Morpeth Herald war supplement, August 21, 1914.
Morpeth Herald war supplement, August 21, 1914.

This feature to commemorate the First World War brings you the news as it happened in 1914 as reported by the Morpeth Herald. It is published with kind permission of the Mackay family. We thank them for their support and generosity in allowing us access to their archive.


We have learned to make war silently. ‘Where are the British?’ is a question often asked, and no answer was forthcoming.

At our garrison towns and camps the movement of troops went on day and night. As at the time of the Armada, ‘night was as busy as the day’, and Sunday, ordinarily a day of peace and rest to the soldier, was the busiest of all; but there was neither peace nor rest for the multitudes of khaki-clad men and officers, who were preparing to meet the enemies of Great Britain to defend her peoples, to go abroad or to man the guns at home. But all was done without parade or display.

This was a time when we must be on the qui vive against letting anything whatever become known that might serve the purpose of the enemy. The lives of those of our fellow countrymen who are nobly bearing the brunt of this awful conflict might be endangered by the leakage of information.

This is a war waged in a democratic spirit. What honours come to us will be shared by all alike. It is significant that the names of even the officers are scarcely known to the public. That is as it should be, for Germany can therefore never know whom she is to meet at any given point on land or sea.


In a corner of the towering red brick barracks there had been gathered in from many quarters commandeered horses, fine upstanding animals, in the pink of condition. Their former owners, before parting with them, had decorated their manes and tails with woven straw, as is the habit when a horse is being sent to a fair. It was the last little attention of the kind many of the poor animals will ever receive.

And in a few minutes it was all undone in the spacious parade ground. When the horses emerged they were in their new brown harness, ready for anything. Strong arms and willing hands had loaded up the baggage waggons, placed the covers, and roped all down. Then the horses were yoked, and the long line placed in formation for the march. So different was everything from the peaceful farm life to which they had been accustomed that it was not surprising a few of the animals were restive.


Over the hill comes a long sweeping line of Regulars, headed by pipers. Into the parade ground they turn, are drawn up, carefully inspected, and marched out again, ready to take their place with the rest of the cavalcade. The word of command rings out. All move off. Tomorrow others will take their place. And when tomorrow comes, there comes with it another regiment. When it came no one knows, whither it will go in a few days none can tell. Here it is. Every man is in the full panoply of war.

It is a grim thought-provoking sight on which the bright August sun pours a dazzling heat. No welcoming bands play these warriors to their new and very temporary quarters. Sternly and silently they went their way through equally silent crowds.

Such have been the circumstances in which regiments and battalions of our standing Army have left their barracks and camps to go on active service. They have marched away, knowing nothing of their destination; and those who arrived to take their places, Territorials or Yeomanry they may have been, left their homes in the far distant rural counties equally ignorant of where their immediate lot was fixed.

The numbers of long military trains — fifty nine through Morpeth in a day or two, it is said that the Government, with its control of the railways, has been running all over the country proof of the great and marvellous movement of troops. And everywhere their departures and arrivals have been carried out in silence.

Lord Kitchener, on Tuesday morning, made known the significance of all this solemn silence. By means of it the first great British achievement in this war was successfully accomplished. Our expeditionary force has been safely landed on French soil. The embarkation, the transportation, and the disembarkation of men and stores were alike carried through with the greatest precision, and without a single casualty.

Let us remember that such a risk at the beginning of such war dare not have been run, even by Lord Kitchener, had not Sir John Jellicoe beforehand assured the Admiralty the work could be carried out with safety. We thus learn that the British fleet had so far done its duty. Shall we have another Trafalgar?


As was briefly reported in our columns last week, it was decided at a meeting organised by the Mayoress of Morpeth (Mrs W.S. Sanderson), that a sewing meeting should be held each week for the purpose of making garments for the sailors and soldiers who are fighting the nation’s battle.

The first of those meetings was successfully held in the Town Hall yesterday afternoon. There was a splendid attendance, including the Mayoress, who is acting as president.

The Mayor said that they were all aware for what object they were assembled. It was to see what the women of Morpeth could do for their soldiers and sailors who had gone to fight their country’s battles. They would see from the newspapers that the British forces were at the front. He felt sure that it needed no words of his to arouse the enthusiasm of the women of Morpeth to do their share at this time.

Never before in its history had this country been faced with such a serious campaign. They all realised the gravity of the situation and that they were banded together on behalf of a good cause. It was awful to think of the men in the trenches faced by a great European foe. It was a serious matter for them all and it was the duty of everyone to face the situation bravely and calmly.

He wanted every woman in Morpeth to make garments for the soldiers. He knew from personal experience the hardships which infantry regiments on the march had to undergo. He witnessed it at the Boer War, and it was a sad sight to see the sores and bruises on the feet of their soldiers after a long day’s march. The want of socks at such times was the cause of much suffering.

