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 result of the great effort made in connection with Lord Derby’s scheme to furnish a steady supply of recruits under the group system for His Majesty’s Forces has been very gratifying indeed.

Evidence is not lacking that when the figures are fully tabulated they will record a triumph for the voluntary system of recruiting.

Locally all classes have come forward to take their share in the momentous struggle.

A striking feature of the scheme was the tremendous rush of recruits during the closing days. So great was the rush at the Morpeth recruiting office that the Council chambers had to be requisitioned on Saturday and Sunday to cope with the number of eligible men who wished to be attested.

From all accounts Sunday was a busy day with those upon whom rested the responsibility of swearing in recruits.


As we predicted in this column a few weeks ago, Piper Daniel Laidlaw of the 7th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, who won the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery prior to the assault on the German trenches near Loos, will pay a short visit to friends in Morpeth today (Friday).

It is expected that the gallant piper will arrive by the train due to Morpeth Station at 12.35.

He will be received on the platform by the Mayor (Alderman Ed. Norman) and will afterwards be conveyed by motor car through the main streets to the Market Place, where he will receive a public welcome.

It is hoped that as many of the public as can be present will attend in the Market Place to receive the procession on its arrival there.

The circumstances of the brave act that earned for Piper Laidlaw the much-coveted distinction are as follows:— “With absolute coolness and disregard of danger he mounted the parapet, marched up and down, and played his company out of the trench. The effect of his splendid example was immediate and his company dashed out to the assault.”


The monthly meeting of the Morpeth Town Council was held on Monday night. The Mayor (Ald. Edward Norman) presided.

A letter having been received from the Chief Constable with reference to the public lighting, the Committee recommended that the Town Clerk write again urging increase in the lighting allowed, and also that the N.E.R. Company be asked to remove the posts at the entrance to their premises.

The Town Clerk read a letter from the County Council inquiring whether this Council proposed to apply for sanction to the appointment of a Borough Committee under the Naval and Military Act:— The Committee recommended that the letter be answered in the affirmative.

The recommendation was carried.

Alderman Carr proposed that application be made to the Officer Commanding in the Northern District for the loan of a captured German gun for exhibition in a prominent position in the town. In doing so he said that he noticed other districts had been supplied by one or more of those captured guns.

It had occurred to him immediately after the last meeting that it would have been better for recruiting purposes if they had had a gun on exhibition.

He thought Morpeth itself could lay claim to having supplied a very large number of men to the Army and Navy, and when they took into consideration the surrounding district he ventured to remark that no other district of its size had provided such a large proportion of men per thousand of the population as Morpeth and the other surrounding district had done. On that ground alone he considered that they could make claim for one of those war trophies.

Another reason was that Morpeth was the centre of the district and was much more suitable than other places further east, north, or west.

The presence of a gun or other trophy placed in the Market Place would certainly have a two-fold object — in quickening the interest of the people in the great crisis and bring home to them the reality of the struggle and also give them some idea of the formidable weapons of war which were being used in the present conflict.

Whilst to some people who had lost sons and relatives at the Front it might bring back sad memories, but to those who had sons fighting at the present time it might create in their breasts a glow of pride that their sons and relatives were fighting against such fearful and wonderful instruments of war.

The exhibition of a gun might be the means of bringing home to those slackers the duties they owed to their country and to make them realise if they continued to stand aloof from His Majesty’s forces that they were not worthy of the name of the country to which they belonged.

He suggested that the gun be placed in front of the Town Hall or in that triangular part opposite, should their application be successful.

Mr Armstrong seconded the resolution.

The Mayor, in supporting, said he was pleased to think it had occurred to Ald, Carr to bring this motion before them.

When they thought of the sacrifices made by the Morpeth men he felt that they had some claims for some of the trophies that had been won on the field of battle. Morpeth had responded well to the call under Lord Derby’s recruiting scheme. He did not say that they had got every man, but there were few slackers left.

Mr Charlton also thought it would be a nice thing if Morpeth was allowed a captured German gun to exhibit in the Market Place.

