In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1916, 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.

Owing to a Zeppelin alarm in the district, the town gas supply was turned off last night and remained off until 8 o’clock this (Friday) morning and our machinery has been standing all that time.

In consequence, we have not been able to get out our publication until about noonday, and several reports will be held over until next week.


The many friends of Mr John Hann, a former well-known resident of Morpeth, will read with interest the following communication which we have just received:— “You will be glad to hear that the last man to leave Gallipoli was a native of Morpeth in the person of my son, Stuart, who is in the Naval Reserve.

“The evacuation of Anzac and Suvla was followed by that of Helles, the southern part of the peninsula, where he was and has been since last May, and unquestionably both British and Colonial troops have done rare deeds of heroism and covered themselves with undying glory. The evacuation was a wonderful feat, unequalled in military annals.

“In his last letter, 16th Jan., Stuart writes as follows:— ’I have changed my place of abode and am now along with the Hawke Battalion on a lonely island not far off, but still out of shell fire, and glad to be away for a while from the boom of the cannon.

“‘I had quite an exciting time a few days ago before we left and also on the day when we took leave. I was took off for some special work and found that I would be the last man down certain trenches, and so well was the secret kept that Johnny Turk was still bombing away at empty trenches some time after we had left. After doing the bit of work assigned to me I made my solitary way down to the beach where one of H.M. destroyers was awaiting me.’ ”


The coalowners of Northumberland having suggested that, in view of the shortage of labour at the mines in the county, it might be advisable to employ women at the pit-head, the Executive Committee of the Northumberland Miners’ Association have considered the proposal, and they are opposed to the idea, as they do not think a case has been made out for the introduction of female labour at the pits.

The committee considers that should there be any scarcity of labour at the pit-head in future there are numbers of old men who have been discarded as unprofitable, who might be re-employed for the duration of the war.

Further, the committee is of the opinion that there are strong men employed on the surface who might be given employment underground; while, on the other hand, there are weak men working in the pit who might be better employed at bank.

If these recommendations were acted upon, the committee thinks they would meet the present circumstances.


Sunday last was a trying day for the Congregationalists in Morpeth, especially for those who assembled in the morning, when the minister of the church, the Rev. Jos. Miller, referred to the fact that one of their number had laid down his life in England’s righteous cause on the field of battle, namely Lance-Corporal W.R. Soulsby of Morpeth, of the 2nd Sportsman’s Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, who was killed in the trench. Mr Miller spoke as follows:—

“It is my painful duty once again to make an announcement of sad news. Not that I am going to tell you of something you do not already know, for you are all aware of the intimation I am about to make. You have all heard that Mr W.R. Soulsby was killed in the trench on Jan. 27th. But I think it is becoming that we should express our sympathy with Mr and Mrs Soulsby and family, the father and mother and brothers and sisters of him whose death we all lament, in the great loss they have sustained through their sad bereavement. I am very pleased that so much kindly and sympathetic feeling has been shown towards them. Let us continue to do this and try to make their burden of grief our own.

“We have the very best testimony from the front regarding our young brother. His death is mourned not only by those survivors who were with him in the trench, but by all the company to which he belonged. Let us remember this, and remember too, that he died at his post, and that he died for us. For in such remembrance there will be comfort, and throughout unceasing sympathetic thought and prayer there will surely come something of consolation to our friends who are bereaved, especially as our Heavenly Father, who is mindful of all, will hear our petitions on their behalf.”

Mr Miller than read the names on the Church’s Roll of Honour, and proceeded to commend the grief-stricken family to God in a prayer that was full of soulful passion, and that sympathy and fellow-feeling about which he had spoken. Mr E.C. Jackson, choirmaster, and Mr R.C. Oliver, the former on the violin and the latter on the organ, played “O Rest the Lord,” in a most sympathetic manner as well as with the finished art that characterises the services of these two gentlemen.

Let it be said, however, that whilst every heart was troubled, there was nevertheless an air of quiet confidence in God, and the congregation had a semi-conscious — a mystic — sense of the rest to which they felt sure the happy warrior had gone.

