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.

Mr and Mrs Stephen Waters, 4 Crown Street, Morpeth, have received the following letters from two officers and chaplain regarding the death of their son, Corporal Joseph Waters, 7th N.F., in France:—

October 13th, 1915

Captain J. Welch wrote as follows:— “May I express to you my sincere sympathy for the great loss that you have sustained in the death of your son. While I quite realise that the blow must have overwhelmed you, yet I should just like you to know that the loss is ours as well.

“I knew him at Alnwick, although since he came here he has been under my command, I know that he has kept up the high esteem in which I held him at Alnwick, for I knew him as an excellent soldier, and better than that, a true gentleman.

“He will be buried tonight in the little soldiers’ cemetery by the Roman Catholic chaplain. I shall personally look after the grave, and I know his many comrades will do that as well. I shall be pleased to let you know as soon as I can as to the exact spot.

“Please accept my heartfelt condolences.”

October 14th, 1915

The letter from Corporal H.R. Smail reads as follows:— “I understand that Capt. Welch has given you the sad intelligence of the death of your son, Corporal J. Waters, and as his company officer I am writing to add my sympathy.

“He had already suffered much for the cause when wounded, and it seems cruel luck that he should have had to give his life so soon after returning to us. We were all pleased to welcome him back, for he was a most valuable N.C.O., and I know that in him we lost a good soldier and man.

“I hope you and Mrs Waters will bear this blow with fortitude.”

October 15th, 1915

Writing to Mrs Waters, the Rev. A. Johnson, Roman Catholic chaplain, says:— “It is with deep regret that I have to convey the sad news that your son, Corporal J. Waters, died after being wounded and was buried yesterday.

“I read the funeral service as Roman Catholic chaplain. Sergeant-Major Casey, with an escort of his men of the 7th N.F., arranged the details of the funeral. I covered your dead son’s face with my white handkerchief, which having been done, the body was placed in a new grave which I blessed. I will say Mass for the repose of his soul and commend him also to the prayers of the Catholic soldiers on Sunday morning.

“What can I say to console you? Words fail me as a man. As a priest of God I will say commend his soul to God and resign yourself to His Holy Will. The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Your son rests with his face to the enemy.

“He was a good soldier in life and for the women and children in our own land. I am sure he risked his life like our brave fellows are doing out here every minute. Be proud and consoled that you had such a son. It afflicts me much when I lose any of them big, burley fellows with hearts of God, and no evil in them.”

It is interesting to note that the late Corporal Waters comes of a fighting stock, who for four generations back have given soldiers to the nation. His paternal great-grandfather was Sergeant-Major Dunn of the Scots Greys. His grandmother was born in “Jock’s Lodge,” the famous cavalry barracks in Edinburgh. One of his uncles went through the Zulu War, another through the Boer War, and one joined the forces in September, 1914.

He was sent back in November for a month’s rest to Maryhill Barracks, Glasgow. He returned to France in January of this year and has not been heard of since.

The Waters family have also had the great misfortune to lose two nephews in the present campaign, one in the early stages of the war with the Royal Scots and one as late as September of this year with the Highland Light Infantry.


Corporal H. Tait, of Ashington, killed.

Private J. Miller, of Bedlington, killed.

Private W.H. Burn, of Bedlington, wounded and missing.

Private W. Hewitson, of Morpeth, wounded.

Private L. Hoolison, 9th West Yorks, of Cambois, is reported missing.

Private J. Ullock, 8th N.F., of Hirst, has been reported missing at the Dardanelles.

Private D. Atkinson, 8th Northumberland Fusiliers, of Choppington, killed in action at the Dardanelles.

Word has been received at Ashington that Private Thomas Lillico, 14th Northumberland Fusiliers, has been killed.

Corporal Thomas P. Coxon, 9th West Yorks, of Newbiggin, missing at the Dardanelles.

A Blyth solider named Thomas Reay is reported as having been missing in France since August 2nd. Any information will be gratefully received.