He referred to the fact that four men had just returned from the Front, and one of them was Mr Thompson, an old campaigner. He was sure that the men who had left the town to fight their battles would like to see a trophy exhibited here.

The motion was unanimously carried.

The Mayor explained to the members that the Council Chamber was opened for recruiting purposes on Saturday and Sunday.

They had found the congestion in the recruiting office so severe and had found it impossible to cope with all the recruits that turned up at the recruiting office that they had to look abroad for another suitable place.

They then decided to use the Council Chamber, and he felt sure they could not have used it for a better purpose in order to deal with those who were ready to offer their services to their King and Country.


Addressing a gathering of farmers at Winchester on Saturday, Lord Selbourne said starred agricultural hands would not be given armlets. As they were indispensable, there was no reason to put them in the Army reserve, and they must be content to know they were doing their best for the country.

To meet labour difficulties farmers ought to ask landowners, through local committees, for gardeners, keepers and woodmen: and the landowners’ duty was to offer all unessential labour to help farmers. Village women should be canvassed, as Lord Derby canvassed men, and patriotically urged to do their war work in the fields.


Writing on the subject of Women’s work at Northumberland Colliery Villages, a correspondent states:— “Everybody must feel satisfaction at the way women have come forward and performed so successfully the duties that previously, so it was thought, could only be done by men.

“In many branches the surprise had been the rapidity with which women have adapted themselves to their new calling.

“In towns a large percentage of the adult female population have been able to earn excellent wages in the factories and workshops, an opportunity which is debarred to women living in villages.

“Scattered over Northumberland and Durham are a number of colliery villages, which by reason of their wealth and population may be better described as small towns. In them are a large number of women ready and willing to do work formerly done by men.

“Of course, their services could only be made use of at the local colliery, but I understand that the Miners’ Association objects to women being employed.

“Surely there are different kinds of work at a colliery (above ground) where men and boys are at present employed, and which could be equally well done by women and girls.

“Is there any reason why they should not be given an opportunity?”


Sir,— I wish to acknowledge with many thanks receipt of cheque value £4 from Mrs T. Moffitt, Oldgate, being half the proceeds of a sale of work held recently.

Through Mrs Moffit’s kindness I have sent off 12 parcels containing biscuits, chocolate, sardines, jars of paste, prepared coffee, milk and sugar, shaving soap, toilet soaps, pencils, writing pads, envelopes, playing cards, wood pipes, cigarettes, etc.

Mrs Woodhouse, North Place, very kindly sent me two large fruit loaves, which I have forwarded; Miss Mackay, “Herald” Office, pencils, envelopes, mouth organs, etc; Mrs Allon Burn, Oaklea, 1,000 cigarettes; Mr and Mrs G. L. Jackson, a £1 1s parcel of warm “comforts.”

The following is an extract from Lance-Corporal Andrew Davison’s letter, just received:— ”However, of all the gifts you’ve sent out to us, your last batches are the champions, and, man alive, the men were pleased with the helmets, shirts, and socks.

“They were just the things the men needed most, and the ones you sent were right, thick and warm, tip-top quality and “home” made.

“They were almost fighting for the few shirts, so we drew lots and the winners got them, to their delight. The helmets were almost sufficient to go round after deducting those who already had them. Socks, especially the kind you send, are a great prize out here.

“Speaking generally, I don’t know of another town that has done so well and studied the comfort of her men on service as well as has Morpeth.

“It has done splendidly, and we have got no one else to thank but you for “kicking off” as you did, and ‘playing’ as you have done and are doing.”

From the Mayoress’s Sewing Party I received the socks, shorts, mufflers, etc., and Canon Davies supplied the wool to the same ladies, who knitted over 50 warm helmets.

I am sure all those kind friends will feel amply repaid when they know the pleasure their gifts have given to our brave boys of the 7th N.F. —Yours, etc.,


St James’s Terrace, Morpeth


Mr John Cairns, financial secretary of the Northumberland Miners’ Association, who has been giving his thought and active services in the effort to induce workmen to do their best to maintain the coal output, in the course of a conversation with a “Herald” representative, warmly commended the action taken by the local leaders of the workmen at the Ashington group of collieries and at other centres in order to induce the men to put forward their best energies to swell the output in view of the present conditions.

