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.
The members of the Northumberland Presbytery met in the vestry of St George’s Presbyterian Church, Morpeth, on Tuesday, when a considerable amount of business was transacted.
The Clerk read a letter from the Rev. W.A. Macallan, of Broomhill, giving notice that it was his intention to ask the permission of the Presbytery to volunteer for military service under Lord Derby’s scheme.
The Rev. J.A. Wilkinson, of Felton, also stated that it was his intention to make a similar application.
The Clerk read the following resolution:—”The Executive Committee of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of England has considered the recommendation of the Presbytery of Newcastle that the Commission should secure that the Government star all ministers and clergy, and after carefully considering the question of ministers of the church taking up military service in the existing national crisis has expressed the opinion that full liberty be accorded to each individual minister to act accordingly as he may be led by conscience to decide, after duly weighing the sacred obligation of the call he has accepted to serve God in the Christian ministry, provided always that the Presbytery in each case shall approve the action of the minister and be satisfied that the work of his congregation shall not unduly suffer.”
A resolution embodying this decision was unanimously adopted.
Rev. Gibson Smith said that when the above recommendation came before the Executive Commission there was a great deal of discussion and there was a considerable diversity of views before his final resolution was arrived at.
He did not think that the resolution laid sufficient emphasis on the work of a minister. The work that the minister was doing was the greatest possible work he could do, even greater than going onto the battlefield and shooting Germans. He urged upon those who felt it incumbent to volunteer under Lord Derby’s scheme to remember the peculiarly sacred nature of the work in which they were engaged — work which was of the highest spiritual importance.
Rev. J.A. Wilkinson stated that with regard to Lord Derby’s recruiting scheme there were only two classes of men — men of military age who were willing to serve in that capacity, or men who would not. There was no classification for the men Mr Smith referred to. That was why he wished that the Presbytery would give him leave to put himself within the four corners of Lord Derby’s scheme.
Rev. Gibson Smith: Don’t think I am opposed to any man, whether minister or anybody else, volunteering if his conscience leads him to do so. What I want to impress upon the brethren is that they are ministers of Christ’s gospel.
Rev. Thomas Robertson said that it was putting it in a very blunt way to say that their work was far higher than shooting Germans. He considered that one was just as sacred as the other. If he was a young man he would have no hesitation in offering himself for this great war.
Rev. Livingstone Ward said that Lord Derby’s scheme was practically telling them that if they did not come forward at once they were not doing their duty, and that after December 11th conscription was bound to come. He thought the Presbytery ought to take a very definite stand on this question. There were several members of the Presbytery within the military age, and he thought it was not right to put all responsibility on individual members.
Mr D. Elliott said that if a minister decided to join under the scheme the Presbytery could appeal against him going. He thought the minister had as much right to go as the ordinary man.
Rev. Livingstone Ward said that a man had to be attested before one could appeal. It was absurd to say that because a man took a certain stand he was shirking his duty. Perhaps he had a higher conception of what was due to his country then other men. A man had a duty to the Presbytery and the Church first of all.
Rev. J. Reid thought the best thing they could do was to decide on each individual case that came before him. He moved that each application be received and considered on its merits.
Rev. T. Robertson seconded, and this was agreed to.
Rev. Livingstone Ward thought they were entitled to the same treatment as the medical profession. He thought the Presbytery should not appeal as if they were employers of labour.
The Rev. Mr Macallan said that he had not made his application without carefully considering all the points of the case.
Rev. Gibson Smith moved that Mr Macallan’s application be granted.
Rev. Dr Drysdale seconded, and the Rev. T. Robertson in supporting said the Presbytery ought to express their appreciation at two of their members seeing their way to enlist under Lord Derby’s scheme.
The Rev. J.A. Wilkinson’s application was next considered, and, on the motion of the Rev. A. Smith, seconded by Mr D. Elliott, the permission was granted.
PEACE TERMS WANTED BY 48 MEN
The announcement of a public meeting at the Woodhorn and Linton Miners’ Hall on Sunday by the local branch of the I.P.L. to protest against compulsory service and demanding that the time has occurred when the Government should state the terms under which they were prepared to negotiate peace attracted a big meeting, but before its close, however, its dimensions had been considerably reduced.
During the early stages of the meeting there were frequent interruptions and some strong comments made by the men in the audience.
