His life and books
Bradbourne is a beautiful and peaceful village situated five miles north of Ashbourne in Derbyshire. It is one of the fifty-one Thankful Villages of England, having suffered no losses during two World Wars, and the only one in Derbyshire.
By 1874 Nat Gould was being blown off course from what his mother intended. She was alarmed by how thoroughly he was settling in at Pilsbury Grange. Her own childhood experience had taught her how harsh and unrewarding farming in Derbyshire could be. Mary Gould had no wish for her son to become a farmer. So she decided he should transfer to Bradbourne, to the farm of her brother William Wright at Haven Grange, to become a proper farm worker. “Give him all the hard and nasty work you can,” she told her brother, “and he’ll soon get tired of it.”
Vain hopes, for it turned out quite otherwise. Fond as he was of Pilsbury Grange, his father’s ancestral house, Nat was even happier at his mother’s beautiful home village. For ever afterwards he regarded Bradbourne as his true home.
"Bradbourne, figuring under the name of Millbourne in my novel "Hills and Dales", is perhaps the one place in England that I look back to as my old home and village. In Australia, up country, in the cities, amid the riot of press work and the racecourse, travelling up the Blue Mountains or the ranges of Queensland, sweltering under the burning sun, I have often thought of the village on the hill, Bradbourne, the sweetest little spot in all the lovely country of Derbyshire. The memory of it never left me; it came across the thousands of miles of ocean like a breath from the dear old hills. To learn to love the hills and valleys of England a man must go far away, live abroad, spend years of his life from the land of his birth - then he realizes how intense, how deep, is his affection for everything he has left behind, and what a mighty longing there is to see it all again.”(1).
After two happy years from 1874 to 1876, his farming days at Bradbourne ended all too soon. He and his mother had to face the fact that there was no prospect of his ever buying or leasing a farm of his own. He would have to make his living elsewhere. And so he did.
After a lifetime of work and travel across the globe, Nat Gould died in 1919 far away from his beloved village. But his grave is there, alongside those of his mother and their Wright ancestors, and within the churchyard gates of which he had written so eloquently long years ago (2).
(1) The Magic of Sport page 33.
(2) Sporting Sketches pages 330-331.
“There are gates through which we have passed brimful of hope and happiness; gates that have led us to the old porch of the church to the threshold of a new life, and the hope of a career in which others shall share our fortunes and our joys. Gates thrown open wide to receive the happy bride, gates through which love dancingly leads the way amidst the flower-strewn path, gates which do not close with a harsh clang, but stand open wide with a gladsome welcome in their wooden arms.
It is summer then and the gates are white and clear, bathed in the warm sunlight, glistening in new white coats, standing out bold and clear amidst the green of the trees and the bright grass on these well-trimmed mounds, these beds smiling with flowers nodding their fragrant heads at the old time-worn stones above them.
It is winter now and the gates stand wide open again. They are the self same gates, but aged and dull. They look grim and stained against the pure white of the snow-covered earth, the frost-bedecked firs, and the glistening icicles suspended from the wall. They are wide open, but there is no ‘wooden-armed’ welcome; it is a dull, sombre reception, for the gates are sad, and the bride, long gone, is returning alone ---
In the dull wintry night they look cold and chill, shutting in the dead.
But they will open again, these gates, and warm once more will be their wooden welcome”.