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.
Christmas has come and gone. In spite of the war most people rose nobly to the occasion, banished all sorrow and sadness for the time being, and spent what was after all a joyous Christmas.
The soldiers stationed in Morpeth entered largely into the festivities that had been arranged for the occasion and had quite a merry time of it.
The sick and wounded in the V.A.D. Hospital at Morpeth were handsomely entertained on Christmas Eve through the generosity of a distinguished doctor in Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.A., who on more than one occasion has visited our esteemed townsman, Mr F.E. Schofield, when on a visit to England.
From a letter read by Mr Schofield at the gathering it appeared that he had been the recipient of a cheque from his doctor friend with instructions to use it as he thought fit on behalf of “England’s suffering boys”. So Mr Schofield very thoughtfully organised a tea and entertainment for the “suffering boys” in the local V.A.D. Hospital. The wards were tastefully decorated and presented quite a Christmassy appearance.
It was pleasing to note how happy and contented the patients were, and in a chat with some of them they were loud in their praises of the many kindnesses shown to them by every member of the hospital staff. The tea and the good things served by the nurses were, needless to say, greatly enjoyed by the occupants of the wards and the visitors.
Prior to the entertainment Mr F.E. Schofield, who presided, delivered an interesting address: –
It is my privilege, on behalf of your host across the Atlantic, to bid you welcome and to wish you all a very happy Christmas. Opinions differ very widely regarding the attitude of America and Americans generally in this crisis of our national history. Into these we may not enter. It is enough for us to know that the heads and hearts of many of the wisest and best citizens of that great country are entirely with us and beat in unison with those of the sons of the Empire in maintaining the Justice and the Righteousness of our cause. We are the guests of one of them. Let me read to you a few sentences from his interesting letter.
“This terrible war has made me feel that you would hardly like hearing from our country. England has many friends here, in fact, the great majority favour her, and we shall hail with great joy the day of peace when England gets her reward and great glory from this awful war.” (Applause.)
“Sad that so many good people of all countries must suffer and fall. May the day hasten when all will be settled and England’s right be uppermost.
“I want to send a small Christmas gift to you to spend as you see fit to help England’s Suffering Boys. With most kind regards with the most pleasant memories of England and her people – especially Morpeth.” (Loud applause.)
Proceeding, Mr Schofield said:– The small Christmas gift was a very substantial cheque, and if I feel the responsibility I also feel a pride in being entrusted with the disposal of it. First thoughts are often the truest and best.
Immediately on its receipt I thought of two objects. I may be pardoned if my mind flashed instantly to my girl across the channel, and she is now, I expect, dispensing a considerable portion of it in comforts to the boys at the Front. And then I thought of you!
No one knows better than myself what fine work this little hospital has done and is doing. Within a few days of the outbreak of war we were in full working order – a going concern – and we have been going ever since. Over 750 patients have passed through the wards and this number does not include a single one of the many out-patients. (Applause.)
From Mrs Joicey, the Commandant, who has been nothing short of an inspiration to the latest recruit to the staff, all have worked with a will and self-sacrifice admirable in the extreme. One feels proud to be connected with such an institution, and as an official I take this opportunity to sincerely thank the Mayor and Corporation and the Education Committee of the County Council for providing us with such excellent premises. (Applause.)
Thanks are also due to the many kind friends in the town and neighbourhood who have so spontaneously supported us. Familiar though he is with the administration of a huge hospital of world-wide fame, I feel sure my friend, your friend, will be delighted to learn of this gathering, and in his name I again wish you a very happy time; and you, especially who are sick or wounded, a speedy return to health and strength. (Loud applause.)
The entertainer was Clarence White, A.C.M., who was assisted by Miss Smith, from Messrs Mawson, Swan, and Morgan, Newcastle. The first part of Mr White’s entertainment consisted of conjuring feats, and he performed some very clever tricks. As a ventriloquist he proved a performer of no mean ability. Miss Smith presided at the piano and also sang.
