In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1916, 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.
The following is a copy of the telegram received by the Mayor of Morpeth from Lord Derby:—
”I would respectfully beg you to do all in your power to induce men, especially single men, to join the Army under the group system.
“It is still open for voluntary enlistment, and I am anxious that as many as possible should take advantage of this before the Military Service Bill becomes operative.
“The Lord Mayor of London has, with excellent results, opened a special recruiting office in the Mansion House, and has himself appealed to the young men of the metropolis. Would it be too much to ask you, if it is not already being done, to do the same in your town? —Derby.”
I accordingly appeal to all young men in Morpeth to offer themselves immediately for enlistment under the group system.
Recruits may be attested and every information obtained at the Recruiting Office, Market Place, Morpeth.
EDWARD NORMAN, Mayor.
January 20th, 1916
MINERS AND WORK
It seems that the miners of Northumberland are not working as regularly as they might do, and this question of absenteeism, as it is called, again engaged the attention of the Coal Owners’ Association and representatives of the men’s union at a meeting in Newcastle on Saturday.
The great difficulty is to bring home to workmen the urgent necessity at this period of national stress of not idling a single day, if it can be possibly avoided. Thousands of miners have enlisted, and it remains for those at home to keep up the production of coal to the fullest extend of their power.
The irregularity in working, which both owners’ and men’s representatives are seeking to minimise, may be attributed to various causes, and doubtless sickness and physical fatigue have something to do with it.
How far drink and love of sport may account for lost time at the pits one may only surmise, but cannot assert out of first-hand knowledge.
ABSENTEEISM IN PITS
With the object of reducing the absenteeism at the collieries and preventing stoppages through local disputes, letters from the Home Office have been sent through Sir Thomas Ratcliffe Ellis to the Coal Owners’ Associations of the United Kingdom, and through Mr Thomas Ashton, the secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, to the affiliated unions of workmen.
It is suggested by Sir Richard A.S. Redmayne, the Chief Inspector of Mines, that a periodical return of absenteeism (say, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly) might be kept in respect of each mine, and a copy sent by the manager on the termination of each period to the respective secretaries of the local associations or owners and workmen, the absenteeism return being in respect of those days on which coal was wound at the mine.
Sir Richard Redmayne points out that at many collieries joint committees of the management and workmen have been established to watch the rate of absenteeism and to endeavour to bring about a more regular attendance at work.
This appears to be a good mode of procedure and commends itself to the coal miners’ organisation committee.
MORPETH SOLDIER KILLED IN FRANCE
Mrs George Sproates, High Church Cottages, Morpeth, has received information of the death of her husband in France.
He was attached to the 3rd East Yorks. His captain sent her the following kindly letter:
Dear Madam.— It is with the very deepest regret that I write to inform you of the death of your husband, who was in my company. He was — and I think this may be some comfort to you — instantaneously killed, shot through the head, and could have suffered no pain.
I send a few letters and a notebook, which were all the articles in his possession. His pay-book has been handed over to the authorities and will be forwarded by them to you.
Your husband was buried in a cemetery here. I regret I am unable to tell you the name of the town at present, and a cross will be placed over his grave. The name of the cemetery is St Joseph’s.
Your husband died like a brave man doing his duty for his country. I hope that this may be some consolation to you, and in future years a matter of pride to the children whom he leaves behind him.
If at any time you should wish for any further information do not hesitate to write to me, and, if possible, I will try and let you know what you want to find out.
I must close, believe me, with the greatest sympathy both for yourself and your family, yours truly,
H.R. Saunders, Captain.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Stoker G. Mordue, R.N.R., of Ashington was lost in H.M.S. Natal.
Corpl. R.J. Percy, 18th Hussars, of Cowpen, is reported wounded and missing.
Pte. John Robinson, 8th East Yorks, of Pegswood, has been killed in France.
Pte. C.F. Lamb, 7th N.F., of Morpeth, has been wounded in France.
Pte. G.Y. Allon, 7th N.F., of Seaton Hirst, has been killed in action.
Pte. F. Black, 7th N.F., Morpeth, has been wounded in France.
Pte. M. Hall,of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Hirst, is reported killed in action in France.
Pte. C.W.A. Robson, son of Mrs R. Robson, of Delaval Terrace, Blyth, has been killed in action.
