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.
MARCH TO ALNWICK
Following the example of their 1st Battalion, the 2nd Tyneside Scottish left Newcastle on Friday to cover the distance to their quarters at Alnwick on foot.
The three companies — one is already in the ducal town — went off with very little ceremony. They paraded in Market Street at half-past nine, looking the picture of physical fitness, and a few minutes later, with the pipe band leading, set off at a brisk rate on their march. Before they left, Sir Thomas Oliver, chairman of the committee of the Tyneside Scottish Brigade, walked down the ranks and bade goodbye to officers and men; and the companies were further heartened in their journey by the waving of handkerchiefs and the cheers that greeted their passage through the streets.
The first halt for refreshments and rest was at Seaton Burn, and then the companies continued on to Morpeth, arriving about four o’clock in the afternoon, where they were billeted over night.
On Saturday morning, shortly after nine o’clock a large crowd turned out to witness the men’s departure for Alnwick.
The committee formed some months ago in Ponteland for arranging entertainment for the soldiers billeted at the Rifle Range during the winter months have from the commencement worked untiringly, and their efforts have been greatly appreciated by the troops.
For some time past they have arranged a whist drive and dance once a week in Coates’ Endowed School, and provided supper free of charge to the men.
The Ladies’ Committee have been responsible for the carrying out of the arrangements for these entertainments, and providing and serving the suppers, and the troops have from time to time expressed their deep thanks for the efforts made on their behalf.
The work of the committees is rendered more difficult by the fact that the troops are only at the range for about five days at a time, and are continually changing.
The members of the Wesleyan Church have also been doing good work by providing free of charge, a lecture or a concert every week, and the ladies of this church are periodically sending parcels of comforts to the troops abroad and to the hospitals. The Vicarage Sewing Party and a Village Knitting Guild are also working for the same objects.
SOLDIERS’ INSTITUTE AT MORPETH
Judging by the large attendances daily the above institute is a very popular place of resort by the soldiers stationed in Morpeth and neighbourhood.
From time to time successful evening concerts are provided and greatly appreciated by the men. The following concerts have been given:—
February 25th.— Concert arranged by Mrs Leaster Dixon. Chairman: Mr T. Simpson, Hepscott.
February 28th.— Usual sacred concert. Chairman: Mr J.R. Mitchell.
March 2nd.— Concert arranged by and presided over by Councillor C. Grey.
March 7th.— Sacred concert arranged by Mrs J.R. Mitchell.
March 11th.— Concert (arranged by Mrs Philip) given by the Scottish Horse Ambulance Section from Bedlington. Chairman: Mr G. Renwick.
March 14th.— Sacred concert. Chairman: Mr W. Lawson.
March 15th.— Concert given by officers and men of “C” Coy.
A nice assortment of plants for decorating the hall have been kindly given by the Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton).
Arrangements have been made for a house-to-house collection in Morpeth during the week ending March 27th, on behalf of the work of the National Children’s Home and Orphanage.
This home was founded 45 years ago by Dr T. Bowman Stephenson. It began with the rescue of two boys, and it has grown to be one of the largest child-saving institutions in the country. While its primary purpose is the saving and training of destitute children, provision is also made for those who are orphaned, crippled, and otherwise afflicted. The children are received irrespective of creed or locality, need being the determining factor in respect of their admission.
The home has received motherless children of soldiers who have been called to the front. The utmost will be done to meet the needs of the orphans of those who may fall in fighting our battles on land and sea.
The Principal, Rev. W. Hodson Smith, will be pleased to supply reports and particulars to any friends making application to him at the chief offices, 104/122 City Road, London, E.C. or Miss Collingwood, 2 West View, Morpeth, who is the local honorary secretary, will also be pleased to give information respecting the work the home is doing. Fifty children have been admitted into the home from Northumberland.
ABANDON MINERS’ PICNIC
The half-yearly Council meeting which is being arranged for May is likely to have an unusually brief agenda of business, which needless to state is owing to the war. It is proposed to abandon the annual picnic this year which in view of the circumstances seems a right and proper course to pursue.
NORTHUMBERLAND’S SON WOUNDED
News has been received at Alnwick on Saturday that Lord William Percy, a younger son of the Duke of Northumberland, has been slightly wounded.
His lordship, who is an officer in the Grenadier Guards, went to the front towards the end of January. His brother-in-law, Lieut.-Colonel Aymer Maxwell, was killed in action at Antwerp in October.
