HERALD WAR REPORT: Morpeth Herald, October 2, 1914.
HERALD WAR REPORT: Morpeth Herald, October 2, 1914.

In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1914, 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.



At a smoking concert, held in the Constitutional Club, Morpeth, on Wednesday, a presentation was made to Mr A. Hutchinson, who has been for a number of years a useful member of the committee, on the occasion of his marriage. Amongst those present were some non-commissioned officers and men of the Northern Cyclists’ Battalion, stationed in the town. In the unavoidable absence of the Mayor (Councillor W.S. Sanderson), the chair was taken by Councillor R.N. Swinney.

The Chairman apologised for the absence of the Mayor, who had volunteered for the front. (Applause). The Mayor had telephoned to him saying he was very sorry that he would be unable to be present, and asked him to take the chair. Councillor Swinney told him that he was only too pleased to do anything for him, considering what he had done for his country. Every man in this town should be pleased to do something for the Mayor. (Applause). Perhaps the members of the Cyclists’ Battalion did not know that this was the second time the Mayor of Morpeth had volunteered for active service. (Applause). No man in Morpeth had ever before volunteered for service during his Mayoralty, and he understood that only one other Mayor in England had done the same thing. (Applause).



Morpeth has responded well to Kitchener’s appeal for recruits. Since August 15 about 420 men have joined the colours.


It is an interesting fact that more than one-fourth of the members of the Morpeth Orchestral Society are serving in the Army, either as Reservists, Territorials, or recruits.

The society does an incalculably useful service, socially and musically, in times of piping peace, and even when the blast of war sounds, and soldiers are needed, its members are not slow to come forward. We understand that the depletion of the ranks of the society has occurred principally among the violins.

The society has assisted in various charitable ways in the past, and it has offered to give the proceeds of its annual concert to one of the war charities.

We are more than a little proud of our orchestral society, and it is hoped that violinists in the town, and outlying districts, who are not already members, will come forward to fill up the places left vacant by those who are thus serving, so that the useful and charitable work may not be impaired.


Amongst the correspondence we have received relating to the war, the following is of some interest. It was written by the widow of the late Rev. Edward Ashton, who for some years was minister of the Congregational Church, Morpeth.

She says that her second son, William Arthur, has left a good position in the United States to join the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders for active service. He was born in Morpeth, and has always been proud to call himself a Northumbrian.

If any old friend of his father’s wants to remember the son in any way they can address 72 Corps, 72nd Seaforth Highlanders, second Canadian contingent.

She goes on to say: It is every mother’s duty to give them up; but, oh! the terrible anxiety. Pray for our brave boys at the front, and for those who are actively preparing for Freedom and Right.

“We want no Kaiser here. Our George is all right for us, and for our Colonies too,” so says an old Canadian.


In some of our colliery districts the effects of the war are being keenly felt. From a report submitted by a special committee at the last meeting of the Northumberland Education Committee, we gather that a considerable amount of distress prevails.

As it is the wish of the county authority that no child should go to school with an empty stomach, arrangements have been made for the provision of meals to children wherever it has been found necessary. In the Choppington and Pegswood districts many children are being served with meals daily, and it seems that there is very little likelihood of the numbers becoming less.

Provision has also been made for children under school age, and in their case they can have their meals with the older ones, but whatever is spent in that way is to be refunded by the local relief committees.



We have received the following communication from Corporal Wallace Patrick, of the Morpeth detachment of the Northumberland Hussars:—

I would be extremely obliged if you would kindly allow me a small space in your paper to thank all the Morpeth people who so kindly sent parcels of cigarettes, eatables, etc, to the above troop, and I can assure them that they were thoroughly appreciated.

I may state the Morpeth troop, likewise the whole regiment, is in the best of health and spirits for when they go abroad.


The ladies of Linton have been very busy sewing and knitting for the sick and wounded soldiers, and last week forwarded a parcel of day shirts and night shirts to the Royal Infirmary at Newcastle for the wounded soldiers there, and another parcel of khaki socks has been sent to the commanding officer of the 5th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers for the recruits at Gosforth Park. Other work is in progress, and will be sent where needed.


The tenantry of the Duke of Northumberland, hearing that Earl Percy was sailing for the front, immediately communicated with Sir Francis Walker, the Duke’s commissioner, asking him to convey their good wishes to his lordship. Sir Francis did so in the following terms:—

“On behalf of the tenantry, I am requested to telegraph wishing you all the good luck and a safe return. All connected with the estate desire also to join in those good wishes.”

Earl Percy’s reply was received on Friday morning as follows:— “Please thank the tenantry and others connected with the estate for their very kind message, which I appreciate most deeply.”


