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Remembered Today:

Primrose Day


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Just been reading Vera Brittain's 'Testament of Youth' again and have seen a mention of 'Primrose Day' 1915, which I think took place on 19th April ; Vera doesn't give a precise date, but would have been the week following 17th April 1915, and she was selling primroses in Buxton, and it was a type of flag day. I have never heard of 'Primrose Day' - can anyone point me to other sources for this event, who organised it? Where the money went?

Thanks.

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Google the "primrose League". My mother was apparently briefly a member.

Keith

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I find it difficult to reconcile Vera Brittain who was from the beginning a Liberal supporter (as were her family) and then a Socialist with the Primrose League founded by Disraeli specifically to promote the cause of the Conservative party.

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My late Father was born on April 19th.

Had he been a girlm he would have been called Primrose, apparently.

Difficult to imagine an 18 stone primrose!

:lol:

Bruce

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I find it difficult to reconcile Vera Brittain who was from the beginning a Liberal supporter (as were her family) and then a Socialist with the Primrose League founded by Disraeli specifically to promote the cause of the Conservative party.

I think that Vera starting to feel uneasy about pursuing her studies at Oxford by April 1915 when Roland Leighton had gone to the 'Front, and other men she knew were in uniform and could well be sent out there, feeling that she wanted to make some gesture to realise to acknowledge the 'War. I should also mention that Vera didn't seemed to have found that being a volunteer on Primrose Day helped her deal with Roland being on the 'Front, and the attitude of the older generation of Buxton irritated her even though they bought her primroses.

But it is interesting to see how this occasion was diverted to the War effort.

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Are we certain that Primrose Day and the Primrose League are at all connected? With her and her family's strong Liberal connections Vera helping the Primrose League is rather akin to the Late Clement Freud joining the Monday Club.

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Trying to answer my own query has proven complicated.

Primrose day is the 19th April in the UK and 5th Feb in the USA. It is not directly linked to the Primrose League but there is a connection - sort of. Allegedly according to Wiki it was instituted after Queen Victoria sent commemorative wreaths of primroses on Lord Beaconsfield's (Disraeli's) death as Wiki mistakenly says because they were Disraeli's favourite flower (they weren't they were Prince Albert's favourite). However there was already a Church of England Primrose Day (and still is ). This was originally a moveable feast associated with Easter but later fixed as 19th April. It may well be sheer coincidence that Disraeli died on 19th April. Be that as it may, for a time the day was certainly regarded as special by elements of the Conservative party - particularly those Unionist and Imperialist elements becoming a sort of unofficial Empire day.

The Primrose League (recently wound up) was formed by Disraeli as a vehicle to create a new Conservative party from the old Tories - the primrose was chosen a symbolic of Spring or a new beginning.

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Primrose day is ... ... 5th Feb in the USA.

5th February also happens to be the feast day of St.Agatha, the medieval monastic floral tribute of whom was (and might still be...I don't know)... the primrose!

Dave

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Are we certain that Primrose Day and the Primrose League are at all connected? With her and her family's strong Liberal connections Vera helping the Primrose League is rather akin to the Late Clement Freud joining the Monday Club.

No I am not certain that Primrose Day and the Primrose League at all connected ! I hadn't made any connection at all until starting this thread.

The way Vera records this in Testament of Youth seems more akin to some sort of pre-runner to poppy selling at the time of our Rememberance Day rather than an explicit fund raiser for the Conservative Party.

But I welcome opinions on the subject, particularly as websearches do not yield much information.....it seems that there is a pop group now called 'The Primrose League' which complicates looking on the World Wide Web.

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5th February also happens to be the feast day of St.Agatha, the medieval monastic floral tribute of whom was (and might still be...I don't know)... the primrose!

The Oxford Companion to the Year makes no mention of a primrose connection to St. Agatha but - drifting off topic - does give this:

Agatha
(date unknown), virgin martyr at Catania in Sicily. One of the many martyrs who preferred death to seduction or marriage, her legendary fate, after suffering beating, the rack, and fire, was to have her breasts cut off. She is often portrayed with her two breasts on a platter, which, resembling bells, have caused her to be adopted as patron by bellfounders. She is invoked against diseases of the breast and is also patron of firefighters; her veil is imprudently asserted to protect Catania from earthquakes and eruptions of Mount Etna.

I can understand her invocation against 'diseases of the breast' and her adoption as patron by firefighters, but the reason given for that by bellfounders is, to say the least, just a trifle bizarre.