Pte. Walter T. Stubbs, 10692, 12th N.F., son of Mr C. and Mrs Stubbs, of Ariel St., Hirst, has been killed in action.
Mr and Mrs J. Ions, Ponteland, have received official intimation that their son, Pte. Chas. Ions, 1/5th Battalion N.F., has been killed in action.
Information has been received by Mr Jas. Soulsby of Haddrick’s Mill Road, South Gosforth, that his son, Private John Soulsby, 16th N.F., has been killed in action.
Nothing has been heard of Pte. Alick M. Johnson, 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, who has been missing since Oct. 4th. His parents, Mr and Mrs Johnson, 11 Milburn Place, Stakeford, would be glad to hear any information concerning him.
Mr and Mrs Coxon, of 26 Hotspur Street, Backworth, have received news that their son, Sergeant J.W. Coxon, 6th Somerset Light Infantry, has been wounded. He was awarded the D.C.M. for conspicuous bravery in the recent fighting.
ROLL OF HONOUR
DEANE.— Killed in action on January 1st, 1916, Lance-Corporal John Deane, dearly beloved husband of Isabella Deane, of School Row, Scotland Gate, Choppington. Deeply mourned by his loving wife and family and a large host of friends.
HALL.— Killed in action, December 24th, aged 29, Private Matthew Hall, 2850, 7th N.F., dearly beloved husband of Mary Isabella Hall, 69½ Myrtle Street, Hirst. Deeply mourned by all who knew him.
STUBBS.— Killed in action, in France, on December 24th, 1915, aged 22 years, Private Walter Younger, 10692, 12th Battalion, A. Coy., N.F., eldest and dearly beloved son of Charles and Margaret Ann Stubbs, of 100 Ariel Street, Hirst, and grandson of the late Edward and Eleanor Younger, of North Lion Inn, Buckingham Street, Newcastle. They miss him most who loved him best. Deeply mourned by Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters.
WHITTAKER.— Killed in action, in the Dardanelles, on June 4th, 1915, George, younger son of Mr and Mrs John Whittaker, Tably, Cheshire, and grandson of the late George and Jane Straughan, of Nedderton Buildings and Shield Dyke. Deeply mourned.
MILITARY CROSS-COUNTRY RACE
Tomorrow (Saturday) Morpeth will be visited by hundreds of officers and men from the Tyne Garrison to compete in a seven miles cross-country race under the auspices of the Northern Command Cross-Country Association.
The race will be started by Major-General Montgomery, D.S.O., G. O.C., Tyne Garrison, at the Town Hall at 3pm, when it is expected about 600 or 700 men will toe the line, and follow the course, which will be:— Start at the Town Hall, turn to the left out of Morpeth, next turn to the right, turn to the left at Hebron, and left turn on to main road, and return to Morpeth, and finish in Newgate Street.
The local arrangements for the race, as usual, are in the hands of the Rev. R.D.R. Greene, senior chaplain, Tyne Garrison, assisted by a large and energetic staff.
One hundred stewards for the course will be supplied by the O.C. Cheshire I.Y. and O.C. 3/6th Northumberland Fusiliers, whilst all the competitors, stewards, and officials will be entertained to tea by the ladies of Morpeth, organised by the Rev. Mr Hardy, assisted by Mr T.B. Waters, at the Soldiers’ Institute and St James’s Schools by kind permission of the Rev. Canon Davies.
Morpeth will doubtless give a rousing welcome to the men of the Tyne Garrison.
The race will be held whatever the weather conditions may be.
Dressing accommodation will be provided at the Town Hall, Drill Hall, and the Co-operative Hall, and in other buildings if necessary.
SEA FISHERIES COMMITTEE
In a way the war has been a blessing in disguise to inshore fishermen, who, Inspector Taylor reported at the Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee’s annual meeting in Newcastle on Tuesday, had profited very largely by the respite given to the trawlers.
There had not been so many haddocks in the district for several years past, and the new by-law stopping fishing for crabs had largely centred the men’s attention on a more spirited prosecution of line fishing, with splendid results.
Mr G.D. Atkinson-Clark, who was re-appointed chairman, paid tribute to the younger men who had manned the warships and swept the sea of mines.
The clerk was instructed to see the Admiralty officials with a view to securing, if possible, a herring fishing season for the Tyne port this season.
