Town gets set for centenary tribute to Suffragette

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MONTHS of events to commemorate the centenary of the death of Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison are set to get under way.

The Northumbrian campaigner had been arrested and imprisoned for her part in Women’s Social and Political Union demonstrations to support votes for women.

But it was when the Longhorsley resident stepped on to the track at the 1913 Epsom Derby and was struck by the King’s horse that she became known around the world.

Emily never recovered from the injuries she sustained and she died four days later in hospital.

On June 15 she was brought back to Morpeth and thousands lined the streets to watch the funeral procession to St Mary’s Church, where the Suffragette was laid to rest.

Now the town is set to embark on months of events to pay tribute to her memory.

And it will all begin next week on International Women’s Day.

It has become something of a tradition for St Mary’s Church to hold a memorial service on Friday, March 8, which not only recognises Emily Davison’s contribution, but also celebrates women’s achievements generally.

The service this year, which starts at noon, will take on extra significance.

Werca’s Folk women’s choir, led by Sandra Kerr, will be dressed in Suffragette costume as they perform a song specially written for the occasion.

Penni Blythe Jones, who is a member of the Emily Wilding Davison Working Group, will address the congregation.

And after the service Northumberland County Council Chairman Jim Smith will lead the congregation to Emily’s grave to lay flowers on behalf of the people of Northumberland, while Werca’s Folk will sing the Suffragette anthem, March of the Women.

The service will be attended by members of Emily’s family, including her great, great, great niece Laura Caisley.

Coun Smith said: “The annual service is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women from all walks of life and to pay tribute to all those who have worked tirelessly for the freedom and equality that we in the western world are lucky enough to enjoy today.

“The service this year will be especially poignant, marking as it does the death a century ago of Emily Wilding Davison.”

Events will continue through the day with a book signing by Janet MacLeod Trotter at Rutherford’s of Morpeth as she launches a new edition of her novel No Greater Love, which features Emily as a background character.

And in the evening the annual Northumbrian Concert, in aid of the Morpeth Gathering, will highlight the county’s women.

The Gathering itself in April will be themed around Emily and the Suffragettes, with numerous cultural activities taking place, and there will be national, as well as local, writing competitions about the campaigner.

Morpeth In Bloom will also carry on the theme through floral displays.

A new play by Kate Willoughby about Emily will premier in Morpeth from June 13 to June 16, before going on tour locally and nationally.

And a commemorative plaque will be unveiled at Epsom Racecourse.

Back in Morpeth there will be a commemoration procession from Morpeth Railway Station to St Mary’s Churchyard to follow Emily’s funeral route.

Ms Blythe-Jones, who has been one of the driving forces behind the programme, said: “The centenary of Emily’s death is an opportunity to mark not only the remarkable life of a true Northumberland lass, but of a Suffragette who made the ultimate sacrifice in standing up and fighting for the rights of women.

“Over the coming weeks our aim is to tell Emily’s story and to remind today’s generation and inspire the next about someone who dedicated her life to the cause she believed in and that was to make the world a better and more equal place in which women could live and work.”

Morpeth businesses have also welcomed the celebrations.

At a meeting of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, Chairman John Beynon said: “We very much support these events as they will help to raise Morpeth’s profile at a national and international level and increase the number of tourists coming to the town centre, which will mean more footfall in our shops.”