Mr J.T. Robson presided, and he anticipated differences of opinion, but asked that the speaker should have a fair hearing. The speaker was Mr E. Wake, of Barrow-in-Furness, who had a mixed reception.
The resolution proposed by him was as follows:— ”That this meeting declares its strongest opposition to compulsory service in any shape or form, being of the opinion that such is unnecessary to meet the demands of the present war; also that the time has arrived when the Government should clearly state the terms under which they are prepared to negotiate for peace.”
Mr John Magin asked if he would be allowed to move an amendment.
The Chairman replied that he would be after Mr Wake had concluded his speech, but he appealed for a fair and patient hearing for Mr Wake, who was interrupted by cries of “Why should we ask for peace?” “Get the khaki on the lot of you!”
As Mr Wake went on to denounce the introduction of the compulsory system of service, he was accused by one with offering an insult to the nation, and was advised by another to get back to Barrow-in-Furness.
There was a good deal of interruption during the early stages of the meeting, and Mr Isaac Binns guaranteed a quiet meeting if the Chairman would promise that a vote would be taken at the close.
The Chairman agreed that that would be done, and then again appealed for quietness in order that Mr Wake might put his case before them.
Mr Wake thereupon continued his address and dealt for some time with the question of conscription.
He urged upon the democracy of the country to take great care of the heritage of voluntaryism which had been handed down to them, and never countenance the adoption of conscription. The latter, he said, was only being rushed forward by a body which had been in favour of it long before the war, and suggested that it was only a sinister means whereby the working classes of the country might be deprived of the many privileges which their forefathers had fought for so long.
He endeavoured to show that all nations where conscription was in vogue had failed in their objects, and added that it was strange that the British Empire should be fighting against militarism while at the same moment an insidious attempt was being made to supersede the voluntary system in their own country.
The speaker contended that up to the present there was no need for conscription, and also that it should be left open to the conscience of anyone as to whether or not he joined the Colours.
When Mr Wake commenced dealing with the peace question there was again a good deal of disorder.
“We’ll have to go to Germany for that,” shouted one.
Another called out: “Wait till the end of the war.”
“Better hear what the Germans have to say about peace,” was another interruption.
Mr Wake pointed out that he did not mean that they should seek a premature peace. All they desired to know from the Government was what the terms of peace would be when the time arrived. He contended that as the democracy, which was really carrying on the war, they had a right to know exactly what those terms were to be, as if they allowed the terms to be settled by the diplomats there would never be the lasting peace which was desired.
When ultimately questions were invited Mr Baker, in a short speech, pointed out that if the voluntary system failed it was because there were too many shirkers such as those assembled on the platform.
This statement had a mixed reception.
Mr Baker further alleged that had the speaker made the same speech in the place of his birth, Chatham, he would have been shot.
The time was now about 12.30pm, and numbers were leaving the meeting rapidly.
A vote was taken amid some disorder, and it was declared that there were 48 votes for the motion and 40 against.
AN ASHINGTON MEETING
“Blessed are the peace-makers” is a familiar phrase, and it not infrequently happens, however, that advocates of peace, either by their own misguided zeal or other cause, eventually find reason to doubt the wisdom of their peace-making efforts.
This has been demonstrated, locally.
Whilst giving the promoters of the meeting, held at Ashington last Sunday morning, credit of the best possible intentions, it is not surprising that there should be an ebullition of indignation at such a resolution as that proposed at the meeting.
Without a shadow of a doubt we are all animated with a genuine desire for peace of the right sort; but in view of the mistaken impressions that such meetings are apt to create abroad and the weapon they place in the hands of the enemy, such meetings might be more advantageously eschewed and no encouragement given to seeming weakness at this time.
The country is thoroughly unanimous that the only terms of peace possible is the smashing, once and for all, of the power of Prussian militarism.
7th BATT., NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS
This battalion continues to display great activity in recruiting, and we understand that in the last week or two a good number of recruits have been obtained from all parts of the county.
Meetings have been held or arranged for the present week at Chevington Drift, Amble, Whittingham, Stakeford, Felton, and Morpeth, at which the battalion band plays selections of music and addresses are given by various officers and men of the battalion.
As there appears to be no likelihood of the extension of the date of the expiry of Lord Derby’s scheme for voluntary recruiting, we would urge every man who is desirous of joining a Territorial battalion to delay no longer, but to present himself for enlistment without fail in the course of the present week, which expires on Saturday night, the 11th inst.