NigelS

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The Oxford Companion to the Year makes no mention of a primrose connection to St. Agatha but - drifting off topic - does give this:

Agatha
(date unknown), virgin martyr at Catania in Sicily. One of the many martyrs who preferred death to seduction or marriage, her legendary fate, after suffering beating, the rack, and fire, was to have her breasts cut off. She is often portrayed with her two breasts on a platter, which, resembling bells, have caused her to be adopted as patron by bellfounders. She is invoked against diseases of the breast and is also patron of firefighters; her veil is imprudently asserted to protect Catania from earthquakes and eruptions of Mount Etna.

I can understand her invocation against 'diseases of the breast' and her adoption as patron by firefighters, but the reason given for that by bellfounders is, to say the least, just a trifle bizarre.

NigelS

Hello, getting more lost here ! Vera Brittain mentioned Primrose Day around 19th April 1915 ,certainly week following 17th April 1917, not sure where 5th February fits in. Michael

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As I said in my earlier post Primrose day in England used to be a moveable church feast, associated with Easter, at which primroses would be gathered and/or given out at the church but which later became fixed on the 19th April. Lord Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli) who was Victoria's favourite prime minister died on the 19th of April* and Vicky sent two primrose wreaths. The two appear to have been conflated so that some elements of the Conservative Party associated themselves with the day. Primrose day in the USA is the 5th February which is also St Agathas day in the RC calendar

*When asked if he'd allow Victoria to visit him on his deathbed he said "better not, she'd only want me to take a message for Albert"

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Searching through The Time Archive reveals that the primrose League commemorated Lord Beaconsfield's (Disraeli) death annually on 19th April by holding a banquet, decorating his statue in Parliament Square with primroses and the wearing of primrose buttonholes; in later years, as well as the adornment of the statue, annual pilgrimages were made to his tomb at Hughenden, Bucks to lay primrose tributes there as well. This seemed to have continued, certainly into the late 1950's and possibly until the League was dissolved (with the decline in interest it simply may not have been reported) - I wonder, in the absence of the League, if primroses are still laid at the statue and tomb today on April 19th?

During WW1 the commemoration, for obvious reasons, was toned down with a just a wreath being laid, but the day was put to good use as can be seen from these transcripts:

Tuesday, Apr 20, 1915; pg. 6; Issue 40833; col F

PRIMROSES AND THE WOUNDED. NOVEL FORM OF BEACONSFIELD CELEBRATION.

Yesterday being Primrose Day, Lord Beaconsfield's statue in Parliament-square was, as usual, decorated by the Primrose League with the great statesman's favourite flower...Throughout the day, and especially in the afternoon, there was a constant queue of people passing along in front of the statue. Button-holes of primroses were largely worn.

...Apart from the decoration of the statue, the League celebrated Primrose Day in a novel way this year by having sales of primroses for the British Red Cross all over the country and, incidentally, for the promotion of recruiting. Over £700 has already been raised by this means, and the effort has received the cordial approval of the Prince of Wales. A working woman in Middleton, Lancashire, made over £20 by selling primroses in behalf of the local branch of the League, and the money will be expended in the purchase of comforts for the soldiers.

A volunteer band of 500 ladies, wearing brassards with the Blue Cross, were also selling the flower in the streets of London and the large provincial towns in behalf of the Blue Cross Fund of the Dumb Friends' League for Wounded Horses.

Saturday, Mar 25, 1916; pg. 11; Issue 41124; col E

PRIMROSES FOR CHARITIES

The Grand Council of The Primrose League has issued a notice to its habitations urging them to call a meeting in or about Primrose Day (April 19). It proposes that these annual meetings should arrange sales of primroses in aid of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John, or should make collections in aid of the Red Cross or other war charities

Last year the Red Cross Fund profited considerably by such sales and collections encouraged by the Primrose League, and it is hoped that this year's celebration may produce still greater results.

Thursday, Apr 19, 1917; pg. 7; Issue 41456; col C

PRIMROSE DAY

To-day is Primrose Day. The war and the weather have combined to make its usual observance impossible. The executive of the Primrose League has decide to follow last year's programme. At the annual meetings of the various branches throughout the country flags and primroses will be sold in aid of the Red Cross Fund.

The Beaconsfield statue in Parliament-square will not be festooned with flowers, as in peace time, but a wreath will be placed on the plinth

The Primrose Day charitable collections continued for the duration of the war (mainly, from what's written, for the benefit of the Red Cross & the Order of St. John), but there is no mention of this practise continuing post war.