STEAMER SUNK OFF COQUET ISLAND
The Secretary of the Admiralty made the following announcement on Wednesday: The British steamer Fingal (1,562 tons), owned by the London and Edinburgh Shipping Company, of Leith, was torpedoed at 10.50am on March 15, off the Northumberland coast.
Twenty-one of the crew were landed at North Shields, but six lives are reported to have been lost, including the chief mate and the stewardess.
ATTACK WITHOUT WARNING
On Saturday, about 9.45am, in fine clear weather, the steamer Invergyle was steaming light from the Orkneys to Hartlepool, and when off Blyth some four or five miles she was blown up within sight of many people on the shore.
She sank in a few minutes. The crew of 21 took to their boats and 20 of them were picked up by the steam tug Corsair and brought to Blyth. One member of the crew, Muir Walker, of Hull, was taken by the Danish steamer Henry Trignor to the Tyne. The latter vessel, which was some distance from the doomed ship, immediately steamed towards her and rendered what assistance was possible.
The crew of the Invergyle arrived from the Corsair on Blyth Quay about an hour after their ship was struck, and they were given a hearty cheer by the crowd assembled there. One member of the crew, Joseph McNeil, second officer, was carried ashore on a stretcher, having been injured on the leg and wrist by fragments from the explosive. A piece of metal had passed through his wrist. He was conveyed to the Knight Memorial Hospital and attended to by Drs Newstead and Fox.
As the officers and seamen passed between the row of cheering spectators it was seen that several of the men were only partially clothed. Apparently neither this fact nor the disconcerting experience of having a ship blown up beneath their feet had affected the spirits of the party. They seemed as unconcerned as if the occurrence were simply part of the day’s work.
They were met by Mr T. Smart, of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, who piloted them to headquarters, where their immediate wants were attended to. As soon as this was affected the whole of the uninjured survivors walked down to the General Post Office and despatched telegrams to their relatives and friends.
From interviews with the rescued men, it appears that the Invergyle, owned by Messrs Stewart and Gray, of Glasgow, was on a voyage from the Orkneys to Hartlepool, light, for a cargo of coal. She left the Orkneys on Friday morning last. About 9.45 on the following morning, when off Newbiggin Point, there was a sudden, loud explosion. The vessel was struck aft, and badly damaged. She immediately began to settle down at the bow, and sank in a few minutes.
Fortunately, precautions against the dangers of mines and torpedoes had been taken, the vessel’s lifeboats being lowered over the sides ready for taking the water.
A seaman named Robt. Mackay, a typical example of the Scotish seafarer, told a representative that he was asleep in his bunk when he heard, as he phrased it, “the crack o’ doom.” He ran on deck, dressed in what happened to be handy, and just managed to get into the boat as it put off from the sinking ship. His most urgent desire, when safely ashore, was to go, just as he was, to the post office, and wire news of his safety.
Captain Minto said he could make no statement until he had communicated with his owners. There was nothing to be told. The ship had been struck and had been sunk. He was very glad indeed that none of his men had been lost. But for the fact that the boats were kept ready for instant lowering, there might have been loss of life. Personally, he added, he saw nothing to indicate whether the ship had been struck by torpedo or mine, and the first indication he had of the disaster was a defeating explosion.
Another member of the crew said, in effect, that everybody seemed to accept the sinking of the ship as an event which might happen to any vessel at sea. As soon as the ship shook under the force of the explosion, the captain gave the order to “lower away,” and himself took a hand in the work. Whilst the stern of the ship was gradually rising in the air, “the old man” had a final look round and then joined his men in the boat. “He was as calm as if he were paying out the wages.”
Jan Karlsen, a Swedish seaman, belonging to Cardiff, was the only one of the crew who saw any sign of the cause of the disaster. He was on deck and saw the wake of something travelling at a great pace straight amidships. As it happened, the ship swayed in the sea, and she was hit aft, the torpedo going clean through from side to side. He saw no sign whatever of any submarine, possibly because the ship having been struck, his attention was concentrated on the work of getting out the boats.
FREE GIFT SALE AT
Last Friday, a free gift sale was held by Messrs T. and I. Maughan and Company, at Acklington Auction Mart on behalf of the Belgian Relief Fund and the Belgian Refugees’ Fund.
The original idea was to hold the sale on behalf of the Belgian Relief Fund only, but after the urgent appeal by the Duke of Northumberland on behalf of the Belgian refugees in Northumberland, it was decided that the proceeds should be equally divided between the two funds.