Mr Cairns said he had addressed meetings at Elswick and elsewhere on the subject recently.

Mr Cairns states that up to the end of November 189 miners had been killed in action out of 9,999 members of the Association who had enlisted.

To that could be added 784 half members, which made a total of over 10,000. That means that over 25 per cent of the members were in khaki.

The number of paying members in the Union was 43,000; now it is 32,000. That had involved various working alterations with a view of maintaining the output of coal.

Mr Cairns remarked that it is to the credit of the workmen that no dispute or stoppage of any gravity has been allowed to take place since the war started, and men have been content to fall in with the views of managers even in cases where the ordinary rules were schewed in order to attain the desired end.

“The miners have waived the rules in order to waive the flag,” was the epigrammatic remark Mr Cairns, who explained “that the shortage of lads at some collieries caused many hewers to have to do “putting” and in some cases the three-shift system had been changed to the two-shift method.”


BULLOCK.— At Chatham Military Hospital, on the 12th isnt., aged 30 years, Philip James Bullock, D.C.M., sergeant 50th Coy. Royal Engineers.


James Cook Wilson, A.B., Hawke Battalion, R.N.D., son of Mr and Mrs Wilson, King George’s Road, Newbiggin, has been killed in action.

Mrs Vose, of 42 Jackson Street, Annitsford, has received official intimation that her husband, Corporal George Vose, 2nd N.F., has been reported as missing since October 4th.

Mrs Smith, of 3 Bridge Street, Morpeth, has received word that her husband, Private Thomas Smith, of the 8th N.F., has died of wounds received in action at the Dardanelles.

Corporal Maurice Pringle, 10th N.F., of Hutton, near Berwick, has died from wounds received through being shot in the head by a sniper. Prior to enlisting a year ago, he was employed at Ashington.

Mrs Ed. Dawson, of 62 Jubilee Terrace, Annitsford, has received official intimation that her son, Private Thos. Johnson, 14th N.F., Pioneers Transport Section, was wounded on December 1st, and is now in hospital in France.


Some weeks ago, Miss M. Hills, of Stanley Terrace, Morpeth, and a number of her girl friends, gave an entertainment to raise funds to provide comforts for the local lads at the Front. Miss Hills has received the following communication from Private G. Douglas, of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, acknowledging receipt of the good things sent. He writes:—

“I am faced with a pleasant task, and that is to express, on behalf of all the Morpeth boys, our warmest thanks for the shoal of good things that you and the girls have sent us. I received my brother’s letter in which he told me to ‘look out,’ then the next day your letter and the three boxes arrives.

“I immediately shared them out to the lads, and told them who had sent them and how the money had been raised. They were delighted, and I had to be sure and tell you how pleased they were to receive the nice things.

“The things you sent are much appreciated at present, as we are ‘resting’ and billeted in farms, etc. — scattered all over in a terribly forsaken place, where you can buy nothing whatever. So you see we depend upon our good friends for tasty bits and other luxuries, and what delights us more than anything else is the way the Morpeth people have looked after us ‘out here.’”


Lady Trevelyan of Cambo has dispatched parcels of warm clothing for prisoners of war in Germany, the British Red Cross Ambulance in Italy, to Gloster Battery, Queen Alexandrias’s Field Force, and to mine sweepers.


In response to an application from the workmen, Castle Ward Rural District Council, at its meeting at Ponteland on Monday, decided to advance the wages of the road men, etc., in their employment 2/- per week, during the continuance of the war, the advance to begin next pay.


The North Eastern District Council of the Workers’ Educational Association met on Saturday at Burt Hall, Northumberland Road, Newcastle. Dr Jevons presided over a fairly large attendance.

The chairman alluded to the memorial of the late Lieut. P.A. Brown, and read an article upon his death which appeared in the “Illustrated Chronicle” on December 9.

The deceased officer was a prominent and useful member of the Association. When the war broke out he enlisted and afterwards was given a commission. He died in the execution of this duty at the Front after a gallant rescue had been made by Pte. Kenny, of Wingate. Dr Jevons then read the article in the “Illustrated Chronicle,” describing how Lieut. Brown met his death, and the gallant act of Kenny, which won for the latter the Victoria Cross.

