In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1915, 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.
MORPETH MAN KILLED IN ACTION
Mrs Robson, of Morpeth, who is staying with Mrs Barker, of 96 Scarborough Road, Byker, her sister-in-law, has received word from the War Office of the death of her husband, Private John Robert Robson, who was killed in action at Neuve Chapelle, on February 28th.
Pte Robson had ten years’ service to his credit, and was called up with the reserves, and left for France in November.
He was 27 years of age, and was employed as a miner at Pegswood Colliery.
He leaves a widow and three children, aged four years, three years, and ten months, respectively.
Good Friday usually brings in a big influx of visitors to Morpeth, but whether that will be the case this time, owing to the war and its far-reaching effects, it is difficult to tell.
Good Friday also brings in the opening of the cycling season, but most of the club runs, nowadays are done on the motor cycle.
The Morpeth branch of the above Guild, of which the Mayoress and ex-Mayoress of Morpeth are presidents, had its last meeting on March 27th, until after Whitsuntide, in the Gymnasium of the Girls’ High School, where, through the kindness of the Governors, the working party has been held since February 4th.
Mrs Atkinson, hon. treasurer, read a statement of accounts, by which it appeared that £122 11s 11d had been generously subscribed in money, in addition to many completed garments and large quantities of materials, including a bale from Messrs. Fisher, Renwick and Co.
Since the commencement of the work in August last, over 2,200 articles have been sent to Queen Mary’s Guild, the Northumberland Hussars Imperial Yeomanry, various battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers, including the N.F. prisoners of war in Germany, the A.S.C., the R.A.M.C., Sister Eva Schofield, Lord Kitchener’s appeal for belts and socks, Lady French’s appeal, Belgian Relief Fund, Dr Warwick 5 Hospital Train, the Durham Light Infantry, St John Ambulance Association, the mine sweepers from the Tyne, the Naval Brigade, and the Royal Navy, all of which have been gratefully acknowledged.
It may interest our supporters to know that 1,002 garments have been given to the county regiments, the Northumberland Hussars and the Northumberland Fusiliers.
Since the publication of the last list, a considerable sum was made by the gifts of a bed-spread from Mrs Graham, and an Airedale puppy from Dr Kunz, and Mr N.I. Wright’s reading.
The teas have realised £34 1s 6d and were given by St James’ Church Communicants’ Union, Mrs Sanderson and Mrs Charlton, the Mayoresses, Mesdames Renwick, Maxwell, Duncan, F. Brumell (2), G.W. Purdy, Swinney, McDowall, Dickie, R. and I. Swinney, Schofield, Halls, Wood, B. Noble, Whittle, and Mitchell; Miss Oliver, Miss Relph; Alderman G. Young, Mr Charles Anderson, and Mr E.V. Young.
Ladies who wish to return work may do so at their convenience to the presidents, the hon. sec., Mrs Kunz, or the Misses Arkless, Manchester Street.
MORPETH HORSE FAIR
Morpeth Spring Horse Fair was held on Monday in the Market Place and Bridge Street. Owing to the scarcity of horses in the district, there was a very small number on parade, and prices were high.
Cobs were offered at £25 to £40; ponies £5 to £15. Only one useful draught horse was on the market, which was offered at £50. Second-class draughts were offered at £15 to £25.
Messrs. Thomas Waters and Son held their usual Horse Fair sale at the Riverside Stables, Morpeth, which was largely attended.
About 50 lots of harness and sundries were offered and sold well. Single sets made up to £5 5s, and double, £6. Twenty lots of traps, etc., were also offered. Waggonettes made up to £6 5s; flat carts, £6 5s; rolleys, £13.
There were about 30 lots of horses, cobs and ponies. Draught horses made up to £45; harness horses £35; cobs, £25; and ponies, £10. A very good clearance was effected.
Mr T.B. Waters officiated and got through in excellent time.
MORPETH BOARD OF GUARDIANS
A meeting of the Morpeth Board of Guardians was held on Wednesday, the Hon. and Rev W.C. Ellis presiding.
A communication was received from Mr Walker, clerk to the Newcastle Guardians, stating that the military authorities, with the approval of the Local Government Board, were about to occupy the whole of their workhouse, excluding the infirmary wards, and there was an immediate necessity for them to arrange for the transferring of their inmates to other institutions that had vacant beds.
He was sure that this Board would co-operate with them in this matter. The Local Government Board were prepared to render every assistance with the co-operation of Boards of Guardians. He felt that the Morpeth Guardians would realise the seriousness of the situation. He asked to be informed of the number of beds that could be placed at his Board’s disposal, and the amount per case.