Private Wm. Nelson, of the 5th Battalion N.F., of Post Office Buildings, Seghill Colliery, has been officially notified by the War Office as missing.

Mr and Mrs R. Killington, of 25 Winship Street, Newsham, have received word that their son, Private Charles Killington, Northumberland Fusiliers, was killed in action in France on October 13.

Mrs Lennie, 27, Agnes Maria Street, Coxlodge, has had two sons killed in France — 6168, Lance-Corporal J. Lennie, of the 2nd Leicester Regiment, on September 25th, 1915, and 811, Private L.S. Lennie, 4th N.F. October 3rd, 1915.

Private Leslie Hope, 1st N.F., has been reported wounded and missing since June 16th. His mother, who lives at 1 New Row, Cowpen Square, Blyth, would be glad if any of his comrades could give any information concerning him.

No.1207, F.W. Redpath, with the Tyneside Naval Division, 15th Section, “A” Coy, Hawke Battalion, 1st Naval Brigade, missing since June 20th at the Dardanelles. Any information regarding him will be thankfully received by his father, Mr J.G. Redpath, 32 East Terrace, Bomersund Colliery, Stakeford, Choppington.


SWINNEY.— Died of wounds, Oct. 6th, received in action in France, Sergt. Fred Swinney, aged 28 years. Deeply mourned by his mother at Corbridge and sister Lizzie at Ashington.

ROLFE.— Killed in action in France, Sept. 27th, Thomas, dearly beloved and only son of George and E. Rolfe, Kitty Brewster, Bebside, Northumberland.

ROLFE.— Killed in action in France, Sept. 27th, Private Thomas Rolfe, N.F., dearly beloved husband of Ruth Rolfe, Kitty Brewster, Bebside, Northumberland. Deeply mourned.

WATERS.— Killed in action in France, on Oct. 13th, 1915, aged 23 years, Corporal Joseph Waters, 1,125, 1/7th Northumberland Fusiliers, son of Stephen and Sarah Waters of this town. Deeply mourned by his sorrowing relatives.

He now sleeps at peace in a hero’s grave, Eternal rest given unto him, O Lord.


The important question of the town’s water supply was discussed at a special meeting of the Morpeth Town Council on Monday evening. The Mayor (Councillor T.W. Charlton) presided.

Mr Sanderson said that at the billets they had more facilities to get water than in Belgium. There they had to walk mile after mile for water. They could get water at the river and the water down there was champagne to the water in Belgium, (Laughter.) It would only be breaking them in for their water troubles when they went to Belgium.

Mr Temple: Let us have the cart out.

Mr Sanderson: If our officials find on any premises occupied by the military, or anybody else, taps running to waste then they should have instructions to cut the supply off. We are here to represent the rate-payers of Morpeth, and we must see that they get a proper supply. It is very hard that people should be put to inconvenience through the military wasting water at the billets. I will move that the surveyor be instructed to cut off any supply where they are wasting the water and let them get the water wherever they like.

Mayor: And if they have drinking water at the top end of the town we should see they get it.

Ald. Brown: It is quite evident that the people at the higher parts of the town can get water in the morning when the pipes are full. They could take their water supply in the morning to serve them for the rest of the day.

Mr Elliott: I understand that the soldiers on the Common are getting water from Tynemouth without any obstruction whatever being put in their way.

Mr Grey: They have no meter at all.

Town Clerk: They get their two-inch pipe full while we get none.

Mr Elliott: If the military on the common can force the hands of Tynemouth to supply water to their camp, cannot we force their hands to supply the troops of Morpeth.

Mayor: They might take it into their own hands and charge.

Mr Elliott: We might suggest that to them.

Mr Grey: If this does not come to a head in a day or two we must do something. We cannot have people put to inconvenience through Tynemouth.

Town Clerk: I agree.

Mr Grey: If they do not take steps we will have to break the valve off.

Mr Sanderson: I will go with you, Mr. Grey.

Another member: And I will lend you a hammer. (Laughter.)