The response to Messrs Maughan’s appeal for free gifts was a generous one, and before a very large company the sale was carried through. Everything was well competed for, and satisfactory prices were realised.
Deserving of special mention was the gift of seven sheep, a calf, and a donkey from Mr H. Annett, Widdrington. The donkey, when offered, realised £1 10s, the purchaser being Mr J. Hall, South Steads, Widdrington, but the animal was immediately re-offered for the benefit of the funds, and at £1 10s was re-sold to Mr A. Crombie, Longhirst. Again he was presented for sale. In this manner he was sold thirty-four times at £1 10s, and finally Mr H. Annett, Widdrington, gave £5 for him to send him home again. The donkey realised the sum of £56.
The purchasers of the donkey were:— Mr J. Hall, South Steads; Mr A. Crombie, Longhirst; Mr A. Forsyth, Hadston Link; Mr P. Scullion, Bellaghy; Mr G.S. Moffitt, Field House; Mr J.C. Pile, Warkworth; Mr F. Heath, Chester House; Mr P. Gormley, Carlisle; Mr J.P. Wood, High Chibburn; Mr W. Johnston, North Field; Mr Mitchell, Ulgham Manor; Mr Wilson, Guyzance Mill; Mr Fairbairn, Warkworth; Mr J. Wilson, Hermitage; Mr Douglas, Bondicar; Mr Welsh, Warkworth; Mr J. Grey, South Side; Mr Jos. D. Forsyth, Togston East Farm; Mr T. Hemsley, Woodside; Mrs J.D. Forsyth, Togston East Farm; Mr P. Gormley, again; Mr John O’Donnell, Carlisle; Mr R. Brown, Chevington Moor; Mr J. Bowey, Wintrick; Mr John M. Dalkin, Newcastle; Miss Shotton, Amble; Mr M. Tennett, Morwick; Mr Robt. D. Maughan, Newcastle; Mr Watson, Shield Green; Mr Geo. Young, Maiden’s Hall; Mr Slater, Clifton (three times); Mr J. Smith, Bowsden East Farm; Mr H. Annett, Widdrington.
The sum of £343 10s was realised at the sale.
WANSBECK MUSICAL COMPETITIONS
One of the most popular musical events of the year in Morpeth is the Wansbeck Musical Competitions.
While the Executive Committee have found it necessary to abandon the senior day competitions owing to many choirs being in abeyance on account of many of their male members having joined the army, it is gratifying to learn that arrangements have been made to hold the junior competitions on Saturday, March 27, the Governors and headmistress of the Girls’ High School, Morpeth, having kindly granted the use of the school gymnasium for the purpose.
LOCAL HAIRDRESSERS’ SERVICE
These are days when people vie with one another to render service to the country and the spirit of patriotism and unity is one of the great compensations of these evil days. Recognition of good service is always desirable as it is calculated to stimulate effort to the uttermost.
In connection with the work of the Red Cross hospitals, there is afforded opportunity for service which many participate in especially ladies, who are specially fitted to bring consolation “when pain and sadness wring the brow.”
At the Red Cross hospital the Bedlington and Ashington District Hairdressers’ Association are not behind in rendering what service they can. I notice they send two men twice a week to the hospital at Morpeth where their services are much appreciated by patients, doctors and military officers. At Bedlington similar services are performed by members of the Hairdressers’ Association.
RED CROSS HOSPITAL, MORPETH.
The Commandant, VI. Northumberland V.D. Hospital has received with thanks gifts from the undermentioned for the use of the patients in the hospital:— Cakes, Miss Harding, Miss Speke; Bread: Mrs Jobson; eggs: Mrs Fenwick, Miss Straker; fruit: “E” Co., 19th N.F.; Cyc. Stobbs, N.C.B.; Cyc. Allison; jams and bottled fruit: Mrs Speke, Miss Fenwick; Pyjamas and pillows and night-shirts: Mrs Robson and Mrs Urwin; dish-cloths, mufflers: G.F.S. candidates; rabbits: Miss Middleton; plants and flowers: Mrs Brumell and Mrs Oliver; blankets and linen: Mrs Gillespie; papers: Miss Harding and Miss Fenwick.