He knew that they had hearts and would feel for those men who were fighting in this war. Some of them might think that they should wait a bit because the war would be soon over. The surest way of getting the war over quickly was to be well prepared for any emergency. Never mind although ten thousand pairs of socks were left over. They could always be distributed amongst the poor. What they had to do was to be prepared and to feel for the men at the front. Some of the men who had enlisted had left here with no change of clothing at all.

Continuing, the Mayor said: “I hope the women of Morpeth will come forward as they have always done in the past and that every woman will make herself responsible for a pair of socks. Surely they all had time to knit a pair of socks or make “grey backs”, what the soldiers call shirts.”



A letter was read from the Local Government Board, dealing with the question of distress in consequence of the war. It was stated that a national fund had been promoted to deal with needy cases.

The Board asked the Guardians to deal with all the cases on their books for outdoor relief as usual. The Board suggested that the Guardians should supply a list of those in receipt of outdoor relief to the local committees in charge of the distress fund, and so prevent overlapping.


Mr Craigs: As Guardians, I think we will only be doing our duty if we take into consideration the poor of our district. The outdoor relief is generally 2s. 6d. for an adult and 2s. for a child. Everybody knows that is not adequate, but there is always the chance that those in receipt of relief are staying with relatives and friends. At the present time there are tens of thousands who are not getting sufficient to sustain themselves, therefore those who are in receipt of parochial relief will not get any assistance from their friends. I think we ought to face this matter, and increase the grant to each adult and child during the war.

I will move that each adult in receipt of outdoor relief receive an increase of 1s. and each child 6d. extra until further notice.

The Clerk: You propose to have a whole-sale increase of relief, and you cannot do it. What you must do is to pass a resolution that the Guardians instruct the Relief Committee to go into all cases and increase if they think it necessary for two weeks, and so on.

Chairman: I don’t think our paupers will be affected by the war.

Mr Craigs: Many of our old people are living with their sons and grandsons and other friends, and now these people are not in a position to help the old folk.

Mr Reavley pointed out that there was a good deal of distress. He thought they might give an extra allowance.

Mr Dodds favoured the giving of extra help. He pointed out that the poor people had more to pay for their provisions.

The Rev. Mr Macleod said that there must be a large number of paupers not affected at all. He thought Mr Craigs’ motion was too sweeping and that some discrimination should be made.

Mr Angus: It is all very well to speak of the distress. There is another side. Where is the money going to come from? Are you going to run our Union into debt? The collieries have been working well up to a certain point, and the people should have had something laid by for a rainy day.

Mr Craigs moved that each relieving officer be instructed that, wherever he found it necessary, to grant extra relief to those who were recipients now.

Mr Floyd seconded the motion, which was agreed to.


The question of the workhouse master’s salary, who has been called out on military duty with the Territorials, was raised. It was unanimously agreed that Mr Hoey be paid full salary.


The ponies were drawn at New Delaval and at Choppington Collieries on Saturday.

The members of the Blyth Defence League have commenced drill. It is hoped shortly to have a Morris-tube range in the old drill hall and a rifle range at North Blyth.


The outbreak of the war has had some serious consequences for farmers.

The first thought of the public no doubt is that the rise in the price of provisions must benefit agriculturists and others who are the food producers of the nation. Those who are in it, however, know that it is a long time before a rise in the price of anything filters down to the producer. Wheat, for instance, is quoted at a big rise, but that is for old wheat not in farmers’ hands. The new is still all in the field though harvest is now going on.

With many farmers the commandeering of the horses just at harvest time is the worst trouble. The writer has escaped so far, but a neighbour had three taken out of six while actually at work on the binder. It was stated in Parliament that farm horses would not be taken unless in extreme emergency, but no attention is paid to this, while horses taken and afterwards not required are left at the owner’s risk 20 miles from home.

The Board of Agriculture has issued a circular asking farmers to help one another, and this is what will probably be done without asking. It has been the custom from time immemorial for neighbours to join and help one another at hay and harvest work, as there is no section of the community so neighbourly as farmers at a time like the present when the nation has risen as one man to defend the right, and when national existence is at stake no one will raise trouble about personal matters, and given fairly decent weather the harvest will be got in and the good supply of the nation made safe for a long time to come.

What the price of food items may rise to, and how much of the rise will reach the producer is another matter. While the war may be prolonged it may at the same time collapse at any moment, when the German bubble is pricked, and prices and conditions return to the normal.

It has been customary during the last week or two when discussing food supply to fix the attention on the amount of wheat in the country as if that were the only thing we could depend on for a living. As a matter of fact there is any amount of other food.

People in Scotland lived wholly on oatmeal in the olden days, while bannocks of barley meal were also one of the historical foods. In Ireland potatoes and buttermilk were equally notable, and barley bread was the staple in England.

