PEOPLE came from near and far to gather in Morpeth and pay tribute to Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison.
Emily, who lived in Longhorsley and whose family hailed from Morpeth, was gravely injured at the 1913 Epsom Derby when she attempted to attach the Suffragette colours to the King’s horse Anmer and was struck down.
She died four days later and was brought back to Northumberland to be laid to rest in St Mary’s Churchyard in Morpeth.
Various events were organised in the town on Saturday through the Emily Inspires programme to commemorate the campaigner 100 years to the day since her funeral.
There was music in the Market Place courtesy of Werca’s Folk women’s choir and the Band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, a Bikes and Bonnets cycle ride from Longhorsley to Morpeth’s Carlisle Park, an exhibition in the Town Hall, including Emily’s Votes for Women scarf on loan from the Houses of Parliament and lectures by the scarf’s owner Barbara Gorna and Dr Sheila Hanlon, who discussed the vital role cycling played in the suffrage movement.
The Sunshine Panners Steel Band performed in Deuchar Park, while staff from Beamish Museum organised a family picnic, traditional games and a Suffragette rally.
The highlight of the day was a procession along the route of Emily’s funeral cortege, from Morpeth Railway Station to St Mary’s Church, which was followed by a service of commemoration and the laying of floral tributes at Emily’s grave.
In the evening there was a performance of To Freedom’s Cause, a new play by Kate Willoughby about the Suffragette.
Crowds turned out to pay their own tributes.
John Earnshaw, 68, had travelled from Hebdon Bridge in West Yorkshire for the commemoration.
“We had to be here today. If Emily Davison and the Suffragettes had not done what they did my wife wouldn’t have been able to vote. It’s as simple as that,” he said.
“We heard about these events on the local news so we decided to come up. My cousin lives in Scotland so they have come 107 miles for this and we have done about the same.
“We have been to Morpeth before, about 12 months ago. We thought it was a lovely place, especially the shopping precinct. It is all clean and tidy and it doesn’t seem to have all the shops boarded up.”
Fiona Campbell had made the journey from Ripley in Derbyshire as her mother is a first cousin third-removed from Emily.
She said: “I think Emily was a fantastic woman who did some amazing things. It is a privilege to be related to her.
“I had always been planning to come today. I think people have put a lot of effort into the celebrations and I wanted to come and support everything.”
Other people had less of a distance to travel.
Brian Gresham, of Hepscott, said: “We just wanted to commemorate the day. I think Emily Davison was wonderful, a brilliant woman. When you think of what she did and what she went through 100 years ago she is just marvellous. It is good that she is being commemorated.”
Tamsin Sharp, who lives in Morpeth, said: “Without Emily and the Suffragettes we wouldn’t have had votes for women. That is why I came along.”
Tim Wyncoll, of Morpeth, said: “We are Morpeth residents and we thought this was an important event. I don’t think I would have had the guts to do what Emily Davison did. I can’t believe how women were treated just 100 years ago.”
He wife Jane added: “I think Emily Davison was a strong, amazing woman.”
The celebrations formed a family outing for the Lanes. Glenda Lane had travelled from Oxford to attend the events with her son and grandchildren.
“We were visiting my son and he knows I have a love of history so he brought us along,” she said.
“I do think Emily Davison went a bit too far, I think she became obsessed, but she was a very brave woman and wonderful for her cause.
“I taught about the women’s vote and at the end of telling about what the women went through, chaining themselves to railings and force feeding, one of the girls said ‘I don’t think I’ll bother to vote’. I nearly exploded. I think voting is so important.”
Her son Richard said: “I live in Morpeth so it is nice to support the event. I think we should be proud of Emily Davison. Just think where we would be if people like her hadn’t existed.”
Helen and Catherine Moore felt they had to attend the events as they live in Emily Davison Avenue in the town.
Mum Helen said: “We felt we had to be here, but we also wanted to come along.
“I think Emily was amazing. It is just incredible to think that it is so recent when women have been given the vote. I would like to think that I would have been a Suffragette if I lived back then.
“I think it is great that the town has put on these events and it is great to come along and support them. I’m really proud of Emily and I hope she is proud of us.”
Linda Wilson, also of Morpeth, said: “I came out to support the cause and votes for women.
“It is nice for Morpeth to have an event like this. It is good for tourism and it is a really nice, sunny day. What more could you ask for?”
Chairman of the Emily Inspires working group Andrew Tebbutt was delighted at the response to the event.
He said: “As Chairman of the working group I think it has been a fantastic success.
“It exceeded all my wildest dreams and it was fantastic to see so many people on the street, participating and watching the commemorations. I think Morpeth did Emily very proud indeed.
“I must thank all the hundreds of people who made it happen.”