Lieut. Brown was one of the most lovable men he had ever met, and it was proposed to raise a memorial to him, something of an educational kind which would have met with the approval of their dead friend. Dr Jevons read a letter, which it was suggested should be sent to the branches, inviting subscriptions towards the memorial.

The proposal to proceed with a memorial was confirmed by the Council and it was also agreed to send a letter of congratulation to Private Kenny upon his very gallant deed.


There be doctors who have queer notions as to what a miner’s work is.

A young soldier has come home to this district who had the misfortune to be shot through the arm. Several inches of the bone have had to be taken away, and he has practically lost the use of that arm. The doctor who attended the injured solider asked what he was, and one being told he was a miner, blandly asked if he would be able to take up his work at the pit again! It showed what idea that doctor had of what a miner’s work consists of.

There are many of our soldiers who have been wounded and severely maimed who are not discharged from army service, nor are they likely to be so long as the war lasts at any rate. These men are useful for home defence for drilling and training young soldiers and for various positions in the commissariat and other departments of army work.

What is to be done with the army of men who have been declared medically unfit? Some of these young men — many of them — are apparently strong fellows who have been rejected for some particular defect, but at the same time they could be found home service in many departments.

There are indeed comparatively few men who are physically perfect.

Doubtless our Government in the future time will deal with this matter. It is a pity that some effort has not been made to make some provision to deal with such cases before now. It will doubtless be done, but we are not a people who hurry in such matters.


At a conference of representatives of the North of England Steamship Owners’ Association, the Sunderland Shipowners’ Society and Hartlepool Shipowners’ Society, the North of England Trimmers’ and Teemers’ Association and the National Union of Railwaymen, it was mutually agreed that the war bonus arrangement concluded on March 3rd be cancelled, and that in lieu thereof a final bonus of 20 per cent be granted to trimmers over and above their total earnings under the respective tariffs at present in force between Amble and the Hartlepools inclusive; the same to be operative during the war, and for three months after the declaration of peace upon all vessels commencing to load as from December 13th, 1915.

Steamers more than half loaded on Saturday, December 11th, to be at present tariff rates, and those less than half loaded, completing on December 13th or subsequently, shall come under the increased tariff rates.


Sir,— With a view to considering what steps can be taken to ensure that a sufficient supply of skilled men will be available to work machines for steam cultivating and ploughing during the coming spring, Lord Selbourne has requested the War Agricultural Committee to obtain from proprietors of steam tackle in the county full particulars of the men required to work the existing sets of machines and of any shortage of skilled men at the present time.

Lord Selbourne intimates that the War Office may possibly agree to arrangements being made for the release on furlough of skilled men who have enlisted in order to take part in spring cultivation.

The simplest way of obtaining this information will be for each machine owner to send a postcard with his name and address to this Committee, and he will then receive a form of inquiry in which the particulars required by Lord Selbourne can be given.

May I take this opportunity of referring to the arrangements made by the Departmental Committee on Fertilisers under which 25 per cent of the make of sulphate of ammonia of each manufacturer for the months of November and December is held in reserve for farmers’ use, and can be purchased at not more than £14 10s. per ton., single bags free, f.o.r. at works net cash, delivered in lots of not less than 10 cwt. each. This price applies to sulphate of ammonia containing 20 16 per cent of nitrogen.

I shall be glad to send a list of the makers of sulphate of ammonia in Northumberland on application. —Yours etc.,

C. WILLIAMS, Hon. Secretary

Northumberland War Agricultural Committee

The Moothall, Newcastle-on-Tyne


An enjoyable concert was held on Saturday in the Central Hall at Broomhill, presided over by Lady Howick, and which had for its object to raise money for British Red Cross Funds.

Mr C. Alderson of East Chevington introduced Lady Howick to the large audience. She gave an account of the work done in the various countries by the Red Cross and of money needed to carry on that work. She thanked the Broomhill people for their help.