We can perfectly well return to these plain things and indeed do without wheat entirely. There are thousands of acres of potatoes, cabbages, kail, turnips, swedes, carrots, etc., without reckoning market gardens near towns, which are all suitable for human food at a pinch, before starvation comes.

Then in the matter of animal food there are tens of thousands of cattle, sheep and pigs which could be killed for food purposes without touching the high class stock which would need to be saved for breeding purposes. It must be remembered also that the amount of poultry and game in the country is very large.

The writer has long held the opinion that it would be impossible for an enemy to starve this country into submission. Assuming that we did lose command of the sea, and that we were blockaded, the blockade would need to be kept going for a year at least before famine began, because there are so many food materials we can fall back upon. It is also to be remembered that a large proportion of well-to-do people eat too much, and that siege rations would do them as much good as a “rest cure”.

No war ever before found us so well prepared; we have a righteous cause, navy and army ready, and the national larder particularly well stocked. What the prices of food will be is a matter outside the province of the writer; the food is there, however, and if the prices rise too high perhaps the rich man will help the poor as they did in the brave days of old.

There is no need of a panic therefore and no justification for ransacking the grocers’ and provision shops and storing up stuff, because there cannot possibly be much of a scarcity for many months to come.

Y.M.C.A. concession

At a meeting which was held last week, the committee of the Morpeth Y.M.C.A. decided to open their doors to all soldiers and sailors in uniform, and men stationed in the town have showed by their attendance, that they appreciate the concession.


A Russian Pole pedlar at Blyth was laid hold of by Bedlington miners and charged with being a German. He was taken to the police station, where he was quickly liberated.


Something of a sensation was created at Blyth on Sunday night, when the streets were crowded, by the reported arrest of German spy, some Territorials having in custody a man proceeding in the direction of a building in which the men were quartered.

Subsequent inquiries elicited the fact that the “spy” was a young man belonging to Hartley, whose movements, the Territorials said, were suspicious, and who was in consequence taken into custody. He was released on satisfying the military authorities of his bona-fides.


Miss Forster, a Blyth schoolmistress, arrived home on Friday after some exciting experiences in France. Miss Forster went to Paris a month ago for a holiday, and was at Nice when war was declared.

The declaration caused stirring scenes in the streets. The “Marseillaise” was sung to the accompaniment of bands, and there was much cheering.

She afterwards returned to Paris, to which city enormous crowds were travelling. Railway trains with troops were sent to different parts of the country. Everybody seemed to be in good spirits, and there was frequent cheering. There was considerable pressure on the savings banks, which were only paying out a certain percentage of the people’s savings.

All the business places were open, and business was going on much as usual for some days, but afterwards visitors to the hotel were obliged to wait upon themselves, most of the male staff having been called up for active service.

After considerable inconvenience, she reached London in safety.


Unlike most English people who have had to leave Germany on account of the war, Mr J.W. Lacey, of Blyth, has a kindly word for the military men with whom he came into contact. Respecting the civilian element, Mr Lacey speaks of the hostile attitude assumed when they came across any English people.

Mr Lacey, who was in the office of the British Vice-Consul at Hamburg, arrived at Blyth on Sunday, having travelled from Denmark on the boat which conveyed the crack racing cyclists, who were stranded in the latter country after the championships.

Being advised on August 5th that it was absolutely necessary to leave Germany, Mr Lacey left Hamburg, where, failing to get away by boat, he went to the Seamen’s Mission. The hostility of the mob was so great that the mission had to be locked up and barricaded for the safety of those inside.

Being desirous of getting out of the country as soon as possible, Mr Lacey proceeded to an English hotel with other Britons, and, after having to run the gauntlet of threats of the crowd and having their papers examined by a ruffianly set of officials, Mr Lacey and the five other English people who formed the company were placed under arrest. They were followed to the police station by a frenzied mob, which fortunately confined their abuse to epithets, and after being in custody three hours were set at liberty and told the only way to get to England was by Denmark.

At Altona Mr Lacey and a companion had an unpleasant time. It was not safe for any foreigners to enter the cafes, and they had to walk about the streets from 11 o’clock in the morning until half past nine at night, when they got a train. Then they were carried on to Kiel, and when boisterous parties of young Germans sang patriotic songs, Mr Lacey and his companion had to feign sleep, so as not to arouse suspicion.

Without further adventure they reached Esbjerg, where they embarked for England.


There is still difficulty ahead of the Northumbrian coalowners in reducing the percentage of large coal to the point on which the Admiralty insists.

Durham benefits at present, because its unscreened passes the Admiralty restrictions. So many of the collieries in North Northumberland draw steam coals that the prohibition has reduced nearly all the pits in the Blyth district and up to a few miles east of Newcastle, as well as many in Durham, to only one day’s output in 14 days past, and very few of the collieries around about Newcastle have worked more than two or three days since war was declared.