Mr C. Fenwick, M.P., who has been in indifferent health for some time past, has had to abandon his customary political meetings with his constituents at this period, but hopes to take part in a recruiting campaign and address a meeting at Seaton Delaval on October 7th. To a newspaper representative Mr Fenwick states:—

“My views with respect to this war are very different indeed from what they were with reference to the South African War. I am a pacifist. I am strongly in favour of a policy of peace, but I am not a man of peace at any price. I will make a great effort, submit to considerable sacrifice, if by that means I can avoid the horrors of war, but there comes a point at which I stumble — the point where either personal or national honour is involved.

“Prior to the war, I used my utmost endeavour to secure British neutrality. I consider that we had not interest involved in the strife between Austria and Servia, and, that being so, all the efforts of our statesmen and politicians ought to be bent to an endeavour to keep us out of the conflict; and even after Sir Edward Grey’s very weighty and important speech in the House of Commons on August 3rd, in which he described the situation most graphically — even then I was not convinced that we ought to allow ourselves to be involved in the conflict. I still thought that something could and ought to be done to keep us out of the strife.

“But after I had an opportunity of carefully reading the White Paper and following step by step the course and the character of the negotiations that took place between our Foreign Secretary and the German authorities, I felt convinced that it was impossible for us to retain our national honour and respect unless we took out the sword in defence of that honour. Our honour and pledged word to smaller nationalities was at stake, and we were, in justice to Belgium, compelled to go to her assistance.

“Frequently one is asked how long the war is likely to continue. Well, that is a question that cannot readily be answered. It is only a mere matter of conjecture, but I do not think it is likely to end as quickly as some people imagine. Indeed, I believe it will be a long war. Others are talking about overtures of peace being made by neutral Powers. In my judgment it is too early to talk about overtures of peace.

“There can be no peace, and there should be no peace, until the opportunity arrives for complete overthrow of the military spirit in the German Empire.

“The spirit of militarism must be broken, otherwise the democracies of Europe will receive no fitting compensation for the vast amount of blood and treasure which they have so nobly poured forth.

“It may be said, “That is a nice piece of sentiment on the part of one who cannot face the foe on the field.” I am too old to pass the military doctor, but I certainly do consider myself called upon to do all I can, and to make every sacrifice possible, to assist those who have so courageously accepted the responsibility and risk of defending the liberties of the British Empire. Incidentally, I may say I am proud to have a brother and a nephew, his son, who have offered themselves for service and been accepted, and a grandson also who is serving with the Territorials, and who may ultimately be called upon to go to the front.

“There is one point upon which I feel very strongly, and that is that those who go to fight must be generously supported, and their dependants who are left at home must in no sense be neglected.

“Those of us who cannot fight must regard it as our duty to pay. “There must be no experiences after this war such as followed the war in South Africa, when men like the City Imperial Volunteers — who were previously in good positions, earning large salaries, who readily left their situations, went to the front, and suffered and bled — came back home to find their situations occupied and no work. They travelled the streets of London till their feet were bare, and practically no assistance was forthcoming.

“That state of things ought to be completely avoided, and permanent provision made by Act of Parliament for those who have suffered and for their dependents. I shall do all in my power to see that the responsibilities of the Government in this matter are carried out. Under the Compensation Act, when a man has partly recovered from the effects of an accident, he is offered light employment and compensation which bring his income somewhere near the equivalent of his earnings before the accident incapacitated him.

“The Government ought to hold themselves responsible for those who are serving their country, in the same way as they hold the employer responsible under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. Our Volunteers are working for the Government, for the country, in a very risky occupation, and the Government ought to accept a responsibility which they have forced upon ordinary employers.

“There should be no mistake in the mind of the British democracy as to the issue at stake in this conflict. It is a struggle between the spirit of the Corsican and the spirit of the Gallilean. One stands for Empire and Dominion: the other for peaceful relationships amongst the nations of the earth. That is the real point at issue, and we must do all in our power to get rid of this idea of Empire.”


Mrs Harney of Blyth, whose son John was an engineer on board the H.M.S. “Aboukir”, on Saturday evening received a telegram from the Admiralty stating that her son was not amongst the men saved. Mr Harney was 27 years of age and was a son of the late Capt. Harney of Blyth.


Much of the anxiety that prevailed in the Dudley and Seaton Burn districts last week was relieved when it was announced that Mr J.F. Dry, a postman at Dudley, had been one of the rescued from the cruiser “Aboukir” which was sunk in the North Sea last week. Mr Dry was an A.B. of the R.F.A., and was called up for mobilisation at the outbreak of the war. Writing from Holland this week to some friends at Dudley, he states that he was five hours in the water.


A communication from the Admiralty to Mrs Finlayson, of 30 Gladstone Street, Blyth, states that her husband, Charles Finlayson, a sailor on H.M.S. Aboukir, is not amongst the saved.