Mr and Mrs E.D. Soulsby have had a most sympathetic letter from the chaplain, Rev. T.W. Taylor, in which he says:— “It is with the deepest regret that I write to you to inform you of the death in action on Thursday last, January 27th, of your son Lance-Corporal W.R. Soulsby, 2582, of the 24th Royal Fusiliers. I buried him the following day in a little cemetery not far behind the firing-line, and soon the spot will be marked with a plain wooden cross — the emblem of the Highest Sacrifice — and so the most fitting mark of the ‘final resting place here’ of all our fallen comrades.

“I know that both his officers and his comrades thought highly of him, and probably you will also hear shortly from his officer.

“Also, may I be allowed to express my deepest sympathy with you in your touching loss, but I think that the pain a mother always feels at the loss of her son, in your case may be softened by a sense of justifiable pride in being the mother of a noble son who gave himself for his country in its hour of need.”

Mr and Mrs Soulsby have also received a letter from Lieut. C.P. Harvey. He writes:— “It is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you that your son, Lance-Cpl W.R. Soulsby, was killed in action on the night of the 27th January. It will be a relief to you to know that he suffered no pain, as his death was instantaneous.

“He is a great loss to me as his platoon officer, as he was an exceedingly good N.C.O., always cheerful and carrying out his many arduous duties willingly and thoroughly. He served his King and country with a very willing heart, and his death is keenly felt and regretted by me and by all whom he was known. His Company Officer, Captain Pagent, wishes me to convey to you his deep sympathy and regret, and which please be good enough to accept from me.”

The deceased was a particularly fine young fellow and well-liked by his companions. He was educated at the Boys’ Free School, under R.J. Carr. For a number of years he was a member of the Morpeth Boys’ Brigade and rose to the rank of sergeant. After leaving school he went into the office of Messrs Molineaux and Sinton, solicitors, Newcastle. He shortly afterwards went to Barclay’s Bank at Hetton-le-Hole, and was transferred to the Bank’s branch at Blyth.

On the 10th January, 1915, he joined the 2nd Sportsman’s Battalion Royal Fusiliers, along with others belonging Barclay’s Bank. This is the first break of a large family of sons, and his father and mother are naturally very much distressed.


Mrs E.H. Glass, 158 Bothal Terrace, Pegswood, has received the following kindly note from Lieut. and Q.M. B. Neville, 1/7th N.F., B.E.F., France:— ”Dear Madam, as Capt. Smail has left this battalion I have taken upon myself to distribute the gifts so kindly provided by your band of little ones and yourself.

“The socks are of especial value during the cold and wet weather as the men have to stand for hours in mud and water in the trenches. I can therefore assure you they thoroughly appreciate the thoughtfulness that prompted you and your little band to send these articles. I enclose a picture post-card for each of the children, thanking them personally for their kindly consideration for Tommy.”


We have received the following communication from Sergt. J. Bell, “A” Coy., 10th N.F., B.E.F.:—

“I ask you if you would kindly allow the space in your most valuable paper for two short poems composed by Lance-Corporal J.G. Dunsmore, of the 10th N.F. He is a native of Barrington Colliery, and is well known in musical circles, and I think you will agree with me when I say that his talents are not confined there. His poem, “The Sentry,” is very true. I hope this will not be too much for your columns, which are greatly appreciated in the trenches.”


(Composed by L.-Cpl J.G. Dunsmore, A Coy., 10th N.F.)

Peeping over the parapet

With watchful eyes, he’ll stand

‘Neath the glare of bright star-shells

That light up “No Man’s Land.”

That patch of green so sacred,

Where men patrol by night,

Where friend and foe have fallen

For a cause which each thinks right.

He hears the monster guns

And the shells go tearing forth

On their measure of destruction

That shake the very earth;

All through the night he watches,

From sundown to sunrise,

Lest the foe at any moment

Take the trenches by surprise.

