In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1915, 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.
OUR OWN COLUMN
OUR CHANGED TOWN
Ever since the fateful 4th of August last, when the declaration of war was made, and the call to arms was sounded in our midst, our traditionally quiet little town has put on not merely a military but a militant appearance.
For the fifty-five previous years the towns-people had been accustomed to more or less frequent military displays by the parades and marches of the Volunteers raised in 1859-60 to defend our shores from a threatened invasion. At first they were militant in spirit, being faced with what was believed to be a real and immediate danger. The Emperor, Napoleon III., having abandoned his design of invasion, it was argued by high military authorities that the great army of National Volunteers which had sprung up should be forthwith disbanded. Wise men prevailed, and they were retained.
The “Up-and-at-’em” spirit had gone with the necessity for it. Like our standing army in times of peace, the Volunteers everywhere became more military and less militant. They kept before the public mind both the idea and success of the voluntary military service; and Lord Haldane, with a touch of his genius, transformed them into the Territorials, and for the first time, assigned them their rightful and well-deserved position in the war-like equipment of the country.
The response to the call to arms by the Morpeth Territorials was prompt and general; and their fitness for service was at once recognised by their being ordered to the coast to face a much greater danger than that undertaken by the Volunteers from whom they were evolved and developed.
Not only they, officers and men, but the town was stirred by the militant spirit, that day they marched out, with the stirring and patriotic speech of the Mayor ringing in their ears. That spirit has strengthened and the evidence of it increased in the town ever since.
To foster that spirit there has been nothing lacking. In almost the twinkling of an eye a detachment of the Northern Cyclists’ Battalion was quartered in the town, and in charge of long stretches of coastline, both north and south, to maintain communications between the sections of soldiers posted at or near the shore.
With their headquarters at the Queen’s Head Hotel, Bridge Street, every day of the week has been a scene of bustle and activity such as has not been witnessed in it since the days of mail and stage coaches, and post-chaises with post-boys as the chief means of quick travel.
Soon after the Morpeth Troop of the Northumberland and Durham Hussars-Yeomnary were dispatched on their first stage for the front, with a still more inspiriting speech from the Mayor, for he could speak to them from personal experience, having been through the South African War.
Then to a six o’clock Sunday morning bugle call, and a twanging of the “Alarum Bell” from the Old Clock Tower, for men to dig trenches at Cresswell and Druridge Bay, the ready response was a credit to townsmen of all ranks and classes, who did the work quickly and efficiently.
It was more than a surprise when a body of Lord Tullibardine’s 2nd Scottish Horse trotted into the town. Their fine, lithe, athletic appearance, combined with a build of body suggestive of great strength and power of endurance attracted all eyes to them.
They were raised chiefly in Aberdeenshire, Banff, and Morayshire, with a seasoning from Invernessshire, and a very few Gaelic speakers, from the far-distant Hebrides. The tartan rim of their Glengarry cape was just sufficient to reveal their nationality, and enhance them in public estimation.
Their stay was short, too short, for many of them were found to be gifted intellectually as well as physically, being University students and graduates. They were soon ordered to the trenches on the wind-swept dunes between Druridge and Cresswell.
The arrival in the town on Tuesday of the 19th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, 1,300 strong, establishes the military record for Morpeth up to the present time; and the provision made for their accommodation is in some respects a novel departure. They are quartered in schools, public halls and in churches, namely the Presbyterian at the Bridge-end, as the town is left or entered, and the Primitive Methodist Church in Howard Terrace.
The inhabitants have the prospect of a lively winter, no matter what may be its weather, and by the erection of an entertainment hall they are taking care that it shall be still livelier for the soldiers in our midst.
MORPETH TOWN COUNCIL
WORK DONE WITHOUT CONSENT
A meeting of the Morpeth Town Council was held on Tuesday night. The Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton) presided.
The Town Clerk read the following letter which the Mayor had received from Miss A. Hood, quartermaster, V.A.D., Red Cross:
“I am afraid I was entirely at fault in getting the defect in the heating pipes at the V.A.D. Hospital (Borough Hall) repaired before obtaining leave, but the matter was urgent. I acted, however wrongly, for the best. When the workmen were on the premises I asked them to put a few bricks into the fireplace. With this explanation I shall take it as a great personal favour if you will ask the Council to re-consider the matter and pay the account. The V.A.D. is doing great work for the country, and as the name indicates, it is voluntary. The War Office allows only 2s. per day for each patient. Let me thank you for all your kindness to our hospital, and again apologise for my error.”
The Town Clerk stated that the bill amounted to £3 7s. 11d.
Ald. Carr: It is a big amount to incur without asking any consent whatever.
The Surveyor said he knew nothing about it. He added that he saw men working at the fireplace, but did not interfere with them.
Ald. Carr: It is rather a high-handed action, but it has evidently been done in ignorance. They are having the use of the place for nothing, but I am quite prepared to accept her excuse. I move that the bill be paid; but in future no further expenses to be incurred unless the surveyor and Council are acquainted with the matter.
The motion was carried.
MILITARY AUTHORITIES AND THE ISOLATION HOSPITAL
The Town Clerk mentioned that the medical officer wanted to know what the Council would charge for the use of the infectious hospital for soldiers.
Dr Dickie explained that he had received a communication from Lieut.-Col. Blandford, R.A.M.C., York, asking how many beds the Council had available at their isolation hospital for troops.
Ald. Carr: How many beds have we got left at the hospital?
Surveyor: We have only six or seven beds in the hospital at present. The remainder are at the Borough Hall. Similar inquiries have been made to me, and I have replied that we can accommodate 12 soldiers.
Ald. Carr: Who attend to the men when in hospital?
Dr Dickie: The military doctors in the town. Col. Blandford is asking how much they have to pay per patient per week.
Town Clerk: It does not include medical attendance?
Dr Dickie: No.
Mr Duncan: They should provide a hospital for themselves.
Town Clerk: They want the hospital for infectious cases.
Dr Dickie: It is very necessary that a place should be procured, not only for the sake of the soldiers, but for the civil population as well.
Mayor: I think we should keep our isolation hospital in reserve for the troops billeted in the town.
Ald. Carr moved that a reply be sent to the effect that there were 12 beds available for the troops stationed in the town, the charge to be 30s. a week for each patient, which included board, lodging, and nursing.
Mr Armstrong seconded the motion, which was agreed to.
The committee recommended that an application for winter grazing on one of the Common enclosures be not entertained.
Mr Grey said that they ought to be very careful with regard to grazing, or even stinting, on the Common, as the troops would be coming out of their huts and billets in three or four months. They ought to be in a position to allow troops to encamp on the Common. It might be premature at present to offer the military authorities the Common, but they ought to keep that object in view when letting the grazing.
Mr Temple remarked that they would have to consider the freemen in the matter.
Mr Duncan said that the idea of Mr Grey was a very good one. They ought to get in touch with someone in authority as to whether the Common would be used as a camping ground for troops. They could not start too early in this matter. If they could get a few thousand men in the summer-time on the Common, it would be an important benefit to the town itself. With regard to the freemen, there were ways and means for providing grazing for all the freemen on the Common.
Mayor: It is only right that we should keep the Common open in case it is required for troops under canvas. I would suggest that Mr Grey raise the question again when he thinks the time opportune to write to the military authorities with regard to the Common.
The committee’s recommendation was then put and carried.
ENTERTAINMENT OF TROOPS
The committee, which now consists of the whole Council, reported that, on the motion of Ald. Carr seconded by Mr Swinney, it was agreed to recommend that the Council contribute £25 out of the corporate funds towards providing for and entertaining the 19th (Service) Battalion N.F., whilst stationed in the town. The recommendation was carried.
FOR MILITARY REQUIREMENTS
The committee reported that the Town Clerk read the correspondence which had passed between Major Temperley and Lieut. and Quartermaster Perry and himself, granting the 19th N.F. the use of the ground floor and first floor of the Clock Tower, and undertaking the necessary repairs thereof, and also granting them the use of the Terrace whilst the troops are billeted in Morpeth. The committee recommended that the action of the Town Clerk be confirmed. This was confirmed.
A plan was submitted for the erection of a temporary wooden pavilion in garden up Bell’s Yard, for the use of the soldiers billeted in the town. The plan was passed.
Saturday’s recruits for the Tyneside Commercials numbered 44, leaving about 100 to be raised to complete the depot companies of the 16th and 18th Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers (the Newcastle Commercials at Alnwick and the 1st Tyneside Commercials at Rothbury).
Officers and men of these Commercial battalions have given up lucrative posts to serve, and nothing has served as a greater recruiting stimulus than the words: “All dependents of soldiers in these battalions will be properly looked after during the bread-winner’s military service.”
The 19th Service Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Tyneside) left Newcastle on Tuesday forenoon for Morpeth.
Primitive Methodist Church, Morpeth.
During the occupancy of our premises, Howard Terrace, by the Military, the usual services, both Sundays and Week Nights, will be held in the Old Chapel, Manchester Street. A hearty welcome to all.
Messrs Burrell and Henderson, having enlisted, beg to thank their many customers for past support, and hope to be remembered in future when they return.
“THE BONNIE PIT LAD”
Colliery managers hereabout are sore put to for lack of putters, great numbers of whom have gone a-soldiering, and many of them declare their intention to stick to the Army.
The consequence is that hewers are paid at the rate of 8/- a day and more for doing the work of the lads who have gone to serve their country.
The young men from the pits, inured as they are to daily peril, are strong in nerve as they are in thews and sinews, and it is nerve and endurance that is required to throw back and annihilate those who would over-master and destroy us and all that stands for freedom and true humanity.
RECRUITING FOR RESERVE BATTALION
Since the commencement of the war, excellent work has been done by the Northern Cyclist Battalion (Territorials in patrolling and guarding the north-east coast).
The corps, which is commanded by Lieut-Col. A.J. Collis, has volunteered for foreign service — a detachment, indeed, has already left for the front — and it has become necessary, therefore, to raise a reserve unit, which will act as a feeder for the first battalion on the Continent, and, at the same time, make up the coast defence work.
Than the Northern Cyclist Battalion there is no more efficient Territorial corps in this district, and, having regard to its high reputation, and the interest and importance of the duties which military wheelmen have to perform, it is not surprising that the call for recruits for the reserve has met with a large response.
There is still room, however, for about 100 men of good physique and character, who will undertake to serve abroad if called upon to do so, and they are wanted at once.
It is expected that at about the end of the week the battalion, under the command of Lieut.-Col. Garrett, will concentrate at Bamburgh, where comfortable quarters have been arranged, and in which locality useful training can be given. Rifles and cycles, it may be mentioned, are ready for the men who join, and the uniforms are now coming in.
The headquarters of the battalion are in Hutton Terrace, Newcastle, where recruits will be welcomed.
QUEEN MARY’S NEEDLEWORK GUILD
Through the courtesy of the Rector and Churchwardens of the Parish, the Mission Room in Manchester Street has been lent to the Presidents, the Mayoress and Ex-Mayoress of Morpeth, for their working party.
The first meeting of this year will take place on Thursday, 21st January, in the Mission Room from 2pm until 5pm. Tea will kindly be given by Mrs Hugh Dickie, Ward House.
NEW CENTRAL HALL FOR SOLDIERS
Dear Sir,— The above hall (situate off Bridge Street, by Bell’s Yard) will be opened shortly for all men in uniform. The committee appeal for gifts of games, etc., including chess, draughts, dominoes, cards, bagatelle boards, books, magazines, etc. I will be pleased to send to any address for such on receipt of a post-card. Yours faithfully,
Secretary, Town Entertainment Committee.
St James’ Terrace, Morpeth.
A KIND DONATION
Through the kindness and generosity of Mrs Sample, of Bothal Castle, the wives and mothers of the men who have joined the colours from Pegswood — about 80 — have each been presented with a couple of rabbits, which have been most gratefully received.
GRAMMAR SCHOOL CADET RECRUITS
The officer commanding Morpeth Grammar School Cadet Unit is preparing a roll of honour of all ex-Morpeth Grammar School Cadets at present serving with his Majesty’s forces (Army and Navy), at home or abroad.
If friends and relatives of “serving” Cadets will kindly communicate with Capt. Evans, giving particulars as to regiment, rank, and date of enlistment, their action will be much appreciated.
In their eagerness to look after the comfort and recreation of the solider, the Town Council have forgotten the weekly butter and egg market, held at the Town Hall.
When the buyers and sellers came on Wednesday morning they found that the soldiers had possession of the place where they transacted their business, and no provision whatever had been made for them. They found stands round about the outside of the Town Hall, but they complained very bitterly of the want of better accommodation.
If the Town Council do not endeavour at once to find some suitable place for the market people, we will lose altogether a very important asset to the trade of the town.
Formerly the inside of the Old Market Cross was used for the purpose, but when this old historic landmark was abolished, so as to “show off” the new Town Hall, the country people were permitted to use the Town Hall for their business, and have done so up to the present time.