Major Turner proposed a vote of thanks to the donor of the gift and also to Mr Schofield through whose agency the entertainment had been made possible. He felt sure that what they all appreciated more than anything else was the expression of good feeling from friends in America, which they welcomed at this particular time in their country’s history. He also referred to the splendid work that had been accomplished in connection with the hospital. He asked for three hearty cheers for their host in America, to whom they were indebted for the entertainment provided.
The soldiers cheered with great gusto.
The Mayor (Ald. Norman) then moved a vote of thanks to the officials and those connected with this hospital for having done so much to make the proceedings such a success. He congratulated them upon the splendid work they were doing from week to week, and also for the splendid work they had achieved in the past. Many soldiers who had now left this district had pleasant memories of Morpeth. He also made mention of Mr Schofield and his thoughtfulness in promoting this entertainment, which showed what a little kindness and attention to a stranger when he visited Morpeth could result in. This was the result of that kindness and attention which Mr Schofield had shown to his American friend when in the North. (Applause.)
The vote was carried with enthusiasm.
Mrs Brumell, replying on behalf of the staff, expressed their gratitude to Mr Schofield for having carried out this treat so successfully. She also thanked the Mayor and Corporation for their kindness to them. She alluded to the work of the matron and also to the fact that all the nurses worked harmoniously together. (Applause.)
Fine weather prevailed on Christmas Day, which was an agreeable contrast to the miserable weather conditions during the earlier part of the week.
At all the churches in the town special services were held and were attended by good congregations.
SOLDIERS’ BILLETS TASTEFULLY DECORATED
The soldiers stationed in Morpeth and district entered largely into the festivities organised on Christmas Day. The men at the different billets were given special Christmas fare.
With commendable enterprise the officers of the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers quartered in the town offered a substantial money prize to the best decorated billet. Needless to say, the men entered into the competition with great animation, and the results of their labours were pleasing to behold.
At each of the billets the decorations were on an elaborate scale, flags, evergreens, holly, and Chinese lanterns being introduced with artistic effect. Coloured paper festoons stretched from side to side also lent colour to the decorations. Appropriate Christmas greetings appeared on the walls.
The prize was awarded to the men of C Company, billeted in the Council School, all the classrooms being treated in artistic fashion, and especially in the Central Hall.
On Monday night the men of C Company were given a dance by their officers in honour of winning the prize for decorations.
The tug-of-war competition for which prizes were given, was won by B Company.
AT THE PLAYHOUSE
Through the kindness of the management of the Playhouse, Morpeth, the soldiers in the town were given a free matinees performance.
A special programme of pictures was shown. The Reno Quartette, in their refined singing act, also appeared, as did also Trooper Fowler and his Nine Cheery Cheshires.
In the afternoon an interesting football match took place, at Stobhill, between teams chosen from the Conservative Club and the R.A.M.C. of the Cheshire Yeomanry. The match resulted in an easy win for the Cheshires by five goals to one. The proceeds were in aid of the local V.A.D. Hospital.
MORPETH RED CROSS HOSPITAL
Christmas Day was celebrated in appropriate fashion in the hospital maintained by the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross Society in Morpeth, where a number of men on the sick list from the various billets in the town joined the in-patients.
In the forenoon a short service conducted by the Rev. F.C. Hardy was much appreciated. This was followed by a seasonable dinner of goose and plum pudding, and other viands more suitable for such of the patients as could not do justice to the traditional Christmas fare. The dinner was cooked and sent to table by Miss Scott of Hepscott, one of the volunteer cooks of the Detachment, whose skilful and never-failing services have contributed so much to the success of the hospital.
During the afternoon a Christmas tree laden with gifts suitable for soldiers on active service was stripped of its fruit, and every soldier received some suitable presents. In the evening a concert party, got together by Mrs J.J. James, provided an enjoyable entertainment.
All the arrangements were carried out by the officers and nurses of the Detachment, assisted by the matron, Sister Hannah.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Private John Robinson, 8th East Yorks, B Company has been wounded and missing since 26th September. Information will be gladly received by his wife, Mrs Robinson, 1 Crawford Street, Morpeth (late of Pegswood).
