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.
Second-Lieutenant Robert Oliver: Reported Missing, Sept, 25/27, 1915.
For several months now the members of the above congregation, and we may say the people of our town, have wondered if they would ever again be privileged to see Robert Oliver on this side of the veil. At times their hopes have been high, as they thought he might be a prisoner of war in Germany; on other occasions they have had their doubts, especially as time passed and no word was received of his whereabouts or condition.
Mr and Mrs W.L. Oliver, and other relatives of Robert, have made inquiries of a large number of people in official and unofficial circles, including soldiers who fought with him, members of the staffs of several Red Cross Societies, and H.M. the King of Spain. In every case the individuals concerned have replied in the most gracious and sympathetic terms, but not one of the many interested has been able to trace him.
In addition to this, several letters have passed between the Rev. Joseph Miller and his friend H.H. Morgan, Esq., American Consul in Hamburg; and on Saturday last, Mr Miller received the letter printed below from the American Consul in London:—
Sir,— I am directed by the Consul-General to inform you that a letter has been received from the American Consul-General in Hamburg, which reads as follows:— ’With reference to my letter dated Jan, 25th, 1916, in regard to Lieutenant Robert Oliver, I much regret to inform you that inquiries at all the prison camps and hospitals in Germany have failed to reveal any information whatever regarding the above-named. On the Rev. Mr Miller’s account I have taken special pains in this case, and can only regret that I have been unsuccessful, although I feel convinced that as no information can be obtained about him, he must be considered amongst the fallen.
I am Sir,
Very respectfully yours,
LESLIE E. REED
Mr Miller read the above letter to the congregation on Sunday morning, and spoke in the following terms:—
“You will remember my reference to the case of our brother on a Sunday soon after September 26th, 1915, and how my words expressed my ardent hope that further and better news might be received of him. During the months that have passed since then we have all waited for the word to assure us that Robert Oliver was still in the land of the living. At first we were all expectant, but with the lapse of time we began to have our doubts as to the likelihood of his return.
“Mr and Mrs W.L. Oliver have been hopeful until now, but not without considerable trial; for with them as with the rest of us there has been something of a struggle between hope and despair of hope. In a way, the case of one reported missing is better than one about which definite word of death is received, because there is at any rate the possibility of hearing good news; but on the other hand it is worse, because of the uncertainty and the possibility that the worst fears may be confirmed.
“We have all sympathised with family in their very trying experiences in the past, and I mention the matter today by way of appeal to you to continue to show your sympathy, and with me to make their burden of grief our own. You all knew Robert Oliver, and you remember him as a boy at school, and as a young man in business, and in general you recall his honourable and useful life. These are pleasant memories.
“We shall remember Mr and Mrs Oliver and Willie in our prayers and bear them up in the arms of faith remembering also, and assuring them that their son and brother, who we believe has fallen on the field of battle, died doing his duty to his king, his country, and his God.”
Our readers will be able to call to mind our paragraph in the “Herald” on January 7th, 1916, regarding the career of Lieut. Oliver, and particularly that he had been mentioned in a then recent despatch from Sir John French for gallant and distinguished conduct in the field, and we are pleased to print this further tribute to the memory of one who was highly esteemed in our community, and we also sympathise with those who have made so great a sacrifice in the interests of justice and righteousness.
THE BOYS’ BRIGADE ROLL OF HONOUR
In our columns last week attention was called to a matter which must be of considerable interest to many people in the town. In connection with the 1st Morpeth Company of the Boys’ Brigade arrangements are being made to have a Roll of Honour of the old members who are serving in any branch of His Majesty’s Forces.
It is intended to have a complete roll printed at the end of the present month, and Captain J.E. Johnson has the names of over 170 present and past members who are serving their country. There may be more unaccounted for yet, and Captain Johnson will be grateful to anyone who furnishes him with the name of an old member so that his name may be added to the number already enrolled.
He also mentions that he would be glad to receive the names of old scholars of St James’s school for the school Roll of Honour, which now contains 210 names, including three old boys who have gained the D.C.M.
