In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1914, as reported by the Morpeth Herald. All material is published with kind permission of the Mackay family. We thank them for their support and generosity in allowing us access to their archive.
LETTER FROM THE DUKE
Sir,— I think it right to inform householders and the civil population generally in this county that in view of the possibility of a hostile attack by the enemy upon our shores during the present war, certain arrangements have been made for meeting such an emergency, having regard both to the military situation and, so far as may be, to the safety of the inhabitants.
There is no reason to suppose such an incident is imminent or even probably, but, nevertheless, every precaution should manifestly be taken to provide for so serious a situation were it to arise.
Accordingly an Emergency Committee has been formed in the boroughs of Berwick-upon-Tweed, Tynemouth and Wallsend, and in each petty sessional division of the county, acting in conjunction with the military authority and with the police.
It is essential to the satisfactory working of the system that the civilian population should have an opportunity of ascertaining its general tendency, and the action it is proposed they should take under it. With this end in view, I give below the names of the members of each local Emergency Committee, to whom those desiring further information may apply.
MORPETH WARD PETTY SESSIONAL DIVISION: EAST OF MAIN ROAD — NEWCASTLE, MORPETH, ALNWICK.— Dr. Dickie, Morpeth (chairman); R.O. Brown, Newbiggin; H.V. Brown, Chevington; Guy Ellis, Bothalhaugh; Alex. T. Crombie, Longhirst; J.J. Hall, Ashington; E. Mills, Ashington; R. Oliver, Morpeth.
WEST OF MAIN ROAD: NEWCASTLE, MORPETH, ALNWICK.— Lieut.-Col. W. Orde, Nunnykirk (chairman); Thomas Atkinson, Belsay; R. Bell, Broomhouse; Hector Clark, Longhorsley; G.K. Papillon, Cote Nook; F. Straker, Angerton Hall; Ralph Spencer, Netherwitton; R.E. Turnbull, Bolam.
Animated scenes were witnessed in the Council Schools on Monday evening, when the members of the newly-formed training league for Morpeth and district assembled for their first drill.
That the league is going to be popular with the residents in the place was amply proved by the fact that on Monday night sixty-five new members were enrolled. This brings the membership up to 150.
In Mr R. Matheson the league possess an excellent drill instructor, and the members are all enthusiastic. It is proposed to hold three drills a week. Councillor R. Swinney is secretary for the movement.
TO THE POOR
It is feared, owing to the war and to the heavy calls being made upon the public generally that there will be a falling off in the usual gifts given at this season of the year to poor people.
While that may be so it is interesting to note that Mrs Amlett, on behalf of her husband, Adjutant Amlett, who is fighting for his country in France, will give his annual contribution of 150lb of tea on Christmas Eve to the deserving poor of Morpeth.
ALNWICK BOARD OF GUARDIANS
The monthly meeting of this authority was held on Monday, under the presidency of Councillor R.W. Patten (chairman), of Rock.
Mr H.W. Sample, clerk to the Morpeth Guardians, wrote that in consequence of the male side of the Morpeth Workhouse having been requisitioned for billeting troops, the Guardians were obliged to find accommodation at other workhouses for about 50 male inmates. It had been suggested that the Alnwick Guardians might take in some of these.
He should be much obliged if they would let him know if there was any room in the workhouse at Alnwick, and if so, on what terms the Guardians would take these inmates, and how many of them could be taken.
This was, of course, a time of special emergency, and the Morpeth Guardians were placed in a difficulty. The troops were to come in 10 days’ time, and he should be much obliged if they would let him have a reply as early as possible.
The Workhouse Master stated they had only seven beds on the male side, and there were no spare beds on the hospital side. He thought, too, that more troops would be coming to Alnwick soon.
Mr R. Henderson moved that five be accepted. Mr Elliott seconded. The Rev. W. Rogerson moved, as an amendment, that seven beds be offered. This was seconded by Mr G. Tate, jun., and carried.
INTERESTING LETTER FROM A MORPETH MAN
The following interesting letter has been received from Gilbert C. Macdonald, 115 Batt. R.F.A. (who has been serving at the front), to his mother at Morpeth. Gilbert was Charles McCarthy’s chum when in the trenches in France, and has been referred to in several previous letters. He is invalided, as he writes from an hospital at Brighton:—
Dear Mother,— Just a line, hoping to find you all well as it leaves me at present. I suppose you have got my two post-cards that I sent you to say that I was on my way to dear Old England once more, and I am not sorry either.
No more “coal boxes,” no more shrapnel, no more open-air sleeping apartments, such as green fields, and lots of other “luxuries.”
When I was out there, Charlie and I made a little song up to the tune of “Dolly Gray” (which we have given in a previous letter).
I might tell you about the 5th November, Guy Fawkes night. If ever there was a hell upon earth we had it that night. Some of the Irish Guards and French Infantry came running back from the trenches. They told us we would be sure to be cut up, as the cream of the German army had broken through our line of infantry. We set into them with our artillery fire, and they went down like ninepins.
I have lots more news to tell you when I come home on furlough, which I expect will be in time to have Christmas with the old folks at home. You can tell all my pals that I expect to be home shortly.
I have to go to the dentist to have some more teeth out, I expect. I might get false ones, but I don’t know. Write back by return of post, and send me a few fags. I wish you a merry Christmas. From your loving son,
115 Batt. R.F.A
No.2 Eastern General Hospital (Buller Ward), Stanford Road, Brighton.
