Daffodil Day


Daffodil Day - supporting 'our boys'

Spending Christmas 1915 in the trenches of World War I was made cheerier for Nelson soldiers after Provincial spring fundraising efforts, and the crowning of the Daffodil Queen, saw them each receive a parcel.

The first Daffodil Day was organised by the Lady Liverpool Committee and held in September 1915, raising in excess of £250, to buy Christmas presents for "our boys at the front."1

Crowning of the Daffodil Queen, Miss Rona Hamilton - Queen (1915). Nelson Provincial Museum, F N Jones Collection: 311542
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Daffodil Day, 1st Prize Group - "Forget Me Not" (1916). Nelson Provincial Museum, F N Jones Collection: 312761
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Nelson's Lady Liverpool Committee was one of many fundraising groups set up by women around the country following a call one day into the war by Annette, Lady Liverpool, the wife of New Zealand's Governor.  She appealed to women to "assist me in trying to provide any necessaries which may be required for ...the citizen army...."2

The Nelson committee had thus been regularly fundraising to buy items for local servicemen.  Its monthly packages typically contained items such as socks, soap and writing materials.  Now it was looking to raise the money needed to send special Christmas parcels that would include cigarettes and festive fare.

The resulting Daffodil Day fundraiser was a colourful event the province put its heart and soul into.  Spring flowers were supplied for sale, display and competition, and locals donated blooms from their own gardens.  Buttonholes were made and sold door to door by school children and vendors lined the city streets with flower and plant stalls.  Floral arrangements were proudly displayed in the windows of businesses and city hotels were decorated by Horticulture Society members. 

The highlight of the day was the crowning of the Daffodil Queen on the Church Steps, following a procession up Trafalgar Street of 'princess' candidates and their entourages in flower-decorated vehicles and bicycles.  Miss Rona Hamilton was crowned Queen and described by The Colonist as "extremely handsome in an orange velvet robe."3

The Daffodil Queen and her retinue made their way back down Trafalgar Street to the Post Office, where little girls dressed as different spring flowers danced around a maypole.

Such was the success of the day that a larger Daffodil Queen festival was held in 1916, raising more than £780. Provincial districts held their own fundraising festivals to select a flower princess to compete for the provincial Queen title.  

Daffodil Day, The Bumble Bees - Winners Special Prize (1916) Nelson Provincial Museum, F N Jones
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In 1917 an even larger Christmas Gift Carnival and Daffodil Day was organised. The Lady Liverpool Committee had started out supplying 500 parcels a month for troops in Egypt and France but reported that number had increased to 600, costing £1800 a year.  This was on top of the £100 a month it wanted to send to regimental forces in Egypt and France and the £600 a year required for special Christmas parcels.4

Nelsonians were urged to dig deeper into their pockets than ever before and numerous events were held in the weeks leading up to the crowning of the Daffodil Queen in an attempt to involve as many people and organisations as possible. 

"Blue Bells of Scotland" - Haven Rd School, Daffodil Day at Nelson (1916). Nelson Provincial Museum, F N Jones Collection: 311523
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The crowning finale, this time held at Trafalgar Park, saw not only the country districts represented by 'princesses', but also different business sectors: trades and wholesale, banks and professions, united service, and retailers.  Each princess also represented a different allied nation - New Zealand, Japan, Romania, Canada, Belgium, France, The USA, India and Italy, and were dressed in appropriate national costume.

Miss Oldershaw, representing both New Zealand and trades and wholesale, was duly crowned Daffodil Queen, capping off a fundraising extravaganza that netted the Lady Liverpool Fund in excess of £4000.5

Nelson's mayor, William Snodgrass, expressed his gratification.  The people of Nelson had, The Colonist reported him saying, "responded time after time to the calls made on them and while they had been 'doing and doing' they must remember that our brave boys at the front had been 'doing and doing' for them".6

In 1918, the Lady Liverpool Committee felt it did not need a spring fundraiser and offered Daffodil Day to the Red Cross, which ran it in aid of its 'Our Day Appeal'.  It was a much simpler affair and no Daffodil Queen was crowned.  However, the day still focussed on spring flowers and raised more than £300 from stalls set up along Trafalgar Street selling flowers, plants, vegetables and baking.  A highlight was the 'dressing the soldier, in which an outline of a soldier drawn on fabric was filled in with coins and notes.7  The funds raised contributed to Nelson's monthly obligation of £500 a month to the British Red Cross for its support of war troops.8


Sources used in this story

  1. Daffodil Day (1915, September 8) The Colonist, p.6.
  2. Women fundraising for Belgium, First World War (2012). New Zealand History Online (Ministry for Culture and Heritage)
  3. A Splendid Success (1915, September 13) The Colonist, p.6.
  4. Lady Liverpool Fund (1917, September 11) The Colonist, p.4.
  5. Anzac Queen Elected (1917, September 19) The Colonist, p.6.
  6. Anzac Queen Elected
  7. Our Day Appeal (1918, September 16) The Colonist, p.3.
  8. Our Day (1918, September 11) The Colonist, p.4.

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  • You can watch 1916 silent film of Daffodil Day here: http://anzacsightsound.org/videos/daffodil-day

    Posted by Sarah Johnston, 14/04/2017 6:49pm (7 years ago)

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