Wattle Day [letter from Agnes L. Kettlewell, 31 August 1910]

[Editor: This letter from Agnes L. Kettlewell (nee Storrie) regarding Wattle Day and the Wattle Day League was published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 August 1910.]

Wattle Day.

As secretary and one of the original conveners of the Wattle Day League, it has been my duty to introduce, in many ways, the ideas of the league to the public. I am by no means the only one to do this, but I have had much of the detailed business to transact, and it is increasingly borne in upon me that this movement is a good and true one, which comes at the right time, and will take its place among the natural forces of national development.

It is merely the match applied to tow already stored and ready for lighting — the touch which alone was needed to start into visible, motion a powerful and self-propelling force. The enthusiastic support we have received from all over Australia proves that we have touched a chord which was already vibrating in thousands of hearts.

Those who disapprove of the aims of Wattle Day League with whom I personally have come in contact are few, while shoals of letters and hearty unsolicited offers of assistance from every point of the compass show how widespread is the wave of sympathy.

There has, of course, been some misunderstanding of our objects. It has been supposed that we would, if successful, denude the continent of wattle, whereas ours is the first organised effort to protect it and raise its status.

Others have asserted that the gum blossom, the waratah, or other native flowers should be chosen as our national emblem. The claims of these beautiful and beloved blossoms will, if carefully examined, fail to meet the requirements of the situation as wattle does.

But we are not much concerned to argue the case for Wattle Day. Like beauty, it is its own excuse for being. Either it says nothing to you at all, or it appeals magnificently, and it is the latter which it has been my happy fortune to experience.

I have had to call upon people and ask them to do certain things for us — hard-headed business people, who have no time for sentiment. Many of them had never heard of Wattle Day, and displayed no anxiety for enlightenment. I explained the idea briefly, and proffered my request for assistance, not financial, for except for the nominal subscription of one shilling a year for membership we do not ask for money.

At first I met with coldness and various objections. They had made other arrangements, did not see what it had to do with them, etc., etc. Then I played my trump card, and asked, “Are you an Australian?” An unconscious straightening of the shoulders and a quick “Yes.” Then I would say with a sigh of relief, “I know I am all right. It is for Australia. I leave it in your hands.” That was all; it was enough. Not one, not one failed me.

This is a little thing, but it is a sign of incalculable importance. It means that there exists something deep down in Australians of which they are themselves perhaps unconscious. It means that in her hour of need Australia will turn to her sons and daughters and say, “It is for me. I leave it in your hands.” And not one, not one shall fail her.

There are those who tell us that we shall never be a nation until we have passed through the fires of national affliction, and been baptised at the red font of war.

These persons surely are asking for phenomena outside the laws of nature — as we know them. They demand fruit and blossom, without the previous germination of seed of fibre, of sap.

When our day of trial comes, and we look to pluck our garland of heroes, we shall cut a poor figure indeed unless we have in our days of prosperity tilled well the soil and nurtured the hidden seed.

This is the work which the Wattle Day League seeks to do — to recognise, and concentrate the patriotism which lies in every Australian heart, and to materialise it in the golden plume of Australia’s loveliest and most representative flower.

Agnes L. Kettlewell.

Hon. Secretary Wattle Day League.

The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 31 August 1910, p. 5

Editor’s notes:
tow = a wick, tow-wick, a wick made from tow (“tow” refers to: rope; the fibre of flax, hemp, or jute prior to spinning; coarse fibres cast aside after combing)

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