COMFORTS FOR NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS
The members of the Morpeth Branch of the British Women’s Temperance Association have been knitting comforts for the soldiers and have been able, after distributing several pairs of socks to Morpeth lads at the coast, to send a box containing 21 pairs socks, 5 body belts, 6 pairs cuffs, 6 pairs mittens, 2 mufflers, and 1 helmet to the Northumberland Fusiliers stationed at Seaton Sluice, and have received the following letter of thanks:—
Dear Madam,— On behalf of my Battalion, I beg to thank you and the ladies of the B.W.T.A. for sending the Corps a box of knitted socks, etc. I am sure that they will be much appreciated by the men. Yours faithfully,
Unit Cornet, 6th Batt. North’d Fusiliers.
As the members are still anxious and willing to continue knitting, but through lack of funds cannot buy more wool, any donations of wool or money would be gratefully received by the President, Miss Oliver, 17 Bridge Street, Morpeth.
THE MORPETH MOOR PIT DISPUTES
The spectacle of employers and workmen in conflict is never an edifying one, much less so in these times when there is such need of sinking all differences and working in unity and harmony, when all sensible people realise we are, as a nation, facing the greatest trial known for centuries.
It is regrettable that wiser counsels did not prevail and prevent the miners of Morpeth Moor Colliery and the owners from dragging before the magistrates their disputes about fire-coal and the custom regarding rent allowance.
It was stated that the miners had set aside the advice of Mr Straker and their agents in the matter; and it would certainly seem that in doing so they did not show a deal of wisdom, and doubtless by this time they will have realised this — if not, then more’s the pity.
MISSING PRISONERS OF WAR
Persons desirous of finding the whereabouts of friends and relatives who have been made prisoners of war owing to their ships or fishing vessels being seized by the Germans, Austrians, or Turks may see a list of such prisoners by applying to Mr Moffatt, collector of Customs, Customs House, Blyth.
The North Northumberland No.1 District Conference Association of the Co-operative Union held its quarterly conference in the Co-operative Hall, Newbiggin, on Saturday last. Mr Jas. Strong, chairman, presided, and was supported by Mr Hardy, secretary.
At the outset, the Chairman expressed his pleasure at seeing so many delegates present, and wished them all a happy and prosperous New Year. They met at a time unparalleled in the history of the world, but he felt sure it was their desire to use their position as co-operators to the best possible advantage of all concerned. He hoped the war would be brought to a speedy end. (Applause.)
Mr T. Young introduced the subject, “The Future Attitude of Co-operators During the War.” This question, he said, was a proper and an important one to bring before co-operators at this particular time. Though the country had now been at war for a period of five months, they could congratulate themselves upon the many successes that they had attained; yet when they took a broader outlook upon international affairs, he was afraid that they must not content themselves with seeing their victories complete over the Germans.
They must look further ahead, and prepare themselves for the difficult times in front of them as co-operators, because they were victims of circumstances in so far as their geographical position was concerned.
The last five months had been anxious and critical times, especially for members of management committees. He alluded to the mad rush that took place in some districts at the commencement of the war for the withdrawal of share capital, and the large demands that were made for great quantities of goods, and said that they could come to no other conclusion than that those store members had had no confidence in their fellow members. Had they known there was war in prospect, they would have had time to determine their policy, and so have stemmed the rush made.
The present condition of trading in this district showed that societies were not at peace one with another, and they were not at peace with the great house at Newcastle. As co-operators, they should set aside their little differences at this time, and deal with the question of overlapping. Today the movement was experiencing a confidence from its members such as it had never experienced before. During the past five months the co-operative movement had proved that it was a movement which could help the working classes.
Proceeding, he said the first thing that management committees ought to consider in the immediate future was the control and the conservation of all capital. His advice was to hold their hand with regards to any expenditure of capital upon buildings. A question of vital importance to co-operators in war time, and at all times, was leakage through bad debts. He thought this matter should be taken out of the hands of departmental and general managers, and dealt with by the management committees.
On the motion of the chairman, a hearty vote of thanks was accorded to Mr Young for his address.
LOSS OF THE RUNO OFF BLYTH
The Board of Trade inquiry into the loss of the Wilson liner Runo, with 29 lives, in the North Sea, on September 5, off Blyth, was told at Hull.
Mr Jackson (for the master, Captain Lee) contended that the vessel was torpedoed and not mined, as in all cases mined vessels sank immediately, whereas the Runo floated for an hour and a half. He suggested that the fishing vessel flying the Dutch flags, seen within an hour of the disaster, was a German submarine depot ship.
Judgment was reserved.