The Clerk: When I got that letter, I wrote to Mr Walker and told him the situation here, and that we had no surplus accommodation. I also informed him that I would bring the matter before this meeting, but that he must not rely upon us being able to offer facilities to them.
“I don’t think I can do anything more,” added the Clerk, “until I see Mr Bushell, the Local Government Board Inspector.”
Chairman: We would be quite willing to give accommodation, but when we are full we cannot.
Clerk: You will just have to wait to leave the matter over until I see Mr Bushell. I will write to Mr Walker again. What about the amount per case as asked by the Newcastle Board?
Mr Craigs: If we cannot take in any cases it is not necessary for us to make any prices. It is a great pity we cannot accommodate Newcastle.
Our margin is so small that we should not hold out any hopes of being able to provide them with accommodation.
Mr Angus: And our staff is very small and fully employed.
Mr Dormand moved that the matter be left in the hands of the Clerk. He said that if they could help Newcastle they would be only too willing to do so.
Mr Hudson: It is a matter which will have the sympathetic feeling of all the members of the Board.
Mr Craigs moved that the Clerk point out the position to Mr Bushell when he came.
Mr Dodds seconded the motion which was agreed to.
CONTRACTS: ADVANCE IN PRICES
Mr Craigs stated that the committee had gone carefully into the matter of the contracts, and, as anticipated, they found a considerable advance in every department.
Their last price for bread was 1/8, and they had received two tenders that morning, one at 2/- and the other 2/4, a uniform price to extend for six months.
Proceeding, Mr Craigs said that Messrs. Oliver quoted 2/- on a sliding scale, based on flour costing 50/- at present. If flour was reduced to 45/- then the tender would go down 2d, and if reduced to 40/- then there would be a further reduction of 2d, making a minimum of 1/8, and only on condition that the tender was for six months.
The committee recommended that the Board accept Messrs. Oliver’s contract for six months, subject to the sliding scale.
Mr Angus: The appearance on the wheat market is that prices will get no higher.
With regard to the butcher meat, Mr Craigs said that there was an advance of one penny all round. Mr Stoker’s tender was recommended.
The coals also showed an increase added Mr Craigs. The committee recommended the acceptance of the Cottingwood Company’s tender at 16/6 a ton against 15/- for the last contract, and small coals at 12/- as against 9/-. They also recommended that Mr Pickering get the groceries for the month, most of the prices showing a reduction.
“I think that justifies the recommendation of the committee,” observed Mr Craigs, “that we only tender from month to month.”
On the motion of Mr Dormand, it was agreed that the above tenders be accepted.
The Chairman remarked that the committee deserved their best thanks for going into all these prices so carefully.
MINERS AND THEIR
Sir,— The Branches of the Miners’ Association are being asked to vote on the question as to whether or not they are in favour of holding their annual gathering this year.
Now, as our annual gatherings are held for invited men of national reputation to review for us the position of the labour world, and also for our agents to review our own position in particular, I crave a short space to give a few reasons why I think the miners should hold their meeting as usual.
In the role of trade union membership, there are two distinct sections.
First, there is the section that works to adopt itself to conditions irrespective of how or who imposes them. Second appears that section which goes to the cause of present conditions and meets such conditions with an eye on future eventualities and possibilities.
The first-named will be against any demonstration of labour this year on account of the war. They will argue that in this crisis we need national unity. All the members of the State must be as one. There should be no parties.
Now, on the necessity of war, there are two opinions. But there can be no two opinions on why a trade union exists. It is an organisation to guard the interests of wage-labour. It exists to fight capitalism.
This being so, if we are to suspend our regulations and set aside our object for national unity; if we must cease to exist as a party, surely it can only be on the basis of our opposing interest — capitalism — ceasing also to exist.
Society is not run on the strings of the human heart. It is not even run on the would-be of the human mind.
Social relations, economic interests are not created in committee rooms; they are the effect of the production and distribution of wealth.
And just as these facts are not created in any committee, even though Mr Lloyd George, on behalf of capital, and Mr Arthur Henderson on behalf of labour, are sitting members. To correctly secure national unity, to create identity of interest, is to re-arrange social conditions. It means the abolition of classes.
To abolish classes is to re-arrange the methods of production and distribution. Unless this is carried out, all the high-sounding trumpets as to national unity, all the attempts to merge the working class with the employing class, is but paint on a rotten boat — it won’t sail.
National unity may be the ideal ought of existence, but as the ought and the actual conflict, so of necessity must our views conflict. There can be no real uniformity of outlook, no sinking of our separate principles where society is not uniform.