P.S.— Treated like a hero. Don’t worry; I am quite happy here and well cared for.
AFFAIRS ON SALISBURY PLAIN
Sir,— May I crave your indulgence and a little space of your esteemed paper to express my appreciation, as one of the Morpeth recruits, to the response Morpeth and district has made to Lord Kitchener’s appeal.
It is very comforting to think, when one is situated as I am, a comparative stranger in a camp of 9,000 men, some 300 or 400 miles from home, that, looking down the list and seeing many familiar names, that one is not alone in the sacrifice of home and friends, but there are others of your fellow townsmen participating.
We are not exactly “having the times of our lives,” as some people are led to believe, at least not in this camp of ours, where we are about 12 miles from anywhere; but thanks to the kindness and courtesy of the officers who look after our welfare, we are having a fairly passable time of it, and it is only the wretched state of the weather that is hindering us from making further good progress.
Whilst on this subject I should like to express my admiration of the magnificent spirit displayed by our neighbours, the Canadian contingent, who, after travelling thousands of miles to our aid, are working under discouraging conditions, often wet through and knee-deep in mud; and, despite all, manage to keep a smiling face, and have proved themselves jolly fine comrades.
Thanking you in anticipation of your courtesy, may I, as the festive season draws nigh wish all readers of the “Herald” everything of the best, and let them raise a toast to “the day” when Kitchener and the Landstrum meet.— Yours, etc.,
DRIVER S. BIRKETT.
215th Battery, 68th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, Bulford Camp, Salisbury Plain.
TOYS FOR SOLDIERS’ CHILDREN
It is hoped that all soldiers’ children living in Morpeth may receive a small present at Christmas.
The following ladies have kindly offered to receive contributions of toys, money, sweets, and fruit:— The Mayoress, Miss Oliver, Miss Semple, Miss Nicholson, Miss McDowall, Mrs Leaster Dixon, Mrs Dakyns, Mrs R. Swinney, Mrs T. Swinney, Mrs Martin Tighe, Mrs George Jackson, Miss Legge, Mrs Schofield, Mrs G.W. Purdy, and Mrs Arthur Brumell.
OUR OWN COLUMN
A NEW PHASE
Up till now our interest in the war has been centred in France and Belgium, and in the distant east of Europe, and there chiefly in Poland. In both the western and eastern areas the prospects of the Allies were brightening every day.
A new phase of the warfare has engrossed all thoughts since Wednesday, when it became known that West Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough had suffered short bombardments by German cruisers.
Not in the case of any of those towns did the bombardment last for any length of time.
Half-an-hour seems to have been the longest stretch; but the shelling of the towns was long enough and accurate enough to do material damage in each of the towns and inflict personal injury on a number, and even death on a few of the inhabitants of Hartlepool.
The noteworthy fact is, they did not attack a defended town; they confined their attentions to those that have no defensive forts.
The question everybody asks is, how did they get there? For the answer to it we must just possess our souls in patience till the Admiralty makes an authoritative statement on the subject.
An invasion in force was held to be, by Drake, Hawkins, and Raleigh, an impossibility in their day; it is equally impractical now. There need be no alarms on that score.
A young lady belonging to Morpeth, who is a pupil at one of the boarding schools at Scarborough, had a most trying and unpleasant experience. She, along with two hundred of the pupils, sought refuge in the cellars when the bombardment commenced. One of the enemy’s shells struck the school building and practically demolished it, but, fortunately, no one was injured in any way by the falling debris.
She returned home to her parents safely on Wednesday evening, and brought with her a fragment of the shell which struck the building.
EARLY CLOSING IN MORPETH DIVISION
At the Morpeth Petty Sessions, on Monday, the chairman (Lieut.-Col. Wm. Orde) announced that the order for the earlier closing of the public-houses and clubs in the division had been confirmed by the Home Office, and would come into force forthwith.
WAR AND CITIZENSHIP
An enthusiastic meeting was held in the Masonic Hall, Morpeth, last night, where speeches were delivered on the subject of “War and Citizenship.” The principal speakers were Mr Chas. Fenwick, M.P., Sir Walter Plummer, and Mr Herbert Shaw, ex-Sheriff of Newcastle. The Rector (Canon Davies) presided.
The Rector said this was the greatest war, not only of modern times, but of all times, and, as they all knew who had followed it at all, the application by Germany of an immoral principle — that might was right.
What would it mean if Germany should win? It would mean that the principle of freedom, of national independence, and of everything that was involved in the idea of nationality was at stake.
He alluded to the soldiers coming to the town, and said that the meeting might agree to the appointment of a committee for Morpeth to take into consideration what resources were left them and how those resources might best be utilised in order to make provision for the social well-being of the 1,300 men who were to be billeted in their midst. (Applause.)
Mr Chas. Fenwick said he was glad they were all cheerful, and not “panicky,” because of the little shock that the nervous system had received, especially those were living on the North East Coast, within the last 48 hours or so.
Mr Herbert Shaw said that he was one of those who was responsible for the bringing of one of their Commercial battalions to Morpeth in a few days. He wanted to press home this, knowing well the generosity and hospitality of the Morpeth people, not on any account to offer the men hospitality in the form of treating them to intoxicating drink.
Give them every hospitality, but on no account tempt them in the way suggested. Obey by all means the command of Lord Kitchener. (Applause.)
Sir Walter Plummer said they must now as one man and one country face the common foe with a determination that this was to be a war to a very finish. They were not going to finish it until they could declare their terms in the capital of Germany.