The Hon Sec, No. 6 Northumberland V.A.D. Hospital begs to acknowledge, with thanks, the following donations:— Capt. Osbaldeston Mitford, £10; Mrs Cookson, £3 3s; Mrs R. Clayton, £5; Col. Orde, £5; Miss G. Jones, £5; T. Gillespie, Esq., £2 2s; I. Tweedy, Esq., £10; Mr I. Tweedy, £5; Sir Arthur Middleton, £10; George Bainbridge, Esq., £10; Mrs W. Burclow, £5; Ralph Spencer, Esq., £25; Lady Milburn £3 3s; Mrs Southern, £1 1s; Duke of Portland, £10 10s; W.C. Sample, Esq. £2 2s; Guy Ellis, Esq., £10; Mr Bainbridge, Eshott, £1 1s; Mrs Philip, £5; Mrs Adamson Lindon, £5; F. Brumell, Esq., £5; Mr George Renwick, £19 10s (towards salary of a matron).
During the present week there has been an increase on the average number of recruits.
A number of men who have signed the Parliamentary paper are showing a preference to serving in their local regiment.
Last Saturday the regimental band was in the Ashington district, and a number of men on furlough joined in a parade. There has been a number of recruits from Ashington since.
There are still 300 vacancies for recruits in this Battalion, and it is desirable that they should be filled up at once.
Any man, therefore, who wished to join should do so either through the local recruiting officer or direct at the Depot, Fenkle Street, Alnwick. Full directions and free railway tickets can also be had on application.
SUPPLIES OF PIT WOOD
The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries desire to draw the attention of owners of woodlands and others to the fact that some collieries are still finding a difficulty in securing adequate supplies of pit wood.
In consequence of the situation created by the European War, supplies from abroad are considerably curtailed, and it is necessary to have greater recourse than usual to home-grown timber.
Landowners may find this a favourable opportunity to sell, at a remunerative rate, timber of which they have hitherto found it difficult to dispose to advantage; as a rule, however, collieries are not prepared to buy standing timber unless the woods are in their immediate neighbourhood.
Information as to the kinds of timber required, marketing and other matters in this connection, will be found in Special Leaflet No. 17, copies of which may be obtained post free on application to the Secretary, Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, 4 Whitehall Place, London, S.W.
IS WAR GOD’S WILL?
In St James’ Church, Morpeth, last Sunday evening, before a large congregation, the Rector (Canon Davies) delivered a sermon bearing upon the war.
At the outset the Rector said:— How did the message of God come to His people? He spoke to men through events, that was through circumstances, and secondly He spoke to them through men whom he raised up from time to time to be His messengers.
Yes, God spoke through events and through circumstances. And the saddest mystery of the world was man’s perversity in refusing to respond to the Divine message and call. Today He was calling them as He has never called before. Surely they could hear the trumpet call to the Christian nations of Europe to repent, to change their lives, to cast behind the past. Behind the thunder of the guns, the shrieks of the wounded, the moans of the dying, and the cry of a million sorrowing hearts in the homelands they could hear the voice of God calling.
It was not His will that the monuments of art, the treasures of beauty, and the choice fruits of rich civilisation should be destroyed. It is not His will that millions of the best manhood of the world should be facing one another, bent — without personal malice or hatred — upon mutual slaughter. It was not God’s will that Europe should be drenched with the blood of the noblest of her sons, and that the material wealth of the nations, meant for use and blessing in the furtherance of all good, merciful, and noble causes, should be dissipated and squandered in acts of life-destroying madness.
All these terrible things are the sins of men working themselves out in their inevitable consequences. Let there be no mistake about this. In thunderous tones Europe is reverberating today, certainly with the voice of the Almighty, pronouncing doom and failure upon the selfish ways of men, upon the lusts of the flesh, and pride of life, upon selfishness and greed, and trust in mere material things, and calling upon the nations to come to Him, to receive at His hands a new and better way of life. Nay, to receive from Him new life itself.
The war marks the final break-down, the final collapse of the old Pagan foundations of society still holding as between nations; namely, mutual distrust and dependence upon might, the stupid notion that one nation can only gain at the cost of another nation’s loss, when the truth is, if one nation suffers, all suffer.
So war constitutes a call of God, a trumpet call, to make Christ King of nations as well as of individuals, and to recognise that only in the realisation of the Divine brotherhood of all men can the world progress upon its God appointed higher way. It is a call of God to banish out of life all hatred, suspicion, treachery, pride, and selfishness, and to enthrone instead Jesus Christ Himself as King and crown Him Lord of All.”
THE CHURCH AND THE WAR
In the Wesleyan Church, Morpeth, on Tuesday evening the Rev J.T. Wardle Stafford, D.D., chairman of the Newcastle district, delivered a lecture entitled “The Church and the War.” There was a large attendance, including a number of soldiers. The chair was taken by Councillor Jas. Elliott.