Mr Grey: If this matter is not settled by Wednesday we should instruct the surveyor to take the valve off.

Town Clerk: You must not do that. I will ask council’s opinion upon it again.

Mr Fearby: We must leave the question entirely in the hands of the committee to take steps as soon as possible to let us have an adequate water supply.

“And whatever they do is right,” remarked Mr Sanderson amid laughter.

Ald. Carr: Yes, until the next meeting of the Council.

Mr Grey (to the surveyor): You might send a man round to examine the taps. He would be very usefully employed.

Town Clerk: The Surveyor will not lose sight of any means to get water.

It was agreed that the Surveyor have instructions to cut off the supply on premises where he found that the water was being wantonly wasted.

Mr Duncan remarked: But not without warning.

Mr Fearby: Should you warn people who are wasting water?

Mayor: We will leave it the surveyor.

The Surveyor said he would send the water carts round whenever he found it necessary.

This closed the discussion


Sir,— May I have the privilege of using your columns to inform all those who have so kindly responded to our appeal for sandbags that as the War Office has stated definitely that it is now in a position to supply as many as are required we have decided to discontinue our work.

Contributions in money or in kind to the value of £20 2s. 8d. have been received, and we have made or received and sent to the Front 1,200 sandbags.

We have a small balance in hand, which will be handed to the Mayoress for the use of her working party, as the War Office has stated that other articles, such as socks, scarves, mittens, etc., will still be welcomed.

I wish to take this means of thanking all those who have so kindly assisted us. —Yours, etc.,




The recent recruiting meeting held at Amble has had fairly good results and still greater results are expected.

With a view to coping with the recruiting in this district, the Tyneside Scottish have taken an office at 57 Queen Street, Amble, where two sergeants are in attendance.

The total number of recruits from the district — Amble, Broomhill and Radcliffe — is about 50.


We would draw attention to the fact that Mr Robert Gray, auctioneer, will conduct a three days’ jumble sale on Friday, Saturday and Monday, November 19th, 20th, and 22nd in the Wansbeck Hall, Ashington, the entire proceeds of which will be given in aid of the Ashington Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Christmas Gift Fund.

We are asked to state that the auctioneer will be glad to sell any articles that a generous public may be disposed to give, including livestock, household furniture, timber, provisions, garden produce, hardware, books and shoes, etc. All who wish to contribute to the sale need only communicate with Mr Gray, auctioneers, Wansbeck Hall, and he will send for same.

When the sale is for such a laudable object we feel sure it will be attended with much success.


An unusual spectacle presented itself at Felton on Tuesday, when the internment of Pte. John Grey, Canadian contingent, was accorded military honours.

Pte. Grey, who was the son of Mr Nicholas Grey, joiner, Felton, emigrated to Canada some years ago. He was joined later by his wife and child. At the outbreak of war Pte. Grey joined the colours in Canada, and was least year sent over to the mother country to do his share in defending his native country.

After a short respite here, Pte. Grey was drafted off to the Front, and after some months fighting was wounded in the thigh. Being sent back to England, he spend a few days in the Felton district prior to his return to the firing line once more. His stay, however, was not of long duration for some weeks ago he was “gassed” and had to be sent back once more. He was conveyed from France to the military hospital at Epsom, where, after much pain, he died.

The remains were removed from London to Felton on Monday night arriving early on Tuesday morning.

The internment took place at the new cemetery, Felton, the body being first conveyed to the Parish Church, followed by a vast crowd of friends and admirers and accompanied by a firing party from the 6th and 7th Batts. N.F., and the Felton contingent of Boy Scouts with the Assistant Scoutmaster. The cortege presented a striking spectacle, and provided a fitting end to an heroic death, such as Pte. Grey had undergone.

The funeral service at the Church was conducted by the Rev. G.A. Brown (vicar of Felton), who headed the procession of mourners to the cemetery.

The presence of a firing party is a very unusual thing in this district of Felton, though a common thing in the towns and cities. The soldiers, however, under the charge of their Company Sergeant, executed their work most effectively, and the almost simultaneous report of the thirteen rifles thrice rent the silent air and was followed by stillness once more.

