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.
INVITATION TO BOXING COMPETITION
The following letter which the Mayor had received from Sergt.-Major Thos. Joyce, the 1st Line Northern Cyclist Battalion, Morpeth, was read:—
“I have the honour to request that you and your Councillors will favour me with your presence at a boxing competition to be held on the afternoon of Thursday, the 25th inst., at the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth. Boxing to commence at 2pm.
“The competition will be under the patronage of Brigadier-General the Marquis of Tullibardine, who will preside, and will be the first of a series I am promoting for the troops serving in the district.
“I am naturally anxious to make it a complete success, and hope that you will make an effort to attend.”
Town Clerk: Any entries for the competition? (Laughter.)
Mayor: And Mr Norman might be referee.
Ald. Carr: Councillor Grey is going to referee.
Mayor: We might accept the invitation, and I would like as many Councillors as possible to be present.
CONRAY.— Killed in action, on the 1st of March, 1915, aged 46 years, Edward Conray, of Morpeth.— James Conray.
LOCAL MEN WOUNDED
Mr W.W. Thompson, of the Northumberland Yeomanry, late relieving officer for the Morpeth Board of Guardians, has been wounded in the thigh by a shrapnel shell.
Second Lieutenant Westwater, son of Mr James Westwater, Presbyterian minister, Blyth, was slightly wounded in the head at the battle of St Eloi.
The secretary of the Northumberland Miners’ Association has received a circular letter from the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, stating that the Executive Committee recommend, after considering the request of the Home Office, that miners throughout the Empire should take as short a holiday as possible at Easter and Whitsuntide.
The following is a copy of an extract from the Home Office letter which was read to the committee:—
“As doubtless you are aware the miners in some districts take holidays at Easter and Whitsuntide (Scotland will not be affected.) In South Wales, for instance, they have been in the habit of taking three whole days at each of these periods, with the result that the whole week in each case is practically spoiled as far as output is concerned.
“In normal times this does not result in very serious consequences to the country, as it affects only the earnings of the men and the profits of the owners, but in the present crisis it is a matter of supreme national importance. Such a curtailment of output might indeed be a veritable disaster.”
Lord Kitchener also made a strong personal appeal to the committee.
SOLDIERS’ INSTITUTE AT MORPETH
The Soldiers’ Institute has been well patronised this week.
A successful sacred concert was held last Sunday evening, the artistes being Miss Jennings and Mr Allon Soulsby. Mr James Whittle presided, and Lance-Corporal Luke acted as accompanist.
GOOD REPORT OF THE MEN AT ALNWICK
The committee of the Tyneside Irish have received satisfactory reports of the progress of the 1st Battalion at Alnwick.
Officers and men are stated to be highly pleased with their new quarters and surroundings, and Col. Myles Emmet Byrne, who is in command, feels certain that a few months of the strict army training, such as the battalion is now receiving, will make them ready for active service.
Hopes are held out that by the time the men go under canvas, they will be in an advanced state of proficiency and that the battalion will be fully equipped with transport service and the other necessary adjuncts.
The second company of the 4th battalion of the Tyneside Irish will go into training on Monday, and the rest will follow in rapid succession.
The medical officer who has examined the men states that they are, without doubt, the finest body of men that has passed through his hands since the war began.
That the mineworkers of Northumberland have made a splendid response to their country’s call is amply demonstrated by the interesting statistics that have been compiled by the secretary of the Northumberland Miners’ Association.
Some very striking figures are given. At the Ashington group of collieries practically 50 per cent of the men have enlisted, but at North Seaton the patriotism displayed is quite exceptional. Of the 882 full contributing members to the branch no fewer than 668 have joined the colours; also 102 non-members, making a total of 770.
COMFORTS FOR OUR SOLDIERS
The members of the British Women’s Temperance Association have sent another parcel of knitted comforts to the soldiers.
This last one has gone to the 11th Batt. Northumberland Fusiliers at Aldershot.
It consisted of 19 pairs of socks, 3 helmets, 4 pairs mittens, 4 pairs cuffs, 1 muffler.