Mr Hastie, jun., who brought the matter up, pointed to the importance of the industry in regard to food supply and argued that as Scarborough, Yarmouth and Lowestoft had had concessions in this direction the Tyne might be successful.
NEWCASTLE FARMERS’ CLUB
Ald. C.H. Sample presided at the annual meeting of the Newcastle Farmers’ Club, held on Saturday, when a report was presented showing a membership of 307, against 278 for the previous year, and a debit balance of over £18, compared with £10.
The War Agricultural Committee was taking up the question of the need of machinery, and better transport facilities.
Mr Longlands complained that whilst farmers were urged to go on producing at least as much as in past years, young farmers were not starred and were taken away, leaving a shortage of labour.
He knew young farmers in the Derby group, although the farms were worked by themselves only.
A member replied that he had got several of his men starred by appealing to the Tribunal, and the chairman said the Tribunals were certainly carrying our the wishes of the Board of Agriculture in the matter.
Mr March complained about the power the military possessed last year to commandeer hay at their own prices — at the price set by a committee.
Why did they not get contracts in the usual way?
The chairman replied that all the Committee had been asked by the War Office to do was to fix a reasonable price for the county. Power to take hay was taken from the Defence of the Realm Act. He did not think there had been pressure in Northumberland.
Mr W.A. Temperley said he did not think anybody should be called upon to supply any article below its market value.
POLICEMAN AND ARMLETS
The Chief Constable having granted special permission to the officers of the Northumberland County Constabulary to wear their khaki armlets while on duty, a large number of local policemen may now be seen adorned with the badge signifying that they are prepared to take their part in fighting their country’s battles.
PROMOTION FOR LOCAL OFFICER
We have pleasure in congratulating Major J.J. Gillespie, T.D., Commanding 7th N.F. Depot, Alnwick, on his promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
He has had about 24 years’ service, commencing in the ranks of the Morpeth Company V.B.N.F., ultimately becoming Captain Commandant, and was one of the Foundation Officers of the 7th N.F., when the Territorial Army came into existence.
RED CROSS HOSPITAL, MORPETH
The Commandant of the V.A.D. Hospital wishes to acknowledge with thanks the following gifts:—
Mrs Tinsley, eggs, biscuits, peas, chutney; Mrs Martin Tighe, eggs and jelly; Mrs Dickie, cakes; Miss Jobling, apples; Mrs Tinsley, cakes, books, bread; Miss MacDowall, cakes; Mrs Joseph Simpson, cake; Mrs MacDowall, apples; Sergt. Major MacClay, bed and mattress; Mrs Tweedy, books.
MINERS AND COMPULSORY SERVICE
There was some difference of opinion on the Executive Committee, writes a correspondent, regarding the question whether the representatives should attend the Bristol Conference to vote against compulsory service. They voted six each way, and the casting vote of the chairman decided that Northumberland should be represented.
The St. Hilda Lodge of the Durham Miners’ Association, at a recent meeting, passed the following resolution regarding the attitude of Labour Leaders and the Military Service Bill:—
“That this meeting strongly condemns the action of our agents and representatives to the Bristol Conference for voting against the Military Service Bill without that mandate from the members of their Association, believing, without entering into the arena to discuss the merits of the Bill or otherwise, that they have taken away one of the greatest heritages from the rank and file of this association, namely, that of having a voice or say in all matters connected with a democratic organisation like the D.M.A.
“Furthermore, we are of the opinion that their vote against the Military Service Bill is not a true reflex of the minds of the miners in this county.”
A THOUGHT FOR REFLECTION
How many of us who occasionally travel by train have pondered for a moment or even given a thought as to the reason of those semi-detached groups of people that are frequently to be seen congregated on our railway platforms on the arrival and departure of a train. Without doubt the outstanding figure there is a man in khaki, or, maybe, in navy blue, who may have been home for a brief leave of absence.
For a few moments let us carry the mind back to a time where we can picture our subject employed in his daily occupation. This may be in the mine, the workshop, or in the office. In this he has given of his best of honest toil to add wealth to his country.
Whilst in a great measure contented with his humble station in life, being surrounded by those of his family circle who are near and dear to him. He toils on, overcoming difficulties which daily beset his path, his one object in view being the comfort and happiness of those dependant upon him.
It may be this man in military or naval uniform is the son of parents who idolise him. He may be the husband of a young wife who would lay down her life for him and the father of a family who are greatly attached to him. Under those circumstances the call of duty comes to him in quite another way.