The musical part of the programme was in the hands of Mr J. Vine, organist of Seaton Hirst Parish Church, who provided an excellent concert party.

On the motion of Mr Hemsley, Bullocks Hall, seconded by Mr Grey, a hearty vote of thanks was accorded to Lady Howick and the performers.

Mr Thos. Hemsley and Mr Hall (South Steads) kindly lent their cars to bring the performers from Newbiggin and Ashington.

The sum of £18 17s. was realised, which included donations of £1 from Mrs Hemsley of Woodside and £1 from Mrs Merivale of Togston Hall.


The last sewing meeting before Christmas was held on Thursday, the 16th inst., when tea was kindly given for the third time by Mrs F. Brumell, Fulbeck. That of the previous week, for which we have to thank Miss Griffiths, Newgate Street, realised £1 10s.

The thanks of the Mayor and the committee have been sent to Mrs Moffitt, Oldgate, for the handsome sum of £4, half proceeds of the sale of work organised by herself and daughters and held on December 12th; also to the children of the junior classes of Morpeth High School and Morpeth Council Schools for Girls, for gifts of woollen comforts for the soldiers; Mrs Carr and Mrs Pyle, Hudson Place, 2/6 each (4th donation); Mrs Allon Burn, socks and donation of £1; Mrs M. Tighe, 5/-; Mrs F.E. Schofield, a parcel of shirts and socks; Mrs Shaw, mufflers; Mrs Geo, Smith, socks; Miss K, Hopper, mufflers; Miss Logan, helmet; Miss Eva Jackson, helmet and socks; Mrs Halls, 2/6.

A letter of thanks for a bale sent out to C Squadron, Northumberland Hussars, has been received from Trooper W.C. Angus, and many grateful Morpeth men at the Front, to whom individual parcels have been sent from the Sewing Meeting.

Large bales have been sent this week for the Navy, c/o Miss Agness Watson, the “Sailors’ Friends,” and to Mrs Carrington Wilde for the Serbian relief.


Captain Mitford, at Morpeth Court on Wednesday, after hearing applications from proprietors of pictures halls at Ashington and Newbiggin, asked Supt. Marshall if he had any objections to Christmas Day performances.

The superintendant’s laconic reply was: “No; better there than elsewhere,” a reply which sensible people will endorse.

Christmas Day used to be great for shooting matches and football, but another kind of shooting has upset all this.


Mr G.M. Trevelyan, in command of the British Red Cross Ambulance in Italy, has received the following letter from the Commander of the 6th Italian Army Corps:—

“Dear Sir, I thank you for your hospitable welcome during my visit this afternoon I wish to express my sincere appreciation as to the way in which your hospital sanitary arrangements and ambulance was organised, so as to work with the greatest possible efficiency.

“As representative of the Army Corps I have the honour to command, I desire to convey my sentiments of sincere gratitude to a body of most estimable British citizens, who, handed together in a most brotherly spirit towards the Italian nation, have rendered on the battlefield under my command inestimable services; have carried under peril of their lives under the enemy’s fire close on 5,000 of our sick and wounded to our ambulances and hospitals, have carried over 40,000 kil. of ground, have placed under the skilful care of your medical offices and nurses our wounded in your hospital wards.

“It is a new message of affection from your greatest country to ours whereby in its eloquent significance I am glad to be under a debt towards the British Red Cross and all its esteemed members.

(Signed) LUGI CAPELLO, Commander V.I.

Army Corps, to G. M. Trevelayn, Esq.”


Sir,— For some time past a great need has been felt for accessories to enable the carrying on of sports in a proper manner for the men of this battalion. The present is an appeal to the people of this district for funds to purchase and renew the necessary outfits.

Specially welcome would be the receipt of football boots and footballs, but as distinctive colours are required for the jerseys, monetary help is necessary for this.

Many men of this district are serving with this Unit.

The above will gladly be received by the Treasurer, Regimental Sports Committee, 7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (2nd Line), Fishgate Schools, York, and acknowledged. —Yours, etc.,

H. HAWLEY, Sergt.-Major.

W. WELCH, Coy.-Sergt.-Major

Fishergate Schools, York.