The huge gathering of people who took part in the procession or awaited the arrival of the remains at the graveside alone testified to the high esteem in which Pte. Grey was held.

His father, wife, and other relatives, though mourning the loss of their dear one, have the great satisfaction of knowing that Private John Grey died after being wounded whilst dutifully serving his King and Country. Such men we are proud of.

The deceased leaves a wife and one child, a boy of eight, who are still in Canada. We wish them a safe return to the mother-land.


Testimony to the widespread regret occasioned by the death of Captain C.N. Ridley, of the Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry, who succumbed to wounds in France, was given on Friday, when a service in commemoration of the deceased officer was held at Simonburn Church.

A gathering representative of all classes, and including several officers and men of the Northumberland Hussars and other regiments assembled.

An impressive service was conducted by the Rector of Simonburn and the choir and congregation joined in singing the National Anthem.


The Michaelmas Quarter Sessions for the county of Northumberland were opened at the Court House, Alnwick, on Wednesday. Mr. G.D. Atkinson Clark, D.L. occupied the chair.

The chairman said he has received a report, dated July 10th, from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, drawing his attention to the shortage of skilled agricultural labour due to the enlistment of farm hands, with the result that the Army Council caused instructions to be issued to general officers commanding in chief, the officers commanding districts, as follows:—

“When there is no one over recruitable age available, a working bailiff or farmer, a head carter, horseman or second horseman in case of a large farm, or waggoner, a head stockman or yardman, a shepherd and necessary milkers until either women or man not of recruitable age can be trained to take their place or other means can be provided to replace them, should not be induced to enlist.”

In the event of a difference of opinion arising between the recruiting officer and a farmer as to the application of this arrangement to a particular case, Lord Selborne and Lord Kitchener had agreed that the most impartial authority to deal with the matter was the local magistrates, who was invited to co-operate with him in facilitating the smooth working of the scheme, which was likely to prove of very great value to farmers, and incidentally to the community generally by arranging with the chairman of each petty sessional division within the country to select a magistrate to be ready to act as referee.

He (the chairman) said he had no control over Petty Sessional Divisions, but he had sent round a copy of the letter for their consideration, and with one exception — Bedlington — they all appointed members of their Board to undertake this duty.

In answer to Lord Selborne, he called attention to a certain instance which was against the carrying out of the proposal, and that was, the tenure in which farm labourers’ cottages were held. A farm labourer in Northumberland has his house as part of his understanding and yearly wages, and vacates it if for any reason his agreement is terminated during the year.

The Board of Agriculture had stated they were advised that where the tenancy or occupation of a house or cottage had determined by the employment ceasing, proceedings could be taken to recover possession of the property.

The wife of a farm servant who had enlisted could not expect to be allowed to remain in a cottage if the use of the same by a labourer was essential to the cultivation of the farm. Lord Selborne was confident that a farmer would not turn out a woman under circumstances of the kind before being satisfied that she had not been able to secure other accommodation, and in this connection and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Family Association were always ready to assist.

The Court then adjourned to meet again on Thursday morning.


For the second year in succession a fund raised in connection with “The Daily News” is undertaking the supply of the armies at the front with a half-pound portion of Christmas pudding for every man.

Last year the fund amounted to £8,300, and over 500,000 men were supplied. This year the number to be supplied is about four times as great. This includes the troops in France and Flanders, in the Dardanelles, Egypt, and the Mediterranean.

Last year the fund undertook the supply of special consignments to particular regiments and other units at the instance of private donors and local subscriptions. This year, at the desire of the War Office, it has limited itself to the simple plan of presenting to the Army, as a whole, its Christmas pudding as a whole. In this way all overlapping and confusion will be avoided, and the ask of the Army transport and distributing departments — vast enough in itself — will not be confused by overlapping and duplicated supplies and special addresses.