The country is in need of men. Britain, the land of the free, is called upon to defend her homes, to protect the liberties, heroically won by our forefathers. Small and peace-loving nations are being trampled under foot. The progress of civilisation is being threatened. Crimes revolting to human nature on innocent women and children are being perpetrated by a race who have long boasted of a high standard of culture.
This clarion call not only reaches the ears of our brave lads; they penetrate to his inmost being, resulting in a fixed determination to avenge these wrongs.
He sacrifices all that in the past have tended to make his life worth living. He joins up with his mates to fight for “King and Country.” He leaves home bidding adieu to his home circle. Whilst we watch his departure the picture is one of pathos and one not easily described or even portrayed is this severance of home ties.
He is probably transferred to some places many miles distant. He perseveres with his training, buoyed up with the knowledge he receives from home that all are well. During these months of preparation he looks forward to the time when his leave will be granted and thus afford him an opportunity to visit his home. In anticipation he thinks of the good time there is in store for him, and makes his plans accordingly.
When that period arrives he makes up his kit bag, catches the first available train and proceeds on his journey. It may be he has either written or telegraphed home the expected time of his arrival. His friends make their way to the station. The train arrives, anxious and eager eyes glance along the carriages, but the expected one has not arrived. What a disappointment. With drooping heads they return home and mediate as to the cause of his non-arrival.
Finally, all fears are allayed when he comes by a later train and explains that the missing of a connection has caused the delay. The few days leave at his disposal is spent to the best advantage. When the time arrives for his departure, friends call to bid him “Good-bye” and wish him “God-speed and a safe return.”
It is then when memories of the past rise vividly before him, realities of the present surround him, that the uncertainties of the future cannot be penetrated. His aged parents as they sit together in their cottage home and, with tears in their eyes, scan the boy’s every movement. It may be the young wife in that devoted embrace implants a parting kiss on his cheek. His little children climb to his knee and innocently ask when Daddy is coming back. The scene is distressing, and one on which we do not care to dwell.
He journeys to the station, accompanied by some of this friends, who are anxious to see him off. As he wends his way thither his head unconsciously turns round in the direction of the home he is leaving behind.
Whilst he thus awaits the arrival of the train which is to carry him away to that “somewhere abroad,” we realise that whilst the cause of these small groups may be of frequent occurrence they have in them a significance which give thought for reflection.
These groups give us a moral, they point the way to duty for King and Country, our duty to the lad that leaves us, and our duty to those of his dependents who are left behind.
MORPETH’S WAR SEWING MEETING
Tea was provided on Thursday, the 20th inst., by Councillor and Mrs Duncan, and realised £1 13s.
The hon. treasurer, Mrs Atkinson, Wellbank, acknowledges with many thanks the gift of 9/- from little Miss Ethel Carse, the proceeds of a raffle of dolls; Mrs Jobling, monthly, 2/6; Mrs Charlton, sen., wool; Miss Athey, mufflers and socks; Misses MacDowall, Dyers Cottage, socks and mittens; Mrs R.J. Carr, socks; Mrs E. Ions, socks; Mrs Browell, socks.
ST JAMES’ CHURCH INSTITUTE, MORPETH
A successful and enjoyable whist drive and dance took place in St James’ Hall in connection with the above on January 6th, when the hall was packed to its utmost by the large gathering.
The boys in khaki were predominant and added much to the enjoyment of the evening by their gentlemanly bearing and conduct.
The willing band of lady helpers had their resources taxed to the utmost in the way of refreshments, but as usual they rose to the occasion splendidly. Great credit and thanks are due to them for the manner in which they carried out their duties.
Mr J. Wastle was M.C. for the whist drive, and Messrs C. Kay, H. Moody, and Lamb for the dance. The music was supplied by Mrs Carman (pianist) and Mr Main (violinist), Ashington, and was all that could be desired.
Thanks are due to the following ladies, who helped the refreshments by giving cakes, etc.:— Ex-Mayoress (Mrs Charlton), Mrs I. Armstrong, Mrs R.T. Carman, Mrs Watson, Mrs Hall, Mrs Stevenson, Mrs G. Jackson, Mrs R. Wood, Mrs A. Straughan, Mrs S Wood.
The Rev, F.C. Hardy, in one of his happy speeches, thanked all who had contributed to the great success of the evening.
