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23 January 2010

Hilda Bridges (Hilda Maggie Bridges)

Hilda Maggie Bridges was born on 19 October 1881, in Hobart, Tasmania, the eldest daughter of 3 children of Samuel Bridges and Laura Jane, née Woods. Hilda’s younger brother was author, Roy(al) Bridges. He was educated at Queen’s College and the University of Tasmania, before beginning a long career as a journalist and author. He wrote a total of 36 novels during his career. Hilda was educated at Scotch College, Hobart. She was an accomplished pianist and taught music for a number of years before joining Roy in Melbourne to keep house for him (Giordano & Norman 120). She never married, living with her brother for most of her life, working as his housekeeper and secretary. Hilda’s first novel was published in 1922 and she wrote 13 novels in total (mostly romances and mysteries), 3 children’s books and hundreds of short stories and articles (ADB 405). In 1935 the pair moved to Woods farm, a family property. When Roy died in 1952, Hilda arranged for his manuscripts to be presented to the University of Tasmania Archives. Hilda died on 11 September 1971 in a Hobart nursing home (Giordano & Norman 112).

Further Reading
Bridges, Roy. That Yesterday Was Home. Sydney: Australasian Publishing Co., 1948.
Giordano, Margaret, and Don Norman. Tasmanian Literary Landmarks. Hobart: Shearwater Press, 1984.
University of Tasmania. Library., D. H. Borchardt, and Bonnie Tilley. The Roy Bridges Collection in the University of Tasmania : A Catalogue. Cremorne: Stone Copying Co., 1956.

Bobby's First Term: A School-boys' story. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, 1924. 86 pages. Illus. 'J. M. Thomasson', b/w frontis. & 2 b/w illus.

Bobby's First Term is one of the few Australian school stories to be set in private prepatory schools. Robert Richardson’s earlier school stories were set in small schools for younger pupils. Dick Holloway is a pupil at Rockley School when he learns that his father cannot afford to let him stay another year. He and his younger brother, Bobby, are sent to spend a year with their aunt, uncle and cousin. His uncle is initially disappointed with Dick’s apparent cowardice, but is reconciled with Dick when the latter saves a drowning man, praising Dick’s bravery, heroism and courage. Their father has a change of luck and is able to send the two boys to Rockley. Dick is determined to swot and try to win a scholarship to the Grammar School. Bobby and another boy, Dalton, plan a revenge on one of the seniors but Bobby steps on a tack and his foot is poisoned. Dick is suspected of stealing from one of the teachers when he wakes up at night looking for his brother. Dick is questioned, but his schoolboy honour prevents him from giving up Bobby. The new Head turns out to be the man Dick rescued, Dalton confesses to the trick, and the real thief, a former employee, is caught. Bobby's First Term is one of a number of boys’ school stories to be written by women. Other female authors of boys’ school stories include Lillian Pyke and Mary Grant Bruce.

Bobby's First Term was reprinted in 1933 and 1940.

Connie of the Fourth Form. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, [1930]. 88 pages. Illustrated 'G. M. Richardson', b/w frontis. & 2 b/w illus.

Connie of the Fourth Form incorporates standard school motifs such as the persecution of a new girl, the importance of playing the game and sports scenes with a plot involving hidden treasure and a wicked teacher. Adventure plots were quite common in British girl’s school stories of the period, yet in Australia they were more prevalent in boys’ school stories, Connie of the Fourth Form being one of the earliest Australian girls’ school stories to use plots such as hidden treasure. It was not until the 1940s with the stories of Anne Bracken and Dora Joan Potter that they appear again. When Constance Somerley, an orphan, arrives as a new pupil at Lowbanks College in dowdy, old-fashioned clothes she is ridiculed by some of the girls, including the rich and spoilt Ella Myers. One of the teachers, Miss Spotswood, also makes things difficult for Connie. One night Connie discovers the existence of a secret door in the school. Miss Spotswood is very interested in the discovery and tries to find it. Miss Spotswood had heard of a hidden treasure left by the original owner of Lowbanks and came to the school to try and discover it. Connie, and another girl, Mollie, explore the school and find the secret door which leads to a passage and a hidden room, just as Miss Spotswood is trying to follow them. When the two girls disappear the Head calls the Police in and they find the girls in the hidden room with old papers and money stored in an old desk. The Head discovers Miss Spotswood’s intentions and she is asked to leave. Connie and Molly learn that they will be rewarded for their discovery. A title in the Whitcombe’s Story Books: Stories for Girls series, this slim volume story contains a glossary of words and two pages of questions to test silent reading.


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