The Army Council has for the second time given the scheme its fullest sanction and benediction. The puddings are all to be made by contractors approved by the War Office; medical inspectors and the War Office will inspect the factories, the ingredients, the process of manufacture, and the completed puddings, which delivered from the makers to the Army in hermetically sealed tins, will reach the man at the front with the utmost guarantee of wholesomeness.

The War Office will convey the pudding free of charge from the manufacturer to the front.

That the puddings will be British Christmas puddings of the best is guaranteed by the fact that the contractors’s sample puddings on which the contracts are placed are adjudicated upon by no less an expert than M. Escoffier, of the Carlton Hotel, who is the acknowledged authority on the British Christmas pudding.

Every man must have his half-pound share.

All must be in the hands of the Army authorities by the end of November.

Every sum, however small, will help a man to a helping.

Sixpence supplies one man, 2s. 6d. six, £1 50, 30s. a platoon, £3 an artillery battery, £5 a company, £9 an artillery brigade, £12 a cavalry regiment, £20 a battalion of infantry.

He gives twice who gives quickly. There is not a moment to lose.

Nothing is so “Christmassy” as Christmas pudding.

By no other means can every man at the front receive his message from home on Christmas Day so surely as by this.

The task is great, but it will be easily accomplished by united effort. The Mayoress of Morpeth (Mrs. T.W. Charlton), Carlisle House, High Church, Morpeth, has decided to open a local subscription list in support of the movement, so that all in the district may have the opportunity of feeling that they have sent their own men their share of pudding — a gift from the home to the man, from the nation to the Army.

Subscriptions should be sent to the Mayoress of Morpeth. Cheques and postal orders should be made payable to the Mayoress of Morpeth and crossed. Collecting lists are also at Lloyds Bank, North Eastern Bank, London and Joint Stock Bank, Barclay’s Bank, and the “Herald” Office, where subscriptions will be received.


The quarterly meeting of the Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee was held on Tuesday at the Moot Hall, Newcastle, Mr G.D. Atkinson Clark presiding.

The finance committee reports that with the economies which has been effected, and in the present circumstances of the war, they considered that the balance in hand was sufficient to meet the expenses of the current financial year, and recommended that the second instalment of £400 payable by the contributing authorities, the Northumberland County Council and Tynemouth Corporation, be not called up. The recommendation was adopted.

Professor Meek, speaking on his annual report, said fishermen had not suffered in consequences of the war, and were doing fairly well. Owing to the restrictions, the North Sea was having practically a close season, and it would be extremely interesting to watch, after the war, what effect the close time would have on it.

Mr Taylor, the fisheries officer for the district from Berwick to the Tyne, reported:— The herring industry had been severely crippled by the adverse circumstances with which fishermen have had to contend, especially when engaged in the waters outside the territorial limits.

“The men have largely overcome all difficulties, and many have been rewarded with a fair measure of success, and working to the extremely high prices obtained did exceedingly well.

“Inshore line fishing is not at this period of the year actively prosecuted owing to the bulk of the men being employed at the salmon and trout fishing during the summer months, but in war time everything seems to be upset, and there has been employed in this industry some 71 boats with 237 men, compared with 61 boats and 194 men for the same corresponding period.

“In the steam trawling industry 51 steam trawlers with 460 men have been employed, and have landed at North Shields during the period. Small haddocks have been plentiful on the grounds, and the high prices for all kinds of fish have enabled the men to continue their work with increasing success.

“Crab fishing has been more in evidence during the quarter; 65 boats with 197 men have been employed, compared with 45 boats and 130 men for the corresponding period. Shots have ranged from two to five scores, and when the sea is disturbed catches have reached as high as ten to twelves scores. Prices have ranged from 14s. to 20s. per barrel, and at Shields from 8s. to 12s., and at special times up to 15s. per basket of 45 crans.

“Lobster fishing has been worked by the same number of boats and men as has been employed in the crab fishing. General catches have ranged from 12 to 25 lobsters, and on several occasions up to 75 have been landed at different stations. Prices have been very low, and the demand poor.”