He stands there heedless of weather

And thinks of the price and its worth

To bring victory home to his loved ones,

And Peace, sweet Peace on earth;

He grips his rifle firmly,

To his shoulder it is tossed,

‘Cause he knows’ tis but his duty

Whate’re may be the cost.


Mrs Thomas, secretary of the local committee at Bolam for sending vegetable products to the Navy, has received the following letter:— ”I am desired by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (not only on his own behalf but of that in the ships’ companies in the Grand Fleet) to ask you to transmit to the chairman, committee, and members of your branch the deep appreciation and sense of indebtedness felt for their generous and sustained efforts, which have so materially ameliorated the conditions of service necessarily prevailing.”


The Northumberland Handicraft Guild, of which Earl Grey is president, points out that anyone who has woods, coloured cottons, canvas, or other material for embroidery or leather work to spare would help our wounded soldiers in a very practical way by responding to the appeal of the Guild for this class of material. It is a fact that the handicrafts classes now being held in Armstrong College and the Royal Infirmary are affording a pleasure and delight to the wounded soldiers housed in these institutions.


The quarterly meeting of the Town Council was held on Tuesday evening. The Mayor (Ald. Ed. Norman) presided.

An application was made by Mr Franklin Murphy on behalf of the V.A.D. Hospital for permission to put in a cooking range and independent hot-water boiler.

The Surveyor said he had no objection to this being done.

On the motion of Ald. Carr, it was agreed that permission be granted.

The Town Clerk said that he had written to the North-Eastern Railway Company asking them to take away the posts leading to the station. He had received a reply to the effect that they were afraid they could not do away with the posts. They were arranging, however, to have the posts painted white to prevent persons colliding with them.

The Mayor thought that when the Council had removed all their posts the Railway Company ought to meet them that far and remove those posts of theirs.

Ald. Carr: They won’t do anything until they make you a director.

It was agreed to write the Company again on the subject, as the posts were a source of danger to the public during these dark nights.


The following matters were considered by the Council in committee last Friday evening and were dealt with as stated:—

Ald. Carr proposed, seconded by Mr Charlton, and carried unanimously, that the meetings of the Council and the committees be held half-an-hour earlier during the duration of the war.

The Mayor read a letter in the form of an application from the employees of the Council for a permanent increase in their respective wages of 3/- per week.

Mr Fearby proposed, and Ald. Brown seconded that 2/- per week further war bonus be granted, making a war bonus of 4/- per week.

Mr Temple proposed as an amendment, seconded by Mr Elliott, that the Council give a war bonus of 1/- per week, making a war bonus of 3/- per week.

The amendment was lost by 11 votes to 2.

A letter was read from the Local Government Board stating that under the new Military Service Act, it was necessary that the tribunal elected a few weeks ago should be re-appointed.

Ald. Hood proposed that the following be re-elected:— The Mayor, Alds. Carr and Brown, Messrs Jackson, Duncan, Armstrong and the Town Clerk. Mr Simpson seconded.

Mr Fearby moved that the Town Clerk be deleted from the list. He thought it was not necessary that the Town Clerk — a paid official of the town — should be on any committee of any kind.

Ald. Carr pointed out that the Secretary of the Local Government Board intimated in a letter that it was very necessary that such men should be on the committee.

Mr Fearby: I am not saying anything against the Town Clerk, but I think it would be better if we have an independent legal gentleman representing us.

Town Clerk: At the time I asked not to be put on, but it was suggested I had special knowledge, having conducted the national registrations, and had other qualifications.

Mayor: The Town Clerk ought to be on.

Ald. Brown mentioned a high authority, who said it was necessary that the Clerk of each Council should be on the Tribunal Committees.

The motion was carried.

The Surveyor referred to the agreement, which was entered into in 1914 with the military authorities that they should pay one guinea a week for the Borough Hall, which was used as an hospital.

Two cheques had been received on November 9 and November 17 for sums amounting to £54 12s. From then up till January 28th that left a balance of 13 guineas due for rent of the hall. As instructed by the military authorities he had sent the amount for the thirteen guineas to several persons in turn, but it had always been returned.

