Thursday 3 August 2023

Those Golden Wattle Days

Beginning in 1917 the children of “Campbelltown Superior* Public School” gathered, boxed and sent thousands of golden sprigs of wattle to their “city cousins” in inner Sydney for Wattle Day.

Reported in 1920, the children spent a pleasant afternoon picking and packing the “rich glory of gold” after obtaining Mr Elletson and Mr Bocking's kind permission.” Quite why they sought the earlier town Mayor’s okay we can only speculate, perhaps they were collecting further afield than the school grounds? But whatever the source the sprays of vibrant yellow were certainly well received, with several appreciative replies from inner-city school children.

Young recipient, Charles Dobeson, of 4B Gardner’s Road Public, lamented there was very little growing around their area, being in the middle of the "factory district" and what there was, was of “inferior quality.”

Pupil, Leslie Levy proclaimed, “The fragrant smell was all over the place - all the boys were smelling it. OUR two trees had very little on them.” Another decried theirs were - “stunted with poor sandy soil.”

Among the 7th class "a good many already had wattle when they came to school but soon discarded theirs for yours." Many letters noted Campbelltown as being blessed being close to the bush.

Teacher, Mr Long even hoisted a bunch up the flagpole along with the flag and the school gave a cry of three cheers for the boys and girls of Campbelltown.

Wattle trees blooming in the Memorial Wattle Grove outside H.J. Daley Library.

Wattle has always held a prominent place in Australia’s consciousness, using it for display, symbolism and reminders of home during WWI. First nation peoples used the tree for thousands of years as food, fuel, medicine and objects like spears, bags and boomerangs. Though the first official Wattle Day was celebrated in 1910 the golden wattle was only officially proclaimed as Australia's national floral emblem 1988.

In 1923, the school children of Campbelltown had kept their promise to the "city kids" with the wattle seemingly harvested on an industrial scale! Mr Klein of Paddington S.P.S. reported that all 1500 of their children were, by 11 o'clock, wearing the Campbelltown wattle.

Charles Gardiner of Balmain wrote to say their sprigs were being sold for a penny/half penny a spray - to raise funds for books in the library.

The last word we’ll leave to Leslie who wrote, “Your kindness to us proves you do not easily forget your friends.”

 * Superior Public Schools were schools that were officially recognised as providing both primary and post-primary education.


The Teacher Librarian of Campbelltown Public School, Debbie Gilroy, has kindly contacted us to say that the school children had asked Mr Bocking's permission because they walked out to his property to collect the choicest wattle. 

Thank you very much Debbie for shedding some light on the story.

Written by Michael Sullivan


Wattle Day Pleasantries: Campbelltown Pupils' Gifts to their City CTN news Fri 27 Aug 1920

Wattle for City Children. CTN IBN News Aug 1923 p1,8

National Museum of Australia

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