Despite the ravages of war it appears that primroses could still be found at the front, as give in this story:

Friday, Apr 20, 1917; pg. 3; Issue 41457; col E

PRIMROSE DAY SOUVENIR FROM FRANCE

...An Interesting incident was related at the Primrose League office. Corporal R.D. Smith, who is at the front, picked a few primroses in France on Easter Sunday and sent them on to the secretary, with this message - 'I am enclosing a few souvenirs of Nature gathered in France. Tell our good Primrose Leaguers in Blighty that the League is not forgotten by us boys out here.'

In 1918 mention is made of the League having donated, for the benefit of soldiers and sailors, '181,000 garments and articles of comfort' with large quantities of primroses which had been sent to its London head-office being distributed to the capital's hospitals.

According to the The Oxford Companion to the Year the misconception about Primroses being Disraeli's favourite flower came about because Queen Victoria sent a wreath of them to his funeral with the attached card reading 'His favourite flower' meaning Prince Albert's. Incidentally, there is no mention in The Oxford Companion to the Year or The Times of Primrose Day other than in connection with the Commemoration of Disraeli's Death.

Another completely off topic fact relating to the 19th April (again from The Oxford Companion to the Year): in Ancient Rome it was Cerialia, the feast of Ceres, which was 'regarded with especial devotion by the common people, who celebrated by exchanging hospitality; foxes with burning torches tied to their tails were let loose...'; it certainly wouldn't be allowed today (when exactly did Nero fiddle while Rome burnt?)

NigelS

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Thanks for all the information supplied Centurion and Nigel S. Much appreciated.

Realised what I should have done along, and this is to cross reference Vera Brittain's 'Testament of Youth' with 'Chronicle of Youth', her actual war time diary published after her death- 'Chronicle of Youth' has been edited to avoid duplicating information in 'Testament'.....

But in any case , the 'Chronicle '.... entry for 19th April 1915 starts

"Today being Primrose Day, primroses were sold all over the country for the Red Cross. A girl named Miss Froude accompanied me in selling around the Park. We made about £1 between us. It was somewhat tiring work, but quite amusing. People always treat you, when you go round collecting on behalf of something ,as if you were begging for yourself".

So yes it seems that the proceeds of the standard Primrose Day collection was now being diverted to the Red Cross rather than the Conservative Party and that Vera, without any connection to the Conservatives, was prepared to join in. What made me smile was the phrase "It was somewhat tiring work". Shortly afterwards Vera was to embark on VAD nursing which would change her definition of 'tiring work'.

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Thanks for all the information supplied Centurion and Nigel S. Much appreciated.

Realised what I should have done along, and this is to cross reference Vera Brittain's 'Testament of Youth' with 'Chronicle of Youth', her actual war time diary published after her death- 'Chronicle of Youth' has been edited to avoid duplicating information in 'Testament'.....

But in any case , the 'Chronicle '.... entry for 19th April 1915 starts

"Today being Primrose Day, primroses were sold all over the country for the Red Cross. A girl named Miss Froude accompanied me in selling around the Park. We made about £1 between us. It was somewhat tiring work, but quite amusing. People always treat you, when you go round collecting on behalf of something ,as if you were begging for yourself".

So yes it seems that the proceeds of the standard Primrose Day collection was now being diverted to the Red Cross rather than the Conservative Party and that Vera, without any connection to the Conservatives, was prepared to join in. What made me smile was the phrase "It was somewhat tiring work". Shortly afterwards Vera was to embark on VAD nursing which would change her definition of 'tiring work'.

I don't think that collections from Primrose day ever went to the Conservative party as these used to be organised by the local parish church, its rather that elements of the Conservatives treated the day as particular in their scheme of things. To put it in perspective May day was celebrated long before the labour movement

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I don't think that collections from Primrose day ever went to the Conservative party as these used to be organised by the local parish church, its rather that elements of the Conservatives treated the day as particular in their scheme of things. To put it in perspective May day was celebrated long before the labour movement

Thanks Centurion , will try to find out more about Primrose Day before Disraeli ....will check out Ronald Hutton's work or other such specialist on Folklore or Folk customs next I am at the library. See what its roots were.

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Have just been reading 'Hove and the Great War' , full text is available here

http://www.archive.org/stream/hovegreatwar...lbiala_djvu.txt

and the chapter dealing with fundraising doesn't mention Primrose Day at all; But the list of flag days and general collections throughout the town seemed to suggest every few weeks the citizens were being encouraged to part with more money.

However April didn't seem to be mentioned as a particular time for flagdays, May, June and then the Autumn seemed more noticeable.

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