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My Soul was but a voyager
Upon a shallow sea.
It is not well that one should make
His goddess out of clay,
From dreams unreal soon to wake
And face the real day.
The Star that I, fool, dreamed you’d be
Is clouded in the blue:
The bitter knowledge comes to me,
That you are – only you1
As a member of the West Sydney branch of the Labor Electoral League (along with a close friend, J.C. Watson, destined to become the first Labor Prime Minister), Brady was nominated for preselection, along with twelve others. Depending on its size, each branch could nominate up to four members. Brady, coming fifth in the poll, missed out on nomination, partly because he lacked the strong union backing of the candidates who were successful. George Black, J.D. Fitzgerald, Andrew Kelly and Thomas Davies were subsequently elected to Parliament from this branch.
J.D. Fitsgerald and S.A. Rosa had represented a “moderate” group in the Australian Socialist League while Brady was more militant and further left in his views. Following Fitzgerald’s success both within the League and at preselection and election, Brady and some other left wing members resigned from the Socialist League.2 Brady however, considered the fight worthwhile.
The A.S.L. went into the fight with a will. They stiffened the campaign and seared the moderates at the Trades Hall, who endeavoured to have them repudiated…Never, I believe, in the history of such things was greater activity displayed from any centre. 3
Brady and other more militant members had acted as catalysts in the political arena. Ford somewhat reduces the scale of this version of the part played by the Socialist League while Brady was Secretary, but still regarded it as a new and important force in the history of the Labor movement:
In the insecurity and instability of the strike aftermath and unemployment, as in the earlier excitement and tension of the strike, it stood out with its novelty of programme, passion, drive and utopian confidence. Its novelty, colour and assurance made it a point of concentration and rally and its talented and youthful leaders were unusually well-equipped to contribute the maximum in publicity and propaganda.1
His withdrawal from the Socialist League did nothing to curb Brady’s love for and faith in socialist principles. He kept this faith and trust to the end of his days, although it was often tried by public and private events in subsequent years.
Brady continued to eke out a meagre living by writing poetry (his first poem of many for The Bulletin was 23rd May 1891), as a dramatic reporter for John Norton’s Truth and as a writer of feature articles for the Sunday Times. He also contributed to The Bird-O’-Freedom and the Freeman’s Journal. In his unpublished biography of J.F. Archibald, Brady recounts how W.H. Traill, former Managing-Director and Editor-in-chief of The Bulletin was elected in 1889 to represent South Sydney. Later on, after sitting in two parliamentary sessions, and after trying his hand at pig and poultry farming, Traill became editor of Truth and promptly fired him and John Norton – Brady going on to the Sunday Times at more money. Soon after, however, Norton returned to Truth where he “howled, snarled and barked so well that he died worth a quarter of a million or so”.2
Brady’s interests were lively and wide-ranging throughout his life – perhaps too much so for his own good – and this width is beginning to be visible at this time. In addition to his political activities, he wrote verse and prose of all kinds as well as engaging in quite extensive cultural activities (meetings, concerts and plays). He wrote to the Government Astronomer to get details of the planet Mars for scientific articles he was writing, evidencing his marked interest in science topics. He was introduced by the Hon. J.D. Fitzgerald, M.L.A.3 to M. Kowalski, who was a well-known overseas conductor and composer, and who wanted to set to music some Brady Lyrics. In fact, over the years, quite a number of Brady’s poems were set to music by Kowalski, Alfred Hill, Horace Keats and others. Perhaps the best know of these is “There’s Something at the Yardarm” made popular on record by Peter Dawson. Brady also tried his hand, at this stage, at writing an oratorio in conjunction with Kowalski, but when the conductor was recalled overseas the project lapsed.3
Brady’s acquaintances and friends included the majore figures of his day, not only political, but also literary and artistic: A.G. Taylor (first editor of Truth and the Spectator), John Norton, King O’Malley, Edmund Barton, Dan Green, E.W. O’Sullivan, J.C. Williamson, W. Holman, W.M. Hughes, Nt Gould (later to work with Brady on The Arrow), David McKee Wright, Lawson, Quinn, George Gordon McCrae and his con Hugh, John Farrell, Brunton Stephens, A.G. Stephens, J.F. Archilbald, Victor Daley, A.B. Pterson and Barcroft Boake. There were many others too, especially in the literary field – Joh Le Gay Brereton, F.J. Dwyer, James Ryan, Edmund Fisher, Ure Smith and Mary Gilmore, Marie J. Pitt and Ethel Turner. Some of these he lightly sketched in Life’s Highway: for example, P.J. Holdsworth, “whose shiny pot hat and black frock coat, on the lapel of which a carnation perennially flowered, were a feature of the nine 0’clock trams leaving Woollaahra for the city”; or Ernest Favenc “a portly, dignified old gentleman, an optimist regarding ‘waste spaces’ of far-bac country which he was instrumental in opening up”1 Brady recalled that the “most interesting” figures in the public life of the 1890’s were William Lane, John Norton, W.M. Hughes and J.T. Lang of whom he wrote: “They may differ in personality, but they are each possessed or possess the quality of audacity to a marked degree.”2
Out of these acquaintances and friendships there came many stories, a rather poignant one concerning James Dwyer, an Australian who achieved considerable success as a short story writer for popular journals in America. He kept two secretaries busy with dictated material when on holidays in Sydney, where he met Brady: