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.
A NOTABLE EVENT
A notable event last weekend was the opening of the fine new institute which has been erected at Morpeth for the use of soldiers billeted in the town and neighbourhood.
Great interest was centred in the event, and the gathering was a large and representative one, quite a number of officers, including Brigadier-General Hunter, being present.
An extremely gratifying feature in connection with this soldiers’ institute, with a concert hall 90ft long, and well adapted for the purpose, is that the sum of over £700, which more than covers the cost of the building and furnishings, was raised in less than three weeks. Such a splendid response to the committee’s appeal for funds, considering the many and varied calls made in these days, is a manifestation of the spirit of true patriotism.
The large and influential committee, who have the arrangements in hand for the entertaining of the troops, deserve all the praise that has been bestowed upon them for their well-directed efforts.
It was a delightful speech which Mrs Renwick delivered in declaring the institute open, and in wishing that the soldiers would enjoy their hours of recreation there in a quiet and sensible way, she expressed the sentiments of all the subscribers. “We want you to look upon this as your home,” was the appropriate remark of Mr Geo. Renwick at the first concert given to the troops.
With so many soldiers in our midst, the need of such a place has been amply proved already by the numbers attending daily, and no better thanks, we venture to say, can be given to the committee than to see the institute well patronised at all times.
BIG DEMAND FOR COUNTRY PRODUCE
The market people of Morpeth have got back to their quarters in the Town Hall, and the poultry and butter market is going on just as usual. Owing to the increased population, both in town and district, there is a big demand for country produce, and high prices are being obtained. For the last few weeks the supply has not been equal to the demand.
ROLL OF HONOUR
At a meeting of the session of Morpeth Presbyterian Church, it was decided that a Roll of Honour be prepared of the members and adherents of the church who have joined the colours in connection with the war.
There is a goodly number of the Presbyterians who have joined the Army. Only a few weeks ago, their organist and choirmaster, Mr S.A. Wright, who was a reservist, left Morpeth for the South of England to join his regiment.
FOR RIGHT, NOT MIGHT
For Right, not Might, we fight; but time will show
That Might of Right the Might can overthrow
Of even an imperial anarchist,—
Despite his shining armour and mailed fist,
His frightfulness, his braggadocio.
A just and righteous cause is ours, and so,
Though death await us, ‘tis as friend not foe:
To honour’s call, unhesitant, all list —
For Right, not Might, we fight.
On Belgian soil a hundred years ago
Right conquered Might, and there again, I trow,
Might will by Right be broken and dismissed:
Naught can the ardour of our arms resist
When roused to anger, though to anger slow,
For Right, not Might, we fight.
Stobswood possesses a very progressive ambulance brigade, and good work is being accomplished.
It is interesting to note that the owners and workmen of Stobswood Colliery have resolved to provide a bed for the new St John Ambulance Brigade Hospital in France, to be named the Stobswood Colliery Bed.
This speaks volumes of praise for such a small place, and for the generosity of the owners.
Three members of the brigade are now in France. One is in the R.A.M.C., two have enlisted, and 10 have placed themselves on the reserve for home or foreign service.
MORPETH TRAINING LEAGUE
Another section will start on Monday night for new members, at 7.30, in the Council School Yard.
Drills: Mondays and Wednesdays, at 7.30. Route March: Sundays, 10.30.
BELGIAN RELIEF FUND
A Whist Drive and Dance will be held at the Pavilion, Blagdon, on Friday, Feb. 5th, at 7.30pm. Admission by ticket only: Ladies, 1/6; Gents, 2/6. Refreshments at popular prices. Music by Barker’s Band.
NORTHUMBERLAND EDUCATION COMMITTEE
TEACHERS AT THE WAR
It was reported that 60 employees of the committee were absent on war service up to December 31st.
Sir Francis Blake mentioned that of the male teaching staff, six headmasters were away, or 3 per cent; 37 certificated assistant teachers, or 28 per cent; uncertificated assistants, 11, or 22 per cent. The total male staff was 401, and those away on war service numbered 54, or 13 per cent.
The County Association of Teachers forwarded a resolution asking the Authority to reconsider payment to teachers out of school on military service, with a view to coming into line with the Education Authorities of Newcastle, Gateshead, Wallsend, Jarrow, Tynemouth, Blyth, and 65 per cent of other authorities in England and Wales, namely — full pay for both married and unmarried (less deductions paid by the War Office as pay and allowance); women teachers out of school for nursing soldiers to be treated similarly.
It was recommended that the resolution be referred to the Establishment Committees of the County Council, and the Committee in confirming this, recommended that the suggestion should be agreed to.
“The prospects for homing racing during the coming season are extremely black, and we could almost say for certain there will be no long-distance homing racing during the coming season,” was the opinion expressed by the president of the Northumberland Homing Federation and northern representative to the National Homing Council (Mr J.W. Parkin), of Cramlington, in an interview with a “Herald” representative.
He added that even if the present war was ended in the early summer he thought that none of the members of the Federation would attempt to spend time in the training of their pigeons and the rearing of birds for the usual young birds’ races.
Mr Parkin said two of their prominent homing officials, Mr John Hennessey (secretary to the Northumberland Homing Federation) and Mr Thomas Potts (the “convoyor” to the Northumberland Combine), had been selected by the Government Naval Department and appointed petty officers in connection with the Pigeon Department in the Navy.
Petty-Officer Thos. Potts is now in charge of the pigeon department at the Barracks, Harwich, while Petty-Officer John Hennessey is at present stationed at the Isle of Grain.
NORTHERN FARMERS AND ARMY HORSES
At the annual meeting of the Northumberland and Durham Dairy and Tenant Farmers’ Association, in Newcastle, on Saturday, Mr Vickers called the attention of the association to the wastage of horses in this district by military authorities.
A week ago the Newcastle Farmers’ Club discussed the question of the damage to land and compensation, but they omitted the important question of horses and the abuse of horseflesh which was going on. In his opinion, the condition of affairs was nothing less than disgraceful.
On the Newcastle Town Moor and in other places, he had seen as many as 200 horses tied to a rope and practically starving. No covering or shelter was provided for them, and they were allowed to stand there in one or two feet of mud. The excuse was, he supposed, that the authorities could not give the horses shelter if they were sent to the front, and, therefore, they were not to be given shelter here.
The horses were dying in scores, and the result was a serious and irreparable loss to the country. He suggested that they ask the military authorities to provide some shelter for the horses, and that the Central Chamber of Farming Associations be asked to take the matter up.
The Chairman said he had made inquiries into this matter, and he had been informed that the object of the military was to harden the horses. The animals would have no shelter when they got to the front, and in all probability would not have covering sheets, as they had now.
A member said he had seen horses left standing in the Cattle Market. If the animals were to be acclimatised, that should be done gradually. At present horses which had been well cared for on the farms and stabled at 8 o’clock every night were taken away and left standing in the open continuously. He argued that the animals should at least be stabled at night. What was going to be the result of the wastage that was going on? It was bound to reflect itself in the agricultural industry.
Mr Ferguson, Benton, said he hoped he would not be considered inhuman, but he doubted whether the association should take any action in this matter. He knew of stables and farms all over the country that were filled with horses, and, so far as he had been able to ascertain, the military authorities had done their uttermost to get housing for the horses. If the association passed a resolution, it might stir up the authorities, but his personal opinion was that the association should mind its own business, and let the horses take their chance. When the Government took the horses they paid for them, and, therefore, they were at liberty to do what they liked with them.
Another member declared that if the association followed the suggestion put forward by Mr Vickers they would be minding their own business. Already there was a shortage of horses in the agricultural industry, and if the wastage went on the shortage would become accentuated, because the military would come along for more horses.
Mr Robert D. Maughan said he thought it would be a mistake to pass any resolution on this matter. The Government had their hands full at the present time, and they had first-class practical men at the head of the remount department. They were as anxious to look after their horses as they were anxious for the welfare of the men. In December, he remarked, the English and French Governments purchased 81,000 horses in Chicago and district; the Italian Government had bought 10,000 horses, and the Swiss Government was also in the market. The horses purchased by the English Government were already in this country, and it was fair to assume that there would not be a renewed demand upon the agriculturalists.
No action was taken in the matter.
In connection with some cases where members of the Scottish Horse were summoned for driving without a light, Supt. Marshall asked that the charges might be withdrawn, as the defendants did not seem to know that they were bound to have lights and drivers’ licences as well, the same as civilians.
Mr Straker asked if it was a fact that the military had to have a driver’s licence.
Supt. Marshall replied that it was so, and added that there had been an order out to that effect from the Home Office some time ago, but it did not appear to have got down to the bottom of the ranks.
The charges were consequently withdrawn, Supt. Marshall remarking that they would not be likely, he thought, to have much more misunderstanding on the points involved.
PUBS AND CLUBS
In accordance with a military order for Durham and Northumberland, the licensed houses in this district are closed at 9pm.
Previously, men in uniform were not served with intoxicants after 8pm — now that period is extended to the general closing time.
The social clubs, generally, acted on the advice of the Club Union and other legal guidance, and have not altered their time for closing at 9.30pm, and those who have control of the licensed houses, and who regard social clubs in the light of rivals in business, naturally are feeling pretty sore in regard to the new order of things brought about by the military order.
“Sweet are the uses of adversity,” says the Bard of Avon, and this sweetness is everywhere being evidenced in these times of trial and sacrifice in the unity of the people, in the work of benevolence and patriotism and self-denial.
Another phase of it is the diminution of crime, as the proceedings of local courts attest week by week. Its effect, too, is seen in the brevity of meetings of public bodies and the absence of emulation for office in all kinds of public work and in the work of societies.
This is strikingly noticeable, for instance, in the case of the Ashington Industrial Co-operative Society, which, albeit has over 4,000 members, has elected its committee delegates, etc., all unopposed. I hear that at the next election of Blyth Council, a number of members will not seek election, nor is there any evidence of new aspiring candidates, which may not be altogether a desirable state of things, but I mention it in referring to the prevailing spirit now abroad.
It shows that men’s minds are seriously concerned with the overshadowing influences of the great war.
LOCAL NURSE AT THE FRONT
Mr W.D. Oliver, of 13 Harrison Place, Newcastle, has received the following letter from Nurse Eva Schofield, who is serving under Major Myles, on No.2 Ambulance Train, British Expeditionary Force:—
“It is really more than kind of you expending so much time over me and my wants. I told the Tommies I gave the socks to that they had been knitted by a M.Sc. They said they never would have believed that anyone so ‘brainy’ would have troubled to knit for them, and they were very proud of their socks.
“I received the last three parcels from you quite safely, and some from — before that, too; in fact, I think it is really wonderful the way we get them all. I have never lost one. I cannot tell you what a comfort it has been having so many delightful warm things for our men. The patients often say they would not mind if they got no further than the train. And really they are well cared for. The way our Major looks after them is splendid. The food is first-class — hot fresh meat stews with vegetables piping hot, and often eggs for their breakfasts, and sardines for tea, and then cocoa and bread and butter for supper. This is after a life of bully beef and biscuits in the trenches!
“The train is beautifully heated, and the wards for the stretcher cases are most comfortable. We all love being on the train, as there is so much one can do, and the work is intensely interesting. But I must confess that without your work at home we would be sadly handicapped, as it is not much use doing ‘dressings’ and arranging pillows and then expecting people to say they are comfortable if they are left lying in soaked shirts and socks. Not that No.2 train ever is wanting, as, thanks to the good folks at home, we now have more than enough for each journey, and keep a supply waggon of our own incase we ever do run short. But I often wish that the people at home would only realise that they are doing just as much for their Tommies as we are here.
“This weather has been awful on the poor souls’ feet. It is really dreadful the number we take down with frost-bitten feet, and it is no wonder, as they are up to their waists in water in many of the trenches.
“We had a sergeant of the Northumberland Hussars on the last journey, going home for an operation, and I was so delighted to hear how well cared for they are. He wanted nothing, not even cigarettes, as he said they got as many as they could smoke.
“Bravo dear old Northumberland! The first chance I have when we are up getting patients where they are, I am going along to see them.”
By the request of Brigadier-General Riddell, Commanding the Troops now stationed at Blyth, the inhabitants residing within the urban area of Blyth are hereby informed that in the event of warning by the military authorities of the approach of hostile air or sea craft, the whole of the lighting system in the district will be immediately cut off.
The inhabitants are instructed that it is necessary to see that the meters and gas cocks in their houses are turned off on every occasion when the supply is suspended.
It is further requested that business firms, etc., within the said area of Blyth are to extinguish any subsidiary lights in or about their works or premises on their being warned by the discontinuance of the public electric and gas lights.
CHRISTOPHER HUNTER, Chairman, R.T. and T.R. GUTHRIE, Clerks,
Blyth Urban District
ELLINGTON LADIES’ GIFTS ACKNOWLEDGED
Mrs Waddell and the other good ladies of Ellington, who have kindly sent gifts of clothing to soldiers, have received the following acknowledgments from the Front:—
13th Jan., 1915.
Mrs James Waddell,
Dear Madam, I have received your parcel all right and beg to thank you and the ladies of Ellington who have helped to give us such a useful parcel. Again thanking you and the Ellington ladies,— I remain, yours, etc.,
TROOPER S. KIRKUP.
Jan. 15th, 1915
Dear Madam,— On behalf of the Ashington Troop, Northumberland Hussars, I beg to thank you and the ladies of Ellington for their kindness in sending us such a magnificent gift of wearables. They are so valuable in this cold weather I am sure all the boys appreciate them very much.
Proceeds of dance at Ogle, £1 15s; Mr Potts, Molesdean, sheepskin. Mrs Tighe wishes to thank the donors, and begs to say more sheepskins are urgently needed.
OUR OWN COLUMN
The outbreak of the war made no difference in the prices of ordinary articles of food except those of tea and sugar.
The addtion of 3d per lb, on teas of all qualities was imposed by Parliament to help to meet the war expenditure; and the slightly increased fixed price of sugar was put on to prevent speculators from raising it beyond the purchasing power of the poorest. Small as these increases were, they press heavily on the poorest of the poor, who buy their tea in pen’orths and even hap’orths. It makes a weaker “mask” and not enough to go round.
Their view of the small rise in the price of sugar was well expressed by the mother, as she left the shop with the first quarter of a pound, for which she paid more. Said she: “I’m sure I would buy no more sugar if it were not for the baby’s bottle.”
A great controversy has arisen as to who is to blame for the extraordinary rise, during these three last weeks in the prices of what may be called the staple articles of food, and especially wheat. Foreign dealers, the owners of trading steamships, grain merchants at home, and the delays in dealing with cargoes in our harbours and on our railways, and even our British grain-growing farmers have all been blamed in turn; and in turn each of them has blamed one or more of the others.
It is a nice economic problem, of which the only solution is to be found in human nature, as it declares: “I must have my share of the good things going.”
WAR AND ITS EFFECT
There are but a few who are not being affected by the present war. The industrial trades are being heavily hit, and the working classes are suffering thereby; whilst, happily, to say, the local pits have been working well for some weeks, but the price of commodities are rising, and likely to rise, which is having a great effect on the spending powers of those whose incomes are limited.
The war is also having a disastrous effect upon many institutions, through so many of its members having joined the colours.
It was reported at the annual meeting of the Seaton Delaval Workmen’s Institute, just issued, that they had suffered a loss of 150 members, compared with the previous year, which was largely due to a large number of members having joined the colours. The Workmen’s Social Club has also been similarly hit.
PATRIOTIC SEGHILL MINERS
Over 300 members of the Seghill branch of the Northumberland Miners’ Association are serving with the colours, this being over one-third of the workmen employed at the colliery at the commencement of the war.
Since the outbreak of war, the miners have levied themselves to the extent of about £120, one-third of which has gone into the local Ladies’ Working Party, who are making up garments and comforts for the soldiers and sailors, and the remainder has gone to the Lord Lieutenant’s Relief Fund.
LOCAL DOCTORS IN SERVICE
Dr Neil, of Netherton; Dr Bingham, of Cambois; and Dr McCracken, of Blyth, have joined the King’s service. The latter left on Sunday for naval service.
Recruiting has been somewhat slack in the Cramlington district for some weeks, the young men being very slow in coming forward. Some are of the opinion that many of them are waiting until the finer weather sets in. However much truth there is in that one cannot say, but up to the present it cannot be said that the response by the young men to the call of arms has been, to say the least, anything but satisfactory.
The married men have done well. Out of the total numbers that have joined the colours from the Cramlington district, 75 per cent of them have been married men. At Annitsford Village, out of about 120 who have enlisted, 80 of them are married men; while at Seghill the figures work out better, as about half who have joined from that district are single men.
SUNDAY’S SEA BATTLE
The German Navy, doubtless pandering to the inordinate vanity of the Imperial megalomaniac, their master, have by their futile attempt to raid this coast, given to our navy opportunity to demonstrate the prowess of our defenders, who inflicted such a powerful blow upon our enemy.
The action has caused world-wide jubilation, and in no place more than on this part of the coast, where doubtless the attack was to be delivered, and where we may expect attacks so long as the war lasts, but the results of Sunday’s sea battle has given a greater confidence to our naval defence than ever.
ASHINGTON PATRIOTIC FAMILY
The Ashington district has proved a prolific recruiting ground in the present crisis. One of the best records is that of the five sons of Mr Samson Owens, a miner of 30 years’ standing in the colliery town, who have joined various units.
George Owens is in the Royal Naval Division, Thomas is in the Royal Naval Division, James is in Kitchener’s Army, Edward is in the Northern Cyclists’ Battalion (Ashington Co,), and Robert is in the 8th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers.
BLYTH SOLDIERS WOUNDED
Privates John and William Brown, sons of Mr James Brown, assistant harbour master, Blyth, have both been wounded in action in France, the former only slightly. The latter, who is wounded in the leg, is in hospital.
BEBSIDE PUTTERS JOIN THE NAVY
The stream of recruits continues to go from our local collieries. This week, at Bebside Colliery, there are 18 putters less, all of whom have joined the Navy.
NO IDEA OF THE DAY
Private P. Jennings, of the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, writes to Mr J. Thompson, Waterloo, Blyth, as follows:—
“You ask how I spent my Christmas. Well, it was just like any other ordinary day. We had a small portion of Christmas pudding, and that was all. We cannot expect anything else under the circumstances.
Time and again I have no idea what day it is. It is a very trying life while one has it, and one never knows when it might be lost. We have to trust in God for a safe return.”
BLYTH PRIEST’S LETTER
The Rev. Father Maurice Kelly, of Blyth, who was for some time priest at Bedlington, who volunteered for chaplain duty at the front, writing home to his mother, states that he has received his baptism of fire and that he is on duty within 200 yards of the firing line with huge shells flying over his head in both directions, and though these are invisible he can hear them screeching.
He states that he is billeted in a college, and he has for his constant companion whilst on duty a Church of England chaplain. In spite of the fighting, he says there are wonderfully few casualties where he is. So far only one man has been wounded and requiring attention, and he was a non-Catholic,
Father Kelly states that the first man to greet him on his arrival at the camp was a man from Maestog, where he spent some years of his ministry. The man had been sent to carry Father Kelly’s luggage and recognised him and extended greetings to him.