Roy and Hilda Bridges


The countryside around Sorell, home of the Bridges (AOT, PH30/1/780)

Royal Tasman Bridges (18851952) and Hilda Maggie Bridges (18801971) were both well-known Tasmanian authors. Roy Bridges is remembered as Tasmania's most prolific novelist, and his sister Hilda as Roy's life-long companion and a fiction writer in her own right.

Both were born in Hobart but through their mother, Laura, traced their ancestry back through the Wood family, pioneers of the Sorell district. Stories retold by their mother inspired in Roy an abiding interest in Tasmanian history. Most of his 36 novels are on historical, often Tasmanian, themes. Some are light adventure stories and all tend to use mannered prose and stereotypical situations, but in his mature work he probed the history of convict transportation and its effects on individuals and on Tasmanian society. Hilda's sixteen novels and many short stories are mostly contemporary adventures, romances and children's stories.

Roy left Hobart in 1909 for a successful career in journalism in Sydney and Melbourne, but in 1935 he retired permanently with Hilda to the Wood family property near Sorell. They lived rather impoverished and lonely lives from then on, but continued to write. Roy's book That yesterday was home, published in 1948, is a mixture of autobiography and family history and is his only enduring work. It reveals the full depth of his passionate engagement with Tasmanian history and landscape, as well as his own strange and rather depressive personality.

Further reading: P Pierce (ed), The Oxford literary guide to Australia, Melbourne, 1987.

Anne-Marie Condé