It was pointed out in one or two of the letters received that in other places there was no charge for rent when the buildings were taken for V.A.D. hospitals.

The Town Clerk stated that at the time a charge was made for the use of the Borough Hall it was agreed that no rent was to be charged if the money had to come from the V.A.D. They were only to charge the military authorities.

Ald. Carr said that the money had come from the War Office.

Town Clerk: We have charged the military authorities and they have paid.

The matter was left in the hands of the Town Clerk to further investigate into it.


Arrangements have been made by “The Cheery Chesyoes,” the 2nd Cheshire Yeomanry Concert Party, to give a concert tonight (Friday) in the Longhirst school, the proceeds to be given in aid of the Armstrong College War Hospital.

The programme, which has been arranged by Private W. Fowler, musical director, is a varied and interesting one. “The Cheery Chesyoes” are ideal entertainers, and an enjoyable two hours at least are in store for those who attend the concert.


A very enjoyable concert, organised by Mr James Jobling, was held last Thursday in the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth. Mr N. I. Wright presided over a large audience.

Those who kindly contributed to the programme were:— Morpeth Gleemen (conductor, Mr John Wyatt), Mr Peel, Barrington; Miss Willis; Miss Reavell (Alnwick); Mr Bell, Bebside; Mr Jobling, Mr Marshall, Mr Wilkinson, and Mr Smail, Newcastle. Every item rendered was greatly appreciated.


Tea was kindly provided on Thursday, the 10th inst. at the above sewing meeting by Mrs S.R. Cooper and Miss Halton, and realised £1 10s. The committee have to thank Mrs Purdy for a gift of socks.

The following letter was received from Major Pollard, D.S.O., 1/1st Northumberland Field Company Royal Engineers:— ”Very many thanks for your kind letter. Please convey to the ladies of the Morpeth Sewing meeting how much we appreciate their goodness. I have had the bad luck to be hit, but my subaltern tells me that the bales have arrived and that he has issued the very useful articles to the men, giving preference to those from your town.”


The number of fatal cases which occur at our docks now is most regrettable and is largely a corollary of the extinguishing of lights on the quayside. Coroner Rutherford has had two of these cases within a week to investigate.

Assuming that a similar state of affairs are taking place in other seaports, the death-roll from this cause will be very much greater than that caused by the air raids of the Huns.


The net proceeds of the concert held in aid of the above hospital amounted to £67 16s 6d. The sum has been forwarded to the Hon. Mrs Arthur Joicey, commandant of the Hospital, by Lieut.-Col. D.C. Leyland Orton.


The Commandant of the V.A.D. Hospital begs to acknowledge the following gifts with thanks:— Mrs J. Simpson, cakes; Mrs MacDowall, fruit; Mrs Rayne, eggs; Miss Hunter, fruit and cake; Miss Morgan, grapes; Mrs Hudson, pillowcases and bolster; Miss Winnie Noble, eggs; Miss Arkless, book; Miss Jobling, eggs; anonymous, flower vases.


Private M. Lamb, N.F., of Seghill, has died of wounds.

Private Ed. Christie, son of Mr Edward Christie, Cambois, has been killed in action.

Private James Wilkinson, Northumberland Fusiliers, of Cowpen Colliery, has been wounded in France.

Pte. R.M. Lamb, of Whitehead’s Buildings, Seghill Colliery, who was attached to the 12th Battalion N.F., has been reported wounded in France.

Mrs T. Schofield of 15 Sinkers; Row, Dinnington Colliery, has received official intimation that her son, Seaman Broadhurst, Hawke Battalion, R.N.D., has been killed in action in the Dardanelles.

Mrs Preston, 17 Laburnum Avenue, Wallsend, late of Ashington, has received official notice of the death of her son, Corporal W.H. Preston, 8th N.F., who was killed in action on August 7th. He was previously reported missing.