Several pairs socks, etc., have also been sent to the local “Tommies.”
The members of the B.W.T.A. wish to thank all friends for donations of wool or money which they have received, and Miss Oliver will be pleased to receive still more, as socks are likely to be needed for much longer and it is as little as we women can do to provide some comforts for the soldiers who are so gallantly fighting for our country.
BLYTH SOLDIER-HERO’S DEATH
Further particulars of the bravery of Pte. Wm. Merrilees, of Blyth, who was killed in France last month, have come to hand in a letter Capt. O.B. Forster, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, has addressed to Merrilees’ father at 42 Coomassie Road, Blyth.
“In reply to your letter,” writes Captain Forster, “a strong recommendation was forwarded to the higher authorities giving full particulars of your son’s brave act. It is now in their hands, and he should be subsequently awarded the medal. It will doubtless be sent to you as his next-of-kin. He certainly well deserved it.
“Since I wrote I find he took a further message, by means of which our artillery, which had been firing in a wrong direction, was directed at the proper place. This was the means of saving a number of our men’s lives.
“In any other war but this he would certainly have gained the V.C., but, as you can imagine, a terribly high standard of courage is required to win anything now.”
PONTELAND CHORAL SOCIETY
The members of the Ponteland Choral Society held a successful whist drive and dance in Smith’s Assembly Rooms, in aid of the Lord Lieutenant’s Relief Fund. The president of the society (Dr Holmes) presented prizes to the following successful whist players:— Ladies: 1st Miss Beveridge, Carter Moor; 2nd Nurse Allison, Ponteland; consolation, Mrs S. Alder, Heddon. Gentlemen: 1st, Dr Holmes, Ponteland; 2nd Mr Jas. Beveridge, Carter Moor; consolation, Mr Moorhead, Ponteland.
On behalf of the society Mr Holmes also presented the conductor (Mr Harland) with a fountain pen, in appreciation of his services during the winter.
As a result of the society’s effort, a sum of £6 13s will be handed on to the Relief Fund.
THE BELGIAN RELIEF FUND
The Belgian Relief Fund will benefit to the extent of £6 10s by the drawing for the fur rug given by Mrs Jobling, Howard Castle, Morpeth.
Major Crawford was the winner of the rug.
Mrs Jobling has forwarded a cheque for the amount stated to the Belgian Consul, Newcastle.
ROTHBURY RURAL COUNCIL
A circular letter was read from the Local Government Board stating that they had received a communication from the Committee of Imperial Defence, who had under consideration the necessity of securing the best organisation of the labour forces of the country in existing circumstances.
In view of the needs of recruiting and of the demand for labour for the manufacture of war materials and for the protection and transport of the necessary supplies for the population, the Committee of Imperial Defence emphasise the importance of releasing male labour of high physical quality so far as possible from their occupations, and of substituting, where necessary, men of more advanced years, or where the conditions allow, women workers.
SOLDIERS HELP TO CLEAR ROADS
The Surveyor stated that the soldiers stationed at Thropton had rendered good assistance in opening out some of the roads which were blocked by the snow.
It was agreed that the Surveyor find out how many soldiers had done this work and that each man receive a shilling, and that the Council’s thanks be sent to the officer commanding for allowing his men to assist in clearing the snow from the roads.
At Cambois a great quantity of wreckage, presumably from the Fingal and probably other vessels, the Invergyle, torpedoed off Blyth, has been picked up during the past few days.
This includes mahogany and other wood, couches, chairs, drawers and other articles of furniture, as well as cases of spirits, preserved meats, and fruit of various kinds, evidently part of a cargo.
WRECKAGE AND FRUIT AT BLYTH SANDS
At Blyth and along the neighbouring coast as far as Whitley Bay, great quantities of wreckage have been washed ashore, as well as fruit of various kinds and tanks of spirits and all sorts of goods supposed to have come from the steamer Fingal torpedoed on March 15th.