Official intimation has been received by Mr and Mrs James Dickinson, 53, Shankhouse Terrace, Shankhouse, that their son was killed in action in France, on Sunday, December 19th. Pte. Dickson is a married man, and resided at Stickley Farm Cottages, Cramlington. He leaves a widow and two children.
THE NEW YEAR
Today we bid good-bye to 1915, and the event inspires pensive thoughts and many painful reflections, of which there is too much evidence on every side of us, and which will obtrue into almost every home in this terrible time of strife and war.
Such is the dark side of the question, but we must, so far as it is possible, lay aside futile reflections and as the buzzers and bells ring out exclaim:–
“Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night,
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.”
In the confident anticipation that 1916 will bring victory to our nation and Allies, and establish more firmly than has ever been known the peace of the world, let us wish all readers “a Happy New Year”.
MINERS AND THE ARMY
The general auditors of the Northumberland Miners’ Association in their quarterly report just issued show that the arrears totalled £383 17s. 9d.
The number of members who had enlisted up to the end of the September quarter was 9,999, and 784 half-members also had enlisted.
Of these 1,066 members, and 33 half-members, were employed at Ashington; 505 members and 38 half-members at Woodhorn, 226 members and 10 half-members at Ellington, and 195 members and 33 half-members at Linton – a total of 2,106 enlistments from the Ashington group of collieries.
There were 4664 enlistments from North Seaton, 293 from Newbiggin, 356 from Wallsend Rising Sun, 210 from Wallsend, 251 from Burradon, 245 from Cowpen, 221 from East Holywell, 220 from Seghill, 271 from North Walbottle, and 258 from Walker-Ann Pit.
THE SOLDIERS’ INSTITUTE
The friends and supporters of this popular soldiers’ institute provided an excellent concert and supper for the men on Christmas night. The hall was tastefully and artistically decorated for the occasion by Mr F.C. Murphy and Mr T.B. Waters, assisted by men of the 6th N.F. and the Signallers’ Service of the W.B.M.B.
There was a striking Christmas greeting over the buffet — ”A Merry Christmas to the Boys, 1915,” and on each side were the initials of the two regiments quartered in the town, namely W.B.M.B. and 3/6th N.F.
For the decorations, holly and evergreens were sent by Mr Geo. Renwick, Mr F. Brumell, Captain Mitford, and Canon Davies. Flags were kindly lent by Messrs W. Burn and Son and Messrs Armstrong and Angus.
Addressing the large gathering, Mr Geo. Renwick, of Springhill, who presided, said: On behalf of the committee of this institute we bid you all welcome. We hope that next year we will have peace — an honourable peace. This is the second Christmas this war has lasted, but we hope that there will not be a third.
We all feel that if we have to continue fighting that the Northumberlands, the Shropshires, the Denbighs, and the Cheshires in our midst will be fired with the same enthusiasm as the men who already have done excellent deeds at the Front.
I do not need to remind you of the gallant deeds which the Northumberlands have done not only in this war, but in other wars which this country has been engaged in during the last three or four hundred years. They are called the “Old and Bold” and “The Fighting Fifth.” We have now thirty-one battalions of that gallant regiment. I am proud of them. (Applause.)
We are pleased to see you in Morpeth, and we hope that you are well treated and feel at home here. This institute is your institute. It is not controlled by sect or denomination. All denominations assist in its management. We have had this institution in operation for upwards of twelve months, and I don’t know what Morpeth would have done without it for you gallant men.
After the concert is over we are going to invite every man here to have supper. (Applause.) I hope you will all have an exceedingly good supper. The ladies have taken some considerable trouble to provide the good things for you. Cigarettes will also be handed round. (Applause.)
Proceeding, he said: We had the Scottish Horse for other ten months, and fine chaps they were. They went to Gallipoli. We have pleasant remembrances of them. We watch their deeds with interest as we watch the deeds of all the men who leave the district.