Private John Yellowley, a Seaton Delaval man, who is in the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, has been wounded in the arm and leg at La Fere, and is now at his home, where he told to a newspaper representative a shocking story of German atrocities.

“I have seen for myself,” states the stricken soldier, “women and children horribly cut up. In one place, when we were retiring from Mons, I saw a woman lying in the street with one of her breasts cut off.

“In the same place I saw children who had legs and arms cut off by the Germans. I witnessed a revolting piece of cruelty while on this march,” proceeded the soldier. “While passing a house I heard moans as of someone in distress. With others of the company I went into the house. There we found an old man lying dead across the fireplace. But this was nothing compared with the sight which met our gaze a moment later, when, following the direction of the moans, we came upon a woman nailed to the door. Her arms were outstretched, and through each wrist a nail had been driven.

“The woman was alive though unconscious, but we were not able to do anything for her until the arrival of one of the surgeon officers, under whose direction she was taken down. That woman is alive today, and I understand she is now in Manchester. At least she went on the boat which took a number of refugees to Manchester.”

Private Yellowley, who also saw service in the South African War, took part in many engagements before being put out of action.


A well attended meeting of the above club was held at Bolam Hall on Friday night, when it was decided not to play any matches this year. It was proposed that the club contribute one pound to the Lord Lieutenant’s Fund, which was heartily agreed to.



The gifts of shirts, socks, etc., to the men of the Foreign Service Battalion, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, are being much appreciated. Special mention should be made of Mrs R. Scott, through whose kindness and efforts a good number of the articles have been received.

The following is a list of the donors:— Mrs R. Scott, Newton House, Lesbury, wife of officer commanding 7th Batt Northumberland Fusiliers; Mayoress of Morpeth, per F. Arkless; Mrs Riddell, Lesbury House, wife of Brigadier-Gen. R. Riddell; Mrs Addison Potter, Fairfield, Warkworth; Mrs Munford, 17 Windsor Terrace, Jesmond; Wallace Green Church, Berwick, per Mrs Maclagan; Mrs Wright’s Knitting Party, Morpeth; Mrs Wilson, Beech Cottage, Rothbury; Mrs Cummings, Rothbury; women of Shilbottle, per Mrs Lee, The Vicarage; Miss Beverage, Rothbury; Mrs Smith, Manor House, Whalton; Miss Middlemiss, Miss Ferguson and Mrs Richardson, Waverley Hotel, Whitley Bay.




The annual harvest thanksgiving service in connection with the Morpeth Parish Church took place last night.

With regard to the rector’s appeal for gifts of suitable provisions to be sent over to Belgium for distribution among the homeless and destitute people there, it is gratifying to learn that there has been, so far, a very liberal response on the part of the Morpeth people generally.

The rector informs us that further gifts of provisions will be gratefully received. The goods will be sent off early next week to their destination.

In a letter to the newspapers, the rector states: “Our debt to Belgium is greater than we can repay and it is to be hoped that similar efforts may be made elsewhere.”


With the object of giving a helping hand to Queen Mary’s Fund (Morpeth branch), a most worthy charity, a patriotic concert is to be held in the Masonic Hall on Friday evening.

It is to be under the patronage of the Mayor (Councillor W.S. Sanderson), who has received and accepted a commission in the Durham Light Infantry, and Lieut-Col. A Collis and officers of the Northern Cyclists’ Battalion.



From the undated time of The Flood, the dove, with the olive leaf in its beak, has been the emblem of peace; and the bee, gathering honey, has been the pattern of industry, which, with man, thrives best when their conditions of life are calm and peaceful. Only now have the gentle dove, and the bee, been commandeered to play a part in the raging and ravaging art of warfare.

In a recent article dealing with Holland, reference was made to the fact that the military authorities of that country employ bees for conveying, from one part of the country to another, messages photographed on their wings.

The bees are taken from their hives and sent in small boxes to the frontier, where they are submitted to the photographer, and when operated upon are released. Their well-known homing instinct enables them to find their own hives, where they are captured by an ingenious arrangement, and on being placed under powerful magnifying glasses the messages are copied. Unlike the pigeon, bees cannot be shot or otherwise retarded except by high winds, while making their journey.

It is pretty generally known that German spies in this country and in France have been employing homing pigeons to supply the Kaiser’s generals with valuable information. German trawlers were captured in the North Sea with baskets of such pigeons on board.

Our own Government has become alive to the very real dangers this country, her Expeditionary Force, and even her Fleet run by the uses to which the carrier pigeon may be put. A clause under the Aliens Act prohibits aliens from possessing homing pigeons in time of war.