The battalion is in comfortable quarters and the men are in excellent health and spirits. In addition to the ordinary training routine, weekly games and sports are held and concerts are regularly provided.
The headquarters are at Fenkle Street, Alnwick, and Lieut. Essex will be pleased to forward a free railway ticket to enable any man to attend there for enlistment.
SOLDIER’S APPEAL FOR CORNET
Sir,— Being a constant reader of your weekly paper, I write with your kind permission to its readers.
I would like if they would send me a cornet. I have played one since leaving school, so you can guess how I have missed mu hobby since joining the Army last September.
I am lying back from the trenches now, and hope to be here a few more weeks to come.
Although we have plenty of work it is a pleasure to be out of hearing of the big guns. —Yours, etc.,
PTE WM. GILLON, 2048,
13th Northumberland Fusiliers,
2nd Corps, Woodcutting Detachment,
G.H.Q., c/o G.P.O., London,
BELGIAN SOLDIERS’ FUND
Sir, —In response to the appeal for funds to provide comforts for the Belgian Army in Flanders, Mr Hardy and I have received the following sums:— Mr F. Brumell, £2 2s; Dr Macdowall, £1; Miss Anderson, £1; Mrs A. Brumell, £1; Canon Davies, 10/-; Mrs Loades, 10/-; Miss Henderson, 10/-; Mrs Philip, 10/-; Mrs Atkinson, 10/-; Miss Angus, 10/-; Miss Hunter, 10/-; Miss K Hopper, 5/-; Mrs John Davison, 5/-; Miss Graham, 5/-; Mr W. Noble, 5/-; Rev F. and Miss Hardy, 5/-; Miss Clarke, 2/6; Mrs Sissons, 2/6; Mrs Smith, 2/6; Mrs Watson, 2/6; Mr R. Dixon, 2/6; Mr H. Seabrooke, 2/6; Miss Richardson, 2/6; Mr R. Cooper, 2/-; Mrs Weedy, 2/-; M.A., 2/-; Mrs Fuller, 1/6; Mrs Pyle, 1/-; Mrs Carr, 1/-; A Friend, 1/-; and D. and W., 1/- –total, £11 16s.
This sum, together with gifts of socks, has been sent in accordance with instructions received from the Belgian Legation.
Mr Hardy and I are grateful for this substantial response. The fund is now closed. —Yours, etc.,
JOHN J. DAVIES,
Rector of Morpeth.
December 9th, 1915.
CHRISTMAS PARCELS FOR THE FRONT
The Postmaster-General has issued a notice regarding the posting of Christmas mails for the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders. To secure delivery on or before Christmas Day, it is stated that letters must be posted not later than 17th December, and parcels not later than 13th December.
Military exigencies render it necessary to limit the amount of parcel traffic for the troops during the Christmas season, and the public are enjoined to limit the use of the parcel post to articles of real utility.
Fruit, perishable articles of all descriptions, bottles, pudding basins, and the like are prohibited, and will not be accepted for transmission. The maximum weight for single parcels will be reduced to seven pounds as from the 1st December.
All parcels must be completely and fully addressed, with the name and address of the sender on the outside, and securely and strongly packed in covers of canvas, linen, or other strong material.
Parcels not meeting these requirements are unlikely to reach their destination safely and, of observed in the course of the post, will be returned to the senders.
OLD FOLK ENTERTAINED
The fifteenth annual dinner and concert, organised by the amalgamated social clubs of Ashington and Hirst for the benefit of the aged people in the district, took place in the Skating Rink, Hirst, on Saturday afternoon last. It was a very happy party that gathered round the festive board, and there was a lot of willing helpers who efficiently looked after the needs and comforts of the old folk.
The President, on behalf of the amalgamated clubs, extended to the old folk a hearty welcome. He hoped that each and all had made a splendid meal, for the catering had been excellent. Notwithstanding the anxious and trying times in which they lived, he was glad that the annual treat had taken place, and he believed it had been the most successful they had had.
He was pleased to see their worthy member for the Wansbeck Division again present. This was the ninth year in succession that Mr Fenwick had come and taken the chair at this social gathering. He hoped that their respected member would be spared for another nine years to preside over them. Last year Mr Fenwick told them that he thought the war was going to last three years and he believed that he was going to be a good prophet.
Mr Chas. Fenwick, M.P., who was cordially received, said that many changes had taken place since they had met in this hall a year ago. He was never one of those who thought this war would be a short war. Many people had said to him that it would be all over in a few months as it was too big to last long. They had been hammering away for sixteen months, and if they could see the end of it, it was more than he could do.