“COMFORTS” FOR THE MORPETH BOYS OF THE 7TH N.F.
Market Place, Morpeth, Wednesday first, January 26th, 1916.
Messrs Thomas Waters & Son will sell by auction as above an assortment of goods, kindly given by a few friends. Included is a first class phaeton, the gift of Miss Jobling, Dacre Street.
On receipt of a p.c., the Auctioneers will be pleased to send to any address for goods.
Sale at 12 o’clock. Terms — cash
BRITISH FARMERS’ CONVALESCENT HOME AT MONTAZAH
Sir,— We have appropriated four beds in the above to the county of Northumberland and these will all have tablets attached bearing an inscription to the effect that they are the Northumberland County Farmers’ beds.
Further subscriptions are urgently required, and should be send to the Secretary, Room 5, Tower Bridge Flour Mills, Bermondsey, S.E. —Yours , etc.,
WALTER G. VANN,
Secretary of the British Farmers’ Red Cross Fund
BEDLINGTON SOLDIER PRISONER
We hear little of our soldiers whose misfortune it has to have been made prisoners of war in the hands of the enemy. An interesting letter, however, has been written by Private J, Newton Foggon, a Bedlington soldier who, with other members of the Coldstream Guards, is a prisoner in Germany.
Private Foggon and his fellow prisoners have been compelled to work for the Germans in coal mines.
He writes:— I am working in a coal mine, but the mines are not underground as in England. They are just like our big sandstone quarries. There is no danger, and we are always in the fresh air. We get better grub and better treated, so that it was to our advantage that we have been compelled to work. We don’t kill ourselves at it though.”
This is very good as far as it goes, but readers will not forget the letters of prisoners are subjected to rigid scrutiny, and that no less favourable a picture would be allowed to be portrayed by the writer, and miners in this country who are earning, in many cases, between ten shillings and a pound per day may consider themselves fortunate when they remember men who volunteered to save their country are working as serfs and glad to get as wages “better grub” under German taskmasters, and we have some facts as to what the conduct of these professors of “kultur” is to prisoners, especially when they get a Britisher in their power.
AMBLE MAN AWARDED THE D.C.M.
Our Amble correspondent writes:—
I have heard it said that if any one of our men at the Front deserved to be recognised for gallant conduct it was Bob Johnson, and the news of his having been awarded the D.C.M. inspires a feeling of pride in the Amble people.
This is the second Amble man who has so distinguished himself on the battlefield.
Private R. Johnson, or rather to give him his proper title, Stretcher Bearer R. Johnson, of the 7th Northumberlands, is one of the best-known men in Amble. Perhaps he will be better known in his public career by his connection with the Amble and Radcliffe Band, in which he has done yeoman service. He, of course, comes of a musical family, his father having been bandmaster of a few important bands in the county, and latterly he has been at the head of the Amble and Radcliffe Band, which he has brought up to a high standard.
In this matter his son, who has so distinguished himself, and another son, who is also wearing khaki, have been a great help to him in his musical career.
At the outset of the war our local band some little time previous joined the “Terriers,” were called up, and a few of them volunteered for the Front. Amongst them was Private Johnson, and since he went into the firing line he has done great service in his capacity as stretcher bearer.
He saw an officer lying wounded a few yards from the German trenches, and he made his way through our own barbed wire entanglements and under heavy fire went to the aid of the officer. He got to him and carried him back to our trenches. Truly a brave and noble deed, but Private Johnson’s bravery on the field is not confined to this instance. There are many where his gallantry and fearlessness have been conspicuous.
I hope when he comes back he will be treated with a little more consideration than was Sapper Campbell on his first visit to the town after being awarded the D.C.M.
Speaking of Sapper Campbell, I have just heard that he has paid a flying visit to Amble. Except his intimate friends, few knew he had been here. He came one day and went off the next. We are all pleased to hear that he is still to the fore, and in good health, and it need hardly be said that the people of his native town have the greatest respect for him for his manliness in giving his services to his King and country.
BLYTH CHORAL UNION
As are result of the recent concert by the Blyth Nonconformist Choral Union, there is a balance of £10 to be handed over to the Red Cross Association.
So that the Union, within the first year of its history — its inception was in February, 1915 — has achieved the remarkable and gratifying distinction of raising the sum of £60 for the charities.