Linton in Pictures
A History of Linton
in Photographs
Available here
EMPIRE DAY IN LINTON AND DISTRICT

In the last few years there has been an attempt to revive interest in patriotism, especially amongst the younger generation. Politicians have sought to “cash in” on potential votes by espousing the idea of citizenship.

This is nothing new and reminds me of an earlier group of politicians who soon after Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 sought to commemorate her reign, glorify the British Empire and engender a sense of pride in the younger generation. Their object was “to cherish in the young true patriotism and citizenship”. When the idea was first put to the county education committee in 1905 it was rejected as being too American, too showy and totally unnecessary.

Nevertheless, pressure from the Royal Colonial Institute in association with the Empire Day Movement (non-racial, non-party, non-aggressive and non-sectarian – or so it said) won the day and schools were given suggestions about what to do.

The Union Jack was to be hoisted in school yards and the national anthem sung, preferably on May 24th Queen Victoria’s birthday. A visitor or the local vicar should address the children about the duties and responsibilities attaching to British citizenship.

Celebrations were noted in our local school log books. Empire Day was a feature of the school year in Cambridgeshire from 1906 and was introduced at Linton school in May, 1908.

The staff assembled around the flagpole in the school playground in 1909. The Linton children sang a special chorus to the national anthem, “We salute thee and we pray, God to bless our land today” and they saluted the flag each time.

Empire day featured in other local schools. At Horseheath in 1907 flags and greenery decorated the school, and a new flag was acquired the following year. In the Abingtons from 1908 a flag was flown from Gt. Abington church tower and in Hildersham in the same year forty three pupils each wore a daisy button hole, sang songs and watched the unfurling of a nine foot long Union Jack. The vicar gave each child a coin and a bag of sweets.

At Empire Day in June, 1927 Miss Gladys Fordham led 210 Linton pupils in patriotic songs before an assembled group of parents. Miss Gwen Samuels told me that lessons ended at morning play and the children were able to display their flags and sing patriotic songs. George V’s speech was heard on the radio and then there was the half day holiday. The head teacher had to ensure that the vicar had given his official permission.

The whole idea was abandoned after India became independent in 1947, and the next year Empire Day was abolished and re-designated as Commonwealth Day.