We have had comparatively little complaint of the men here, the men being of excellent character. I want you boys to keep up that reputation which you have gained. You can have your little squabbles, but always remember that you wear the King’s uniform. (Applause.) You have great traditions to live up to, and you are going to defend your King and country. When the time comes for you to leave us we will follow your career with interest. (Applause.)
An interesting programme was rendered.
After the concert the men were entertained to supper, a number of ladies and officers present serving out the good things. The men also received apples and oranges.
ROLL OF HONOUR
HOPKINS.— At the General Hospital, Alexandria, on the 17th inst., of pneumonia, in his 26th year, Private William Hopkins, 6th East Yorks, of Bedlington.— Deeply mourned by his mother, sisters, brothers, and brothers-in-law.
MORPETH SOCIAL CLUB’S GENEROSITY
Dear Sir,— I have received the valuable parcel you despatched for my benefit, and I feel it my duty to write and thank you and all members of the Morpeth Social Club concerned in carrying out this work.
I am sure it will cause you no end of bother and a certain amount of labour attached to it, that it makes one feel sure you have not forgotten the chaps who have so unselfishly sacrificed all the comforts and pleasures of home life and accepted all the discomforts and hardships of warfare. It is very pleasing indeed to know that our own townspeople have so big an interest in us.
We have just come out of the trenches after holding the line for sixteen days and doing all that was asked of us whilst there. If only some of you chaps could see our faces when a parcel arrives you would just think some one was pulling up a blind and revealing the smile that appears.
Well, my friends, seeing I will be back in the firing line by Christmas, I take the pleasure of wishing you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.—
No. 195664 Pte. J. STRAKER.
A Coy., 4th Platoon,
10th Northumberland Fusiliers,
B.E.F., 17th Dec., 1915
NORTHUMBERLAND MINERS AND THE NATIONAL NEED
At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Northumberland Miners’ Association, held at Burt Hall Newcastle, on Friday, the following resolution bearing upon miners’ holidays in the County at Christmas and New Year was adopted:—
“Having had a communication from Sir Richard Redmayne, Chief Mines’ Inspector, saying that the Coal Organisation Committee desired the miners in all districts of the country to limit their holidays at Christmas and New Year owing to the great need of the country for coal, we, while not requesting our members to give up their holidays on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, yet knowing the habit of a number of miners to lay off idle a day or two in addition to these two holidays, desire to impress upon those members the necessity on this occasion, of giving up these additional days’ holiday as, in our opinion, we have got to make up our minds that if we desire this country to come through this war undefeated every man and women will have to do their utmost to meet their country’s needs.
“This is necessary on the part of those at home as it is on the part of those at the front, and the sooner this is recognised the better, as only by this can defeat be avoided.”
OUR OWN COLUMN
What was a pleasing feature during the Christmas holidays was the manner in which the soldiers in our midst were catered for. In Morpeth and district they had a right merry time.
The billets of the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers last week were beehives of industry, the officers having offered the men money prizes for the best decorated quarters. Naturally they entered into the affair with great zeal, and the result of their labours was that each company had their quarters transformed into a sort of fairyland.
The sick and wounded in the local Red Cross hospital were the recipients of many good things, and on Christmas Eve they were the guests of a distinguished American doctor who had sent a cheque to one of our townsmen to be spent as he thought fit on behalf of some of England’s suffering boys.
The Soldiers’ Institute was also the scene of special entertainment to the lads in khaki, and to show how much they appreciate the good work done by those who are responsible for running this popular institute, we need only publish the following kindly note which has been received by the secretary:— ”We, the 6th N.F., thank the committee of the Soldiers’ Institute for they way they look after us and our comrades. We are sure that they could not get a better feed or a cheaper one in the town. We know it cannot be done at any profit, indeed it will need more money than the takings to keep it going. Wishing you all a ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘A Happy New Year.’”
DAYS OF NATIONAL PENITENCE AND PRAYER.
Sir,— The two Archbishops, in conjunction with the heads of all the other great religious organisations of the country, and with the hearty approval of the King, are calling upon the nation to observe December 31st, January 1st and 2nd as days of humble approach to Almighty God.
