when he would clank the piano keys; of sunny days, when he watered the roses. Of his ashes that lie scattered near the Bradman Oval.
An old advertisement for Don Bradman Special Boots published in a newspaper.
It is in the International Cricket Hall of Fame that all-things Bradman come under one roof. Originally, the Bradman Museum, the Hall is now high-tech Museum with interactive touch screens that aims not only to preserve cricketing history and artefacts but also to expand Bradman’s wish that “cricket should continue to flourish and spread its wings. The world can only be richer for it.”
The house in which Bradman lived between 1924 & 1928.
The Bradman Section of the Hall has a wall full of the greatest cricketer ever. Framed in black and white, sepia, and colour. A life-size Bradman painted on canvas. Looking dapper in a fedora and trench; standing by a shrub wearing suspenders; in a huddle with his cricketing mates; lazily holding a tennis racquet; posing outside a brick house, not in white flannel, but a dark pin-striped suit.
A statue of Sir Donald Bradman near the Bradman Oval in Bowral, Australia
Bradman seemed to be peeping from every corner. I noticed ‘Don’ signed in black ink on a typed letter dated 20.8.63. Behind the glass pane, lay another letter, with Don in slanted hand. Dated 18.4.86 and bearing the address 2, Holden Street, Keningston Park, South Australia. Locked in another cupboard is an old newspaper advertisement of Don Bradman Special Cricket Boot; another is an ad by B Warsop & Sons, Cricket Bat Manufacturers, Sole Makers and Patentees of Conqueror Spring Handle bat as “used by principal players of England and Colonies…”
Copy of a note written by Bradman on December 10, 1928.
If Death had not snatched him away, Sir Donald Bradman would have turned 110 this August 27. He is no longer there. But the tiny town has not forgotten Sir Donald Bradman. The Boy from Bowral.
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.