Our annual gathering should be held because labour has a view-point all its own that needs expression. And this year that expression needs more emphasis than usual because there is a danger of even what we have achieved by trade union effort — achieved even by storm, stress and starvation, being snatched out of our existence.
The organisation of miners was never in more need of real vitality that at present, and to secure this, even in the face of a national war, it must show what is its real existence; — it must be independent.
It is right that we should set aside, even temporarily, our work of organisation, be it either industrial or political? Has the iron heel of capitalism checked its weight upon the masses?
It is well that we should continue an industrial and political truce when, as working men, we and our dependents, are 25 per cent, worse off than at the commencement of the war?
Does it seem possible that while the Kaisers at home have been fleecing our pantry for eight months, our great miners’ organisation — of which we boast — has not been able to secure one penny advance? No wonder the rank and file are asking our branch officials if our union has been chloroformed.
In fact, in the face of present restlessness, to ask the branches the question if demonstration is necessary, is adding insult to injury. It is inviting disaster by means of sectional action, followed by disorganisation. The people who are crying ‘halt’! until this war is over must be so engrossed in the tactics of our masters that they solemnly believe that all economic divisions and class struggles are going to be buried in the grave of German despotism.
What an illusion! Let us not be deceived. The root cause of modern war is capitalism. Even if foreign policy, if diplomacy be brought out behind the curtain, this alone will then only touch the fringe — tinker with an effect and leave the cause.
To abolish war is to abolish capitalism. And as a means to this end our industrial and political organisation must work.
The Labour Movement cannot afford to be side-tracked by killing speeches of its future security; it must work to secure effective machinery. The alliance of Labour leaders with professional politicians but conceals our opposite, wastes our energy, sacrifices our real nature of combat.
We should hold our annual gathering this year because there are important industrial reforms to be voiced. It is imperative that we review our own army that will need to be mobilised when this war ends. The present conflict will not usher in industrial peace. It may be the virtue of patriotism to thank our members fighting in the trenches, but who will they thank on their return if conditions of work and wages cannot be retained?
How many of our members recognise that we have incurred liabilities directly on account of the war without considering how they are to be made good?
To let things slide betokens a weakened organisation. Our mission is scared. Let our motto be “Business as Usual.”
Thanking you for space allowed,
Member of Miners’
3 Duke St., Ashington,
March 29th, 1915.
MORPETH & DISTRICT NOTES
Yesterday was the sixty-first anniversary of the “Morpeth Herald.”
As will be seen from our advertising columns, the 19th (S) Battalion (2nd Tyneside Pioneers) are holding their Easter Sports in the Olympia Sports Field, which has been kindly placed at their disposal by Mr W.A. Grey.
The meeting will be held on Saturday, April 3rd, and Monday, April 5th, each day from 10.30am to 5pm.
There are nearly 30 events, and some fine running, wrestling and jumping ought to be seen, and in addition the obstacle and sack races will provide plenty of fun.
The charge for admittance is 6d; stands being 6d extra; soldiers free.
It is hoped that the public will turn out in good numbers and make the meeting a complete success. A special scratch race is open to soldiers of any other unit, and the hon. sec. will be only too pleased to give any information on the sports to those who seek it.
Easter Sports, Olympic Sports Field, Morpeth,
Saturday and Monday, April 3rd and 5th. Each day at 10.30am to 5pm.
Admission: 6d., Stands 6d., Extra. Soldiers in Uniform Free.
Battalion Band in attendance each day.
In the course of a few weeks the football season will be at an end, and the summer pastime — cricket — will take its place.
The interest taken in the winter game has been lacking owing to the war and the fact that many young men have joined the colours.
One predicts a similar fate in store for cricket, as is evidenced by some clubs having cancelled their fixtures whilst others are hesitating to arrange them.
Many floral societies seem undecided whether or not they should hold their annual shows this year, whilst others have agreed to abandon them.
In conversing with members interested in the hobby, one hears different opinions on the advisability or otherwise of these shows at a time such as this.
Some there are who claim that exhibitions should go on as usual, whilst others argue to the contrary.
In support of the former it is claimed that now the pits are working regularly, and there being every prospect of their continuing to do so, no difficulty ought to be experienced in making them a success, if only fine weather prevails.
On the other hand some contend it is a suicidal policy to enter into any financial obligation whilst the country is engaged in such a task.
Another factor which ought not to be lost sight of is that without outside donations many of these societies could not exist.
Since the outbreak of war man and various are the calls that have been made upon tradesmen and others, and it is quite possible that those who have contributed to these shows in the past will now be in a position to do so this year.