In this large district they had done splendidly. The women had given of their sons and of their husbands and sent them forth to defend their liberties and to protect the right of smaller nationalities. They had done so in no grudging spirit. Probably there was not another district in the north of England, with a population such as they had here, had done anything like what they had done in that respect.
He sympathised with those who had their sons and husbands on the field of battle, and those who had already suffered loss. On behalf of this wife and himself he offered them an expression of their humble and profound sympathy. He hoped that they were not downhearted.
Although he could not yet see the end they meant to see the end, and they meant to get safely and successfully to the end. (Applause.) They knew perfectly well what his views were on the subject of peace. He was a peace man down to the sole of his boots, but in this war they were fighting for freedom and justice for smaller nationalities, and they were determined that they would not sheath the sword until victory was proclaimed on the side of the Allies (Applause.)
He had heard a good many of this friends declaring that they should make efforts to secure peace — (a voice; “Shame.”) There could be no peace in his judgement under existing circumstances. An inconclusive peace — and if peace were made at present it would be an inconclusive peace — would be the worst thing that could happen to them, after all the blood that had been shed, all the treasure that had been poured out like water, and all the suffering or our brave and noble soldiers and sailors and our equally brave and courageous Allies. (Applause.) All the past suffering would have been in vain, and it would have to be faced again in all its intensity. Their intention was to carry the war through to a successful issue. (Applause.)
“I appeal to all of you who have husbands, sons or friends engaged in this conflict,” remarked Mr Fenwick, “to be of cheerful heart. Don’t let them think that you are downhearted or despondent, or you will unnerve their arms. They look to you to be cheerful, brave and courageous in the midst of it all. If they know you are not downhearted they will bear themselves with greater strength and valour than they have ever done before. (Applause.)
“Although we have not come to Christmas time I want to wish you in the name of my wife and myself a prosperous new year. I hope it will be brighter and better than this one has been. Whatever be our lot we are bound to carry this campaign successfully through.
Just think for the moment what is likely to happen of the ‘Huns’ should succeed, and the Allies should go under. Think of the brutal tragedy of Brussels, where that brave and noble woman, Nurse Cavell, met her death in a heroic and courageous way. She is not the only one who would fall in a similar way if the ‘Huns’ were permitted to enter upon our shores.
“What do they care for Russia, France, Italy or Belgium? Let us beat the British — that is the chief ambition of the Prussians. But will you let them beat you? No! Peace man as I am, I often wish I was a few years younger and my wife would have said good-bye to me until the war is over. (Applause.)
“We are doing the next best thing. We are sending our flesh and blood, and we are giving whatever we can to support the men with money and ammunition in order that they may carry the war on to a successful issue.
“I again wish you all a prosperous and happy new year, and those who have friends at the Front, I repeat once more, I hope you will receive them home again and that you will welcome them to your heart, for they deserve well of you and of their country.” (Loud applause.)
At this point Mr Fenwick broke down, and after proceeding, he said: “I am not ashamed and I make no apology for these tears of mine, because when I think of the brave lads, fighting our battles for us and the many homes that have already suffered in consequence I am glad to find that I am an Englishman.” (Applause.)
After a few musical items, Mr Fenwick announced that 635 old people had partaken of the hospitality of the clubs and each one had received in addition to their dinner 3/- (Loud applause.) But altogether they had dined 586 persons. That was a good record and redounded to the credit of the clubs and all concerned in it. (Applause.)
ROLL OF HONOUR
TAYLOR. —Killed in action in France, Sept. 26th, Lance-Sergeant R. R. Taylor, second beloved son of Robert and Elizabeth Taylor, Ulgham Grange Crossing. Loved by all.
NICHOL. —Killed in action in France, April 26th, 1915, Private Athol E. Nichol, No. 1881, 1/7th N.F. eldest and dearly beloved son of John James and Margaret Nichol, and grandson of the late David Nichol, all of Morpeth. Deeply mourned by all who knew him.
REGIMENTAL SPORTS AT ALNWICK
The 3/1st Northumbrian Field Ambulance of the Royal Army Medical Corps, stationed at Alnwick, held a series of regimental sports at Camp A. The programme consisted of seven events, for which there was a numerous entry, notwithstanding the miserable condition of the weather.