The Order issued under the Defence of the Realm Act, 1914, in respect to the keeping of homing pigeons without a permit from the police, has now been extended to the whole of the United Kingdom.

The National Homing Union has undertaken on behalf of its members, that they will at all times place their birds at the disposal of the authorities, and that its members will themselves render every assistance.

How dangerous an agent the harmless dove may become as one of the many new features in this world war is emphasised in this week’s despatch from Sir John French’s headquarters. One sentence from it is enough: the French have found it necessary to search villages and also casual wayfarers on the roads for carrier pigeons.



Boy Scout’s Error

Thomas Ferguson, Bridge Street, who appeared in the garb of a Boy Scout, was charged with having been cycling without a light one-and-a-half hours after sunset, on September 21st.

P.C. Thompson said he stopped the lad on the highway near Bebside, and asked why he had not any lights. The youth replied that he was carrying despatches to Sleekburn and was in a big hurry. Witness asked to see the despatches, but the defendant replied that he was not allowed to show the despatches to anyone. The lad’s story witness found to be false.

The lad had said the scoutmaster had told him that he would be allowed to ride without a light, but the officer had said the boy had no such orders.

The Clerk: What right had the scoutmaster to give such instructions? He should pay the fine, which was 2s. 6d., including costs.

German’s False Statement

Otto Lodter, a young German, was charged that he, being an alien enemy, had made a false registration at Blyth Police Station.

Supt. Irving stated that the accused was a German, had been employed at the German Embassy, and had resided at High Bridge, Newcastle. He had also been employed as secretary at the German Consulate.

In March last he came to Whitley Bay, and on August 10th he came to Blyth and registered under the Aliens’ Jurisdiction Act. At the time he asked accused if he was liable to serve in the German Army, and he replied in the negative. On August 14th he was granted a permit. On that day he again asked defendant if he was certain he was not liable to serve. He gave a negative reply, and added that he had obtained an exemption owing to business reasons.

On September 7th witness received a Home Office circular in reference to Germans over 15 and under 45, who were requested to prove that they were not liable for military service. On September 7th he had an interview with the accused, who gave as a reason that he was not eligible because he could not pass the medical examination, as something was wrong with his heart. Asked if he had got a doctor’s certificate to that effect, defendant replied that he had one, and witness requested that it might be forwarded. Defendant promised to send the certificate.

Instead of that, he received on September 12th, a paper which showed that accused was connected with the Landsturm, which was part of the German Army, and was at the present time in action.

A witness named Barker interpreted the paper in question, which bore out the superintendent’s statements. Supt. Irving pointed out that it was a condition stated that defendant should serve with “weapons”.

When charged at the police station defendant made no reply.

Asked what he had to say, defendant denied that he had intended to mislead the authorities. It was quite true that he had not served in the German Army, and had stated to the two officers at Blyth Police Station, when Supt. Irving was not present, that he belonged to the Landsturm only. Defendant urged that the very fact that he proved that meant that he did not want to conceal the fact. Indeed, he might have destroyed the papers if he had cared to do so.

Lodter was further charged with being an alien enemy and having a camera in his possession without written permission from the registration officer. He called a witness named Mrs Phillips, who said the accused asked her to take care of his camera, because he would not be able to use it for some time. It had been in her house since the beginning of September.

Accused said he put the camera away so that he would not be blamed for doing anything against the law.

The magistrates committed the accused to prison for six months.


In the Prize Court, London, yesterday morning, Sir Samuel Evans made a decree detaining until further order, the German steamship Ost-preussen, seized by the Customs officer at Blyth on August 5. She had no cargo on board.


On Sunday evening, a Boy Scout named M. Fairhurst, residing in Percy Street, was injured by a revolver accident.

It appears that a revolver owned by a scoutmaster had been left in the tent near the Fish Quay, Blyth. A boy named Wilson picked up the pistol, which by some means went off, and Fairhurst cried that he was injured in the leg.

Dr. Fairlie was sent for, and after examining the lad’s leg had him sent on an ambulance carriage to his home. Whilst the lad’s clothes were being removed, a revolver bullet fell out upon the floor.



The Union Jack was unfurled at the playground of the East End School, Bedlington, the occasion being a send-off to John Patterson, one of the teachers who has volunteered for war service. Mr J. Caine complimented Mr Patterson on his patriotic conduct in offering himself for service with the Special Company of students of Bede College.

They all wished him health and a safe return. Mr J.C. Thompson, headmaster, said Mr Patterson was in some respects to be envied, as it was not in the power of all who had the inclination to play such a brave and patriotic part.

He called for cheers for Mr Patterson, which were heartily given by the children, who sang the National Anthem.


Recruiting is still going on in the Blyth district, and during last week about 30 men were enlisted at Blyth. A number of the recruits have been drafted into mounted regiments.