Mr and Mrs J. McCallum, Low Double Row, North Seaton Colliery, will be glad of any information regarding their son, Private J.R. McCallum, 16827, Z Coy, 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, who has been missing since the battle of Hooge, June 16th, 1915.

Information has been received by Mr and Mrs Walker, 61 Portia Street, Hirst, that their son, Private John Walker, R.N.D., was killed in action in the Dardanelles. He was in his 21st year, and was last employed at Woodhorn Colliery.

Mrs McShane, of 25 Railway Row, Annitsford, has received official information that her brother-in-law, Private John McShane, was killed in action in France on January 12th. Prior to enlistment, he worked at Seghill Colliery.

Mrs Joseph Nicholson, of 9 East Terrace, Bomarsund, Bedlington, will be pleased to receive any information concerning her husband, Private Joseph Nicholson, 12th Northumberland Fusiliers, who has been missing since September 27th.

Mrs L.C. Elsworth, of Dryden’s Buildings, Forest Hall, has received information that her youngest son, Farrier, B.W.H. Elsworth, 5th Batt. N.F. (Transport Section), has been wounded, and her eldest son, Pte. D.R.H. Elsworth is also wounded.

James Albert Davey, son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Davey, of 21 Broomfield Road, Gosforth, has died from wounds received in France.


TERNENT.— Killed in France on the 26th ult., aged 37 years, George Henry, the dearly beloved husband of Eleanor Ternent of Choppington Station, and eldest son of John W. Ternent of Choppington Inn.

SOULSBY.— Killed in action, in France, on Jan. 27th, Lance-Corporal W.R. Soulsby, aged 23 years, of the 2nd Sportsman’s Battalion (Royal Fusiliers), the dearly loved son of E.D. and H.I. Soulsby, of Fenwick Grove, Morpeth.

COLLINGWOOD.— Killed in action on the 28th January, George Collingwood, late of Bedlington. Deeply mourned by his brother William and sister-in-law Maggie.


In bygone years it was often the case that farmers refused to take up the use of new implements because they had plenty of labour at a low rate. When able-bodied men were paid half-a-crown a day, or less, there was little inducement to supersede them by implements, and this is one of the reasons why farming is so far behind all other branches of work in the use of machinery.

Nowadays when wages are doubled and hands are scare even then, it makes a difference and the farmer who formerly passed machinery by is eagerly looking for help in this direction.

The development of the motor is likely to revolutionise farm work; the work of the past was developed on the line of slow moving horse-power, but that of the future will have petrol and steel for a motive power, with implements and methods to suit.


Writing to Mr William Barker, newsagent, Scotland Gate, from “Somewhere in France,” Lance-Cpl. Geo. Young, 11th Batt. N.F., says: “Just a few lines to thank you for the cigarettes which you kindly sent by Sergt. Robson to give to the Choppington boys in our battalion here. I am pleased to know and think that we are not forgotten by the people of Choppington. I want to thank you for the work you have done, also the committee and Mr Fail for holding a smoking concert on our behalf.”

Proceeding, he states: “There is a little bit of strafing going on by our own guns and the Germans, but our guns soon stop their fire now. We have got them beat for guns and shell. It is with great regret that I have to tell you that George Ternent has been killed.”


In response to the request of the Alnwick Technical Committee, a public meeting was held in the Corn Exchange, Alnwick, the object being to hear explained a scheme for dealing with munitions work in the town.

Sir Francis Walker gave details of what the Technical Committee had done and what was proposed to be done. He then proposed the following resolution.— ”With a view to helping the nation as fas as possible, it is proposed to organise the labour of the town for the manufacture of munitions of war, and that the necessary steps be taken to bring this about.

“(1) It will be necessary to have a committee to carry this out, to organise and make all arrangements, and that committee will require a certain amount of labour to assist it; (2) In addition to the present works in the town, it is proposed to start at least one other factory for voluntary workers, for which it is hoped a considerable amount of labour will be required.”

Mr James Kean seconded the motion.