Poor Melbourne. She’s been thrashing about for years, looking for a day to celebrate herself. At the moment the good burghers of the town have settled on Melbourne Day on 30 August, the day that the landing party of the Enterprize went onshore. The cynics amongst us might see the nomination of 30 August as another step in the Batman/Fawkner controversy over the founding of Melbourne that I’ve alluded to previously here and here. And just look at all the things you can do today on the Melbourne Day website…
Being a daughter of the land of the long weekend, a day’s not worth celebrating unless it’s a day off, and I can’t see that happening in a hurry.
But this yearning for a Big Day is not just a rush of blood to the collective heads of the City of Melbourne Public Relations Committee. Tom Griffiths in Hunters and Collectors goes through some of the other attempts to have a Melbourne Big Day- attempts that were as unsuccessful as I strongly suspect Melbourne Day will be.
There was, of course, Foundation Day or ANA day on 26th January but -damn it- school holidays were longer then and the little tackers were still on holiday. Besides, it’s always been a bit Sydney-centric, and there’s the problem of all those convicts…
Separation Day on 1 July, to celebrate the separation of Victoria from New South Wales in 1851 was Victoria’s first day of commemoration, but it faded away quickly. It was inaugurated only a couple of days before the discovery of gold. With the influx of newcomers with the gold rush, it meant little and soon fizzled out. The recent ringbarking of the Separation Tree in the Botanic Gardens provoked regret but not outrage, and I suspect that Separation’s not about to capture the public imagination anymore.
In 1911 the Victorian Education Department declared 19th April to be “Discovery Day” because on that day Lieutenant Hicks sighted Victoria from Cook’s Endeavour (and sailed right on past….). But then Anzac Day was inconsiderate enough to happen on 25 April so that was the end of a perfectly good date because the children and their teachers had quite enough to do with Simpson and Last Posts etc.
What about November 19 then? It became “Pioneers Day” to commemorate the day that Edward Henty landed at Portland and became, so it was said, Victoria’s first permanent settler, complete with ploughs and sheep. I don’t know when this day fell off the calendar.
We tend to have days for good causes, but particularly around the turn of the twentieth century, “nature” days were all the go. There was Arbor Day, (picked up from the United States) now known as National Tree Day, and held at different times around Australia. I remember this one- being given a little tree in a tube to plant in the rock-hard, clayey school garden. I also remember planting trees down by the Yarra River- the plantations are still there- but I’m not sure if that was for Arbor Day or not. It may have just been a tree-planting scheme.
Then there was Bird Day, which was first held in Victoria in 1909 by the Gould League. It was their centenary in 2009- look here at their gallery of memorabilia. I was a proud member of the Gould League with their tasteful little badge (I wonder if I still have it somewhere?); I loved the smell of their glossy magazines, and I had their sketch book with the magpie on the front. I entered a picture of an ibis (execrable creatures) for one of their competitions. To be honest, there’s a twitcher in me that threatens to escape sometimes.
Wattle Day? 1st September apparently. It’s their centenary this year. They’ve got some fun suggestions for celebrating it. Or not. I remember someone bringing wattle to my fourth grade teacher -do children still take flowers to class? I suspect not. Poor old Mrs Kenny was allergic to it, and was away from school for a fortnight. Would bursting into “bwah-ha-ha” lower the tone of my blog?
Why not? I’m feeling so festive on our putative 175th Anniversary… Happy Melbourne Day to you too.