Dr Stafford said that it was their duty, as Christians, to apply the principles of the New Testament to the conditions in which they lived. They were confronted with a terrible European war and he did not hesitate to say that if the Christian churches throughout this country, say fifty years ago, had united in determining that wars should come to an end this war would never have taken place.
He felt sure that one of the most potent influences to bring wars to an end was the industrial influence. Loss of trade had often brought a nation to its senses, and he thought that loss of trade would bring Germany to her senses, and it looked as if the solution of the war problem would be found along social and economic lines.
He hated war and when it was noised abroad that they were likely to be involved in an European clash of arms he shuddered at the very thought. He said in his prayer, “Let us have peace, O, God,” and a voice seemed to say, “Yes, but not peace at any price, not peace at the price of justice and honour.”
The German Emperor had said that England was jealous of Germany, and if that was true England deserved to be defeated, but no nation was justified for such a cause to send fire throughout the civilised world. Was it England’s jealousy or Germany’s loss of power that was responsible for the war? By common consent the Kaiser was the greatest egotist that the world had ever known. It was not a question of the Kaiser and God; it was a question between the Kaiser and God.
No war was justifiable which was not undertaken in the interests of humanity. He thought that England had gone into this war with entirely clean hands. (Applause.) Germany had filled their cup; their military swagger had become a menace to the world. If we had not entered this war the German guns would have been booming, perhaps, at the entrance of the Thames.
He hoped that this war would be the last European war. Modern warfare was not fighting. It was murder by machinery.
He went on to say that the average German was no more responsible for this war than the average Englishman, and added that the German newspapers were a budget of lies and the German people had never had an opportunity of getting at the facts of the case.
England, as a nation, had reluctantly intervened in this clash of arms; still they were all very largely in the hands of their leading statesmen, and the point he wanted to emphasise was that it behoved them in times of peace and war to send to their house of legislature men in whose integrity they had the fullest confidence. (Applause.)
They had no doubt as to the justice and righteousness of this war. The tongue of the critic had been stilled in the presence of this appalling calamity. Nothing had interested him more than that the different parties of state had forgot their differences and had joined hands to defend Great Britain’s honour. (Applause.) England often quarrelled among themselves, but they knew when the enemy was at their gate.
Peace was an ideal thing, but they could not have peace when the nations of Europe were armed to the teeth. He had always been a peace man, but he was glad that they had a navy to defend their shores. He was glad to read that the Dresden had gone down, and he hoped they would all go down before long. (Applause.)
It was always the duty of the strong to protect the weak. Big nations that bullied little ones must be opposed. Belgium had made a good claim for the protection of all Christian nations. Belgium had been dragged into this quarrel and why should the flower of her manhood lie dead, today, in the trenches because she desired to remain a neutral state? He thought that Christian nations should see that Belgium got redress for the wrongs she had suffered at the hands of the enemy.
“This conflict,” remarked the speaker, “is really a conflict between Christianity and Kaiserism. If Germany should win the clock of civilisation will be put back a thousand years.” To leave Germany on the map of Europe as it stood, today, even if peace was declared tomorrow, would mean defeat for the Allies. If Germany was left as she was then fifty years hence they would have this war to fight over again. The only way to prevent that would be to successfully prosecute this war to the end. (Applause.) The world must be protected against the recurrence of such outrages.
“Justice will assert itself,” declared the speaker. “The mills of God grinds slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. What should the church do in times of war? She can pray. We must pray unitedly for our soldiers and sailors and for our women at home who have surrendered husbands, sons, and lovers, and for our enemies that they may be brought to a right state of mind and that the great qualities which have distinguished them in the past may once again be arrayed on the side of Jesus Christ.”
A hearty vote of thanks was accorded to Dr Stafford.
It is satisfactory to note that the war has converted at least one prominent anti-suffragist.
Mr Holford Knight, one of the first to organise opinion against the enfranchisement of women by founding the Anti-Suffrage Society, has announced his change of opinion in a very frank and courageous letter to the “Nation,” in which he says: “In my view, this horrible war destroys the grounds on which Liberals have resisted the inclusion of women in the electorate. At the close of this war there is bound to be a shifting of electoral issues to industrial, economic, and domestic questions, in which women will be not only directly interested, but actively participant in their settlement....No class of the community on which such a judgment can be given ought to be excluded from the electorate by Liberal votes.”