Crowds of people were to be seen gathering the fruit into baskets and taking away the small timber. The casks of spirits and the more valuable property was taken in charge by the authorities.
VEGETABLES FOR THE NAVY
The following is a further list of subscriptions to the Cramlington collecting depot:— Cramlington Floral & Horticultural Society, £5; Mrs Blackett, Newcastle, 10/-; Mr Clark, Cramlington, 2/6; Mr R.S. Weir, Hexham, £2 2s; sums less than 1/-, 2/7.5.
Subscriptions or consignments of fruit and vegetables can be forwarded to Messrs. W. Kell and F.H. Hardy, secretaries, 3 Blagdon Terrace, Cramlington. The secretaries solicit help from all who are in sympathy with supplying our brave sailors with fresh fruit and vegetables while on the high seas.
RED CROSS HOSPITAL, MORPETH
The Commandant No. 6 V.A. Hospital acknowledges with thanks the undermentioned gifts for the use of patients in the hospital:— Eggs: Mrs Straker, Miss Adamson, Mr Ames, The Mayoress, Mrs Fenwick, Mrs Spence. Fruit: Cyclist Patterson, Cyclist Shields, Miss Clarke, the Misses Bruce, “E” Company, 19th Northumberland Fusiliers. Cakes: Miss Harding, Miss Cooper. Bread: Mrs Jobson. Duck: Mr Lockey. Chicken, jam, bottled fruit and dripping: Miss Adamson. Half-guinea: Miss Angus. Honey: Miss Brumell. Scarves and orange cream: Mrs F. Brumell. Dusters: Mrs A. Brumell. Magazines, books and papers: Mrs Dickie, Mrs Oliver, Mrs Brumell, Miss Young, Miss Rogers. Loan of Gramophone: Lieut. Sanderson. Box of grapes: British Red Cross Society, London.
ANNITSFORD MINER WOUNDED AND PRISONER IN GERMANY
Private George Thompson, of Annitsford, who went out to France with his regiment, the 1st 5th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers at the commencement of the war, and who was a few weeks ago reported missing, is now a prisoner.
Information has been received by his brother, Mr Peter Thompson, of Cramlington, to the effect that he has been wounded and is a prisoner of war in Germany.
SEGHILL MINER WOUNDED IN ACTION
Private Thomas Smith, son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Smith, of Ladysmith, Seghill Colliery, and who was about the first to join the Colours at the outbreak of war from Seghill Colliery, and who was sent to France with his regiment, the 1st West Yorks only a few weeks ago, has been reported wounded.
Interviewing his parents at Seghill last Saturday night, our representative was informed that they received a letter from their son on March 13, who was then, he stated, quite well and was proud to tell them that he had just shot dead his first German.
On Thursday last they received a further letter from him, dated 15/3/15, informing them that he had been wounded in the head and was now in hospital.
He begged his parents not to worry about him, as he hoped to be about again very soon. He also stated that he has much to thank God for, because there were men killed all around him.
CONSTABLES JOIN THE COLOURS
Other two police constables in the Ashington district have decided to forsake the baton for the bayonet in active service for their country.
The latest to answer their country’s call are P.C.’s McIntosh and Cowans. The former is going to join the motor transport service and the latter the Coldstream Guards. Both men, who were very popular with their comrades, left the Force on Tuesday.
RED CROSS DAY AT BLYTH
In all the churches at Blyth on Sunday last a letter was read from Mr T.C. Blackburn (secretary) notifying that March 27th has been fixed for the demonstration and house-to-house collection for the Red Cross Hospital project in France. Ministers of religion commended the project to their congregations.
BLYTH AND DISTRICT RED CROSS FLAG DAY
Saturday, March 27th,
In aid of the British and French Red Cross Societies, St John Ambulance V.A.D. Contingent.
Procession at 2.15 through the main streets, headed by the Cowpen Colliery Band of the Members of the Local Voluntary Aid Detachments, Tableaux, Men’s Ambulance Brigade, Boy Scouts, and Church Lads’ Brigades.
House to House and street collections. Give your support.