Hills District Independent JUNE 2017 #24 - Page 10

hills regional History with Carol Carruthers, Historian Empire Day Empire Day, also known as Cracker Night, was a traditional half day holiday for every school child in Australia after 1905. Queen Victoria passed away in 1901 and Empire Day was established to honour her. Her birthday was 24 th May and that was the day chosen for children to celebrate. To continue their opposition to the British, the Catholic hierarchy forbade their schools to take part in Empire Day, so it became a Protestant celebration. The day began with normal classes but at lunch time there was a service in which all children participated. Children sang such patriotic songs such as God Save the King, Advance Australia Fair, before it became our National Anthem, and Rule Britannia, usually led by the school’s squeaky sounding recorder group. They were also given small flags to wave and a small badge to wear with Empire Day, the year and a picture of Queen Victoria on it. The school children also swore allegiance to the King or Queen and had to salute the flag. In 1930 at Dural School, recitations of poetry praising England and Queen Victoria were given by children. Local dignitaries arrived at the school and stood up on the dais with the school principal and made stirring patriotic speeches that were far too long-winded for children who were waiting for the fun to begin. Many schools had Maypole dancers with red, white and blue streamers which invariably became tangled. After the official proceedings children moved to an open part of the school, a local paddock or park for the fun, food and games. Baulkham Hills School, in 1913, had their picnic and races in Mr Jenner’s paddock which was nearby and Kenthurst School used Kenthurst Park for their festivities. Willing mothers competed against each other, showing off their cooking skills with baskets of sandwiches, particularly egg sandwiches as everyone had chooks, small cakes and slices for the children. As many of the children were poor and did not have a lot to eat the food disappeared very quickly. The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate in 1922 noted that the Dural housewives’ baskets were full to overflowing and that they knew how to prepare and supply lovely food. Once the picnic was over the races and games began. There were age races for all children, skipping races with skipping ropes for the girls, sack races, egg and spoon races and 3 legged races where children had to co-ordinate running with one of their legs tied to the leg of the child running with them. The prizes varied from school to school. Some children received an apple or lollies. At Annangrove School money was collected to give to the children as prize money and at Castle Hill School in 1913 George and Charlotte Sargent of Sargent’s Pies fame most generously donated 3 guineas for the school sports fund and provided toys for the Infants Department and money for the prize winners in the Primary Section. Each child in the Infants also received a book to take home. In 1912 Annangrove School had to cancel their Empire Day sports events because of the unfavourable weather. If time allowed there was often a vigaro game for the girls and a game of football for the boys. At the end of the day most children received a bag of lollies to eat on the walk home. Communities gathered together and children spent weeks before Empire Day dragging branches to a spare paddock or a vacant block building the biggest bonfire they could. It was a time of great excitement. Children saved their pocket money for weeks beforehand and bought crackers from the local shops. Rather upsettingly the bonfire was often burnt down beforehand but it did not deter the children. They just started all over again. Catherine wheels, nailed to a fence post or a tree, were ignited and spun rapidly sending colourful sparks spinning into the air and sometimes they fell off the post and women and girls ran madly away squealing as the spinning wheel chased them. Double bungers created the most noise and a boy or two always managed to put a bunger in a letter box exploding the whole thing. Tom Thumbs were connected to each other in a group of 20 and were often Empire Day was established to honour Queen XܚXK]]\]^H[YZHBXX[H[\H\H[X[[\][Z[\[\\˂[Hۙ\\\HYXY™[[X\H]Y[[XZ[Y]H\H[[Z[Y\YYK]\[^\HY[H\و\HH\[YBYܙHY Hݙ\Y[Y[XY[][ۜHX\™\]ܚ˂H[\]YY[&\\^HXXšY^H[[H\XY[\\H܂[[۝X[^H\]X[YHۛۂ[ NMN QPUSPUP•UԈQPT LLQPTPUSPUP•PPSVTQSB(HX][X]X[Y[‘^[[ۈ B(H[]\]HX][X]X‘[][ۈ\\¸(HۙK[ۋSۙH]ܚ[¸(HX[ܛ\\\¸(H]\ \\ۈQJB[]Z\Y\ [Έ\\ؚ[BPLLMN L B LM LN\ܗ\ؚ[PXZ[ BNY HۙŒY]KXۈ]\]ܚ[[BLTQH  SH MB˚[]˘K]HH[STSS