Colonel Broome Giles, C.B., was judge of the ambulance events; and Major Milne, assisted by officers of the 29th Northumberland Fusiliers, judged the other competitions.
Half-Mile Foot Handicap (44 ran). —Private A, Kirkpatrick, 75 yards, 1; Private Finlay, 40, 2; Sergeant Maddison, 10, 3; Private J. Douglas Edgar (golf champion of France), 100, 4. Won by ten yards.
Tug-of-War for Teams of Six Men (seven teams competed). —Final: Sergeant Maddison’s team beat Private Mason’s team.
80 Yards Sack Race (40 competed). —Final: Sergeant Smart, 1; Private Sheffer, 2; Private Mead, 3.
Stretch Carrying, over Four Obstacles (30 teams of two each competed). —Final: Private Murray and Private Wade, 1; Private Forbes and Private Locking, 2.
Stretcher Drill, including collecting Wounded, by Squads of Six Men (eight squads competed). —Final: Sergeant Temperley’s Squad, 80 points, 1; Sergeant Smart’s squad, 78, 2; Sergeant Haswell’s squad, 70, 3.
Mile Relay Race, teams of four (5 teams competed). —Sergeant Maddison’s team, composed of Sergeant Smart, Private Forbes, Lance-Corporal Parsons, and Sergeant Maddison, won.
Mounted Wrestling (38 pairs competed). —Final: Private Smails and Private Tait drew with Lance-Corporal Ord and Private Kirkpatrick.
Mrs Milne, wife of Major Milne, presented the prizes to the successful competitors.
RADCLIFFE AND HAUXLEY LADS AT THE FRONT
Radcliffe and Hauxley are by no means behind other places in the way of looking after their lads who have so readily and so bravely gone to fight their country’s battles at the Front. A big effort has been made with the object of sending Christmas parcels to every Radcliffe and Hauxley soldier at the Front, and this effort is meeting with great success.
All orders for 52 parcels have been placed, and others are to follow. A collection has been made by the committee appointed to carry the noble work through, and the people have responded generously and are responding magnificently. Mr R. Wood is secretary.
A concert is to be held in the Radcliffe Picture Hall on Wednesday, December 8th, with a view to still further augment the fund, so that every man will get a 5/- parcel. By the way, those already sent were 5/- parcels
It is also worthy of note to mention that in addition the Radcliffe and Hauxley people sent the sum of £6 18s 1d. to the “Daily News” Christmas Pudding Fund.
About £20 is needed altogether to complete the parcels, and it almost goes without saying that the committee will get that amount before long
They deserve it, as is open to question whether any place of a similar size in the country has done better than Radcliffe and Hauxley.
TODAY AND TOMORROW
Great preparations have been made for recruiting under Lord Derby’s scheme at Blyth today and tomorrow.
Men will be presenting themselves at the Knight Hospital to be medically examined from whence they will go to the recruiting office and will complete their attestation at the Mechanics’ Institute.
Men are expected to roll up in great numbers and avail themselves of this opportunity of supporting Lord Derby’s great scheme and of saving the country from conscription.
MEDICALLY UNFIT MEN
The engrossing subject of comment hereabouts is the large number of men who have been found to be medically unfit.
Numbers of these men have been going about in jocund fashion exhibiting their certificates of unfitness and declaring that they have “done their bit.” It has been positively humiliating to honest men who apparently are robust and capable of bearing arms who make no concealment of the fact that they have been declared inefficient and have thus been absolved of taking an Englishman’s part in the defence of their own hearths and homes, for that is what it amounts to.
There are, of course, many men declared medically unfit, who are silent and sorry about it — thinking of the present and also after the after-time.
SINGLE MEN FIRST
In these days what a lot of men one meets who consider themselves indispensable. Men from farms, factories, mines, mills, banks, bakeries, offices, shops, and all sorts of places.
I had thought that no man was indispensable, because when a man goes for a holiday for a month or a year or takes ill or dies, the pulley wheels don’t stop, nor does the grass cease to grow, or the ink continue to be shed. Indeed the notions of some men are most extraordinary.
In Bedlington Churchyard there is a monument erected to a very worthy man, who is described as indispensable, although that good man — and a most useful man was he — was then in the depths of the grave, dispensable and dispensed with forever, so far as mundane matters go.
There, too, may lie some men we can do without worse than others, but not a single man alive is indispensable.
But in this crisis the duty of the single men first is manifest.