Anxiety is felt by the friends of Miss Isabella Mason, of 14, Hartley Row, Seaton Delaval, daughter of Mr John Mason, manager of Seaton Delaval Co-operative Society, who is in Germany at the present time.

Miss Mason, who was a teacher at the Seaton Delaval Council Schools, went to Germany with Miss Bailey, who formerly taught at the school, and the Misses Mackay, hailing from Scotland. They intended staying a month.

When war was declared they were in Konigsberg, and in consequence of the anti-English feeling which was growing in Berlin, they cancelled the arrangements for returning home via the German capital and France. From this point all trace of the party is lost. It is known that four British ladies succeeded in booking a passage on a steamer bound from Hamburg to Aberdeen, but the identity of the travellers is not known.

Before the ship could clear the port she was seized by the Germans, and the crew taken to prison. What the fate of the ladies is is unknown. Even if they are free the position of the party must be an uncomfortable and precarious one, for they had only taken money with them to last a month.

The Foreign Office has been asked to make investigations.


In response to a letter from the Football Association, the council of the Northumberland Football Association has unanimously decided to grant permission to its clubs to make a charge at all their practice matches between now and August 31st, on condition that the whole of the receipts, without any deduction whatever, are paid to the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund.

The council has every confidence that Northumberland clubs will do all in their power to make this effort successful on behalf of comrades now on duty and their dependents.


On Sunday afternoon, in St James’ Church, Mr J. Wyatt, the organist and choirmaster, will give an organ recital in aid of the Prince of Wales Fund. He will be assisted by Mrs J.R. Mitchell, A.R.C.M., and Mr Cairney, vocalists. The programme is varied and attractive.

Much in the programme, both instrumental and vocal, is specially suitable for the occasion, and the audience cannot fail to find their present patriotic feelings expressed in Handal’s stirring son, “Arm, arm, ye brave,” which will be sung by Mr Cairney.


After this week we will be obliged to reduce the size of the “Herald”, owing to the paper famine, in consequence of the war.

We hope this will only be temporary, as the opening of the Norwegian and Swedish ports will enable the English paper mills to obtain a supply of raw material for the manufacture of paper.

Our special War Supplement, containing Central News telegrams from the seat of war and all the places interested, is published daily about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. We get all the reliable war news, and our readers should discredit the alarming rumours which are set about from time to time.

Any important telegrams received after we go to press will be posted outside our premises, as well as those received on Sundays.


Morpeth has responded well to the appeal of the Mayor on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund.

During the past few days the committees who were appointed for the purpose have been making a thorough canvass of the town for subscriptions, and it is gratifying to learn that their efforts in that direction have met with so much success. Members of the committees are meeting daily in the Council Chamber in order to deal with the cases of distress.


The chaos of the week preceding this one has practically passed off, and the price of food stuffs, which rose with lightning rapidity have dropped to a little above the usual.

The recruiting sergeants have been busy in our midst, and it is a daily sight in various districts to see the young men leaving their homes to don the uniform and become soldiers of the King.


Before: Mr S.K. Young, Mr J. Whitfield, Mr A.A. Askwith, and Mr T.C. Heatley.

Morris King was charged with having been found sleeping out without any visible means of subsidence.

P.C. Waugh gave evidence in this case.

Defendant said he had tramped from Cambridge, and could not get work.

Mr Heatley: You men would be better serving your King and country. Go to prison for seven days, and when you come out go and enlist.

Late Lieutenant H.J. Middleton

The funeral of the late Lieut. Hugh Jeffrey Middleton, second surviving son of Sir Arthur Middleton, Bart., Belsay Castle, Northumberland, took place on Thursday last week, at Bolam.

Lieut. Middleton, a Royal Naval instructor with the Naval Volunteer Reserve (Tyne Division), was attached to the Calliope, and met his death through an accident on board a mine-sweeping trawler off the Scottish coast.

It was said at first that the trawler had struck a mine, and had been blown up, but later it appeared that the accident occurred on board, and only Lieut. Middleton lost his life.


Councillor W.S. Sanderson, the Mayor, has received the following letter from the officer commanding the Northern Cyclist Battalion.

I desire, on behalf of the military authorities, to thank you and the citizens of Morpeth very sincerely for the splendid response to the sudden call for help in digging trenches on the morning of August 9th.

It speaks well for the patriotic spirit of the town that such a large number should have volunteered at such short notice, and it also reflects great credit, Mr Mayor, on your powers of organisation to help the country in the hour of need.

I have the honour to be, Mr Mayor,

Your obedient servant

A.J. Collis

Lieut.-Col. Commanding Northern Cyclist Battalion

Headquarters, Morpeth.