The Lord Mayor of London has approached the civic heads of all the municipalities throughout the land, asking them to co-operate in securing a due observance of these days, especially of Sunday, January 2nd; and I believe the Lord Mayor’s request is meeting with a large response. Appropriate services will be held on Sunday all over the land, and I appeal to all men and women of good will in Morpeth to enter worthily into the spirit of these days and to take part in the religious services.
The offertory in St James’ Church throughout Sunday will be given by special request to the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem in England for the relief of the sick and wounded upon our several battle fronts. And as not less than £25,000 a week is now needed to maintain these great healing agencies, I venture to appeal to those who for one cause or another may be prevented from being present to send their contributions so that they may be added to the collections.— Yours etc.,
JOHN J. DAVIES,
Rector of Morpeth.
December 24th, 1915.
NEW LIGHTING ORDERS
We would call attention to the two new lighting orders under the Defence of the Realm Act which will come into operation on January 10th. It should be noted that important new provisions are contained in the Orders in question in regard to external lights of all descriptions, lights in shops and houses, the drawing down of blinds in railway carriages, and lights on vehicles.
The instructions to shopkeepers and householders are worth noting here. In the case of the former the intensity of the inside lighting of shops and shop fronts must be reduced or shaded so that no more than a dull subdued light is visible outside; and in particular all sources of light must be shaded with some opaque material so that all direct light therefrom is cut off from the windows and doors.
As for dwelling houses, inside lights must be so shaded or reduced or the windows and glass doors so screened that no more than a dull subdued light is visible from any direction outside.
In regard to the Lights on Vehicles Order, its limits of application are explained, with the addition that Part III., which states that lights must be further reduced by using a perforated cap or disc of prescribed form on electric and acetylene lamps, and by covering the reflector and inside panels of oil or candle lamps, applies to the following areas:– Bedlington (Urban district), Berwick (borough), Blyth (Urban district), Gosforth (Urban district), Newbiggin (Urban district), Newcastle, Seaton Delaval (Urban district), Tynemouth (county borough), Wallsend (borough), and Whitley and Monkseaton (Urban district).
Both Orders should be carefully perused by all persons interested, and if the instructions as set forth are carried out to the letter then it is hardly necessary to add that it will save no end of needless trouble to those in authority, whose duty is to see that the Home Office Orders are strictly adhered to.
THE SPIN OF A COIN
How the issues of life and death were decided by the spin of a coin is related by a Gordon Highlander, who having sustained over forty wounds in the battle of Loos, has just been discharged from hospital.
“Shortly before the battle,” he said, “two of us were detached from our battalion to make up the number in charge of a heavy trench mortar. I had only been there a day when one of the regular men in charge of the mortar returned. My comrade and I thereupon tossed for who should return to our regiment. I won, and returned. A few hours later I learned that my comrade had been killed by shell.”
THE KING’S MESSAGE TO HIS FORCES
The following message from the King is published in Naval and Military Orders throughout the Empire:—
Christmas Day 1915.
Another Christmas finds all the resources of the Empire still engaged in war, and I desire to convey, on my own behalf and on behalf of the Queen, a heartfelt Christmas greeting and our good wishes for the New Year to all who on land and sea are upholding the honour of the British name.
In the officers and men of my Navy, on whom the security of the Empire depends, I repose, in common with all my subjects, a trust that is absolute.
On the officers and men of my Army, whether now in France, in the East, or in other fields, I reply with an equal faith, confident that their devotion, their valour, and their self-sacrifice will, under God’s guidance, lead to victory and an honourable peace.
There are many of their comrades, now, alas in hospital, and to these brave men also I desire, with the Queen, to express our deep gratitude and our earnest prayers for their recovery.
Officers and men of the Navy and of the Army, another year is drawing to a close as it began, in toil, bloodshed, and suffering, and I rejoice to know that the goal to which you are striving draws nearer into sight.
May God bless you and all your undertakings.