This entry was first published on 20th July, 2014 and some changes were made on 25th of July, 2014. Lorraine Couchman (nee Hicks) and Barbara Pavone (nee Hicks) were able to shed further light on aspects of Florence’s life when they remembered conversations with their father Roy (Charles Binden Hicks), which have helped to answer some questions.
Florence was the oldest child of Margaret and Charles Hicks, and was born in 1896.
Florence was musical and had piano lessons at the Convent in Echuca. She probably attended the Kanyapella or Echuca Village school near Truro Grove as a girl, and then may have attended the Echuca High School. There are no photos of her at school as there are of Roy and Rita.
From Barbara’s comment below:
“Florence definitely attended the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music majoring in Piano.
Dad would often come and listen to me practising my music when I was taking lessons from Mother Celine at the Brigidine Convent in Echuca. He would speak of how beautifully she and his Mother played.
Margaret never had a lesson in her life. The family could not afford it. Like many Irish families they were naturally musical and could play by ear.
Florence was also a talented artist .There was one of her painting hanging at Truro during my childhood. I used to look at that painting and marvel at how real the oranges looked.”
Florence was a favorite with her younger brother Roy – he spoke very fondly of her to his daughters and gave his oldest daughter, Barbara her name as a second name. Florence met Gus Bradley in Melbourne when he was there as part of his Navy duties. Lorraine said, in an email to me:
“Dad did say that Florence met Gus in Melbourne, while she was at the Conservatorium and bought him up to meet her parents in a fairly whirlwind romance, but I guess if Florence was 31 or 32 and Gus 35, they both knew what they wanted. Could you imagine how Margaret would have felt about her daughter leaving home and getting married in such a distant country – I think she would have been very sad indeed.”
Florence married Gus Bradley, in 1929 at the age of 33 in Fort Lauderdale, and they lived in Key West Florida where he joined the coastguard. In another email from Lorraine:
“On his days off, he and Florence travelled extensively throughout America ………..She wrote home to Truro a lot, and sent photos. She would ask about how her Brothers and Sister were going, the sheep, shearing etc. Florence used to get very homesick, but managed to keep a cheerful outlook. They had many friends and enjoyed a wonderful social life. Going out on drives with friends, then having a picnic, piano sing-a-long evenings, etc. She was very fond of her Mother-in-Law and Gus’s Sister (and vice versa).”
Florence – we are unsure what event this was taken at – or how old she was.
Florence and Gus. This is their Wedding portrait.
Florence and Gus in Florida
In 1936 Florence was issued with her American citizenship. Lorraine has a copy of her driver’s licence. Florence and Gus did not have any children. Florence died at in 1940 at the age of 44 of a brain haemorrhage. Apparently she was planning a trip home to Australia to visit when she died.
This was heartbreaking for Margaret who hadn’t seen her daughter for many years. It was said that when Margaret died, in 1954, with her remaining children around her at the age of 84, she had a picture of Florence with her.
Florence’s husband Gus corresponded with Roy and Edith (Roy’s wife) even after he remarried. I read a letter that Lorraine has from Gus’s second wife writing to say that Gus had died and how much he had loved Florence.
What don’t we know about Florence far outweighs what we do know. In historical context we know that at the time of the first world war Florence was a young lady. Did she love a soldier who didn’t come home perhaps? How did she live before her marriage? What were her passions and how did she pass her days? Was she out on the farm with her father or more often with her mother in the home? My guess is that she probably was more at home with her mother as her interests were in artistic endeavours. Where did she meet Gus and why was he in Australia? Her marriage at 33 would have been quite “late” for the times. How daunting was it to leave her family and country?
I look at her fairness and the serenity on her face and I see, not only her mother in her countenance but her namesake niece, Barbara Florence, born after her death.