Both Rolls of Honour when completed will no doubt be preserved and treasured for many years to come.
MORPETH CONSERVATIVE CLUB
The annual meeting of the Morpeth Constitutional Club was held on Wednesday evening. There was a good attendance of members, the chair being taken by Mr J.J. James. The secretary (Mr Jas. Stafford) presented his annual report, which read as follows:—
“During the year nothing of an unusual character has occurred, which requires special mention. Owing to the war there have been no whist drives, dances, or social functions held at the club, and therefore no revenue has been derived from this source.
“The takings from refreshments as will be observed from the balance sheet have been considerably larger this year than in any other year of the club’s history, owing to the fact that the soldiers stationed in the town and district have partaken largely of the club’s hospitality.
“The net profit, however, in spite of the large takings, though considerably in excess of any other year, is perhaps not so great as might on a casual glance have been expected, but this is readily accounted for having in view the increased expenditure owing to the war.
“Fuel and lighting are considerably dearer. The excise duty based on the amount of purchases is more than twice that of last year, and notwithstanding the fact that the price of refreshments (from some of which it is hardly possible to derive any profit whatever) is greatly in excess of what it has been on previous years, it will be observed from the balance sheet that a net profit of £39 5s. 4d. has been made as against £19 15s. 4d. for last year. This, having in view the increased expenditure owing to the exceptional circumstances, is, in my opinion, as satisfactory as it can be.
“One subject I wish to draw the attention of the members to is the fact that a very poor response had been made to the allotment of shares of 10/- each. This is undoubtedly due to the war, because men do not know how long they will be in civil life and therefore do not feel that they can run the risk of taking out a share at the cost of 10/-. It will be seen that only £11 has been received on this head, which means that only about 20 members have taken out the shares, and one or two have made small payments on account.
“It has been suggested to me, and personally I favour the suggestion, and would advise its adoption, that the shares be reduced to 1/- each and that each member be required to take out a share forthwith. The members who have paid 10/- could have a fresh certificate, and the 9/- refunded. This I think can be done by an amendment of the club rules carried by a majority of three-fourths of the members present and registered in due form.”
It was agreed that the shares be reduced from 10/- to 1/-.
Mr A Adams moved that the secretary receive some acknowledgement for services rendered. He proposed that he receive an honorarium of two guineas and a war bonus of £3 a year. Mr W. Woodhead seconded.
Mr Embleton moved an amendment that it be left in the hands of the committee. Mr Arrowsmith seconded.
The amendment was carried.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Private R. Skelton, 7th N.F., of East Chevington, has been killed.
Mrs Hay, of Jubilee Terrace, Bedlington Station, has received word that her brother-in-law, Sapper James Hay, has died from wounds.
News has been received by Mr John Emery, of Sleekburn, that his son, Seaman Thomas Emery, has been accidentally killed on board a warship at sea.
Private George Cormack, son of Mr Geo. Cormack, chemist, of the N.F., has been reported this week killed in France by a bullet, which passed through his head, killing another soldier also who was behind him.
Pte. James McSloy, of Blyth, has died of wounds in France. Madame Vernon Harcourt, sister, writing from hospital in France to the dead soldier’s mother intimated his death in a sympathetic letter in which she encloses a lock of hair, stating that he suffered patiently and was attended by the Catholic Chaplain, Father Lane, and died fortified by the rites of his Church.
News has been received by Mrs Dunn, of 39 Foreman’s Row, Seaton Delaval, that her husband, Lance-Sergeant Jas. Dun, 2nd Tyneside Scottish, has been killed in action. Lance-Sergeant Dunn was struck by shell fragments and died shortly afterwards. Deceased has been connected with the Seaton Delaval Football Club for some years, holding the position of treasurer at the time he enlisted. He leaves a widow and two children.
Mrs T. Embleton, Cresswell, has received the following letter from Lieut. D.B. Walker, R.N.D. (lying wounded in Guy’s Hospital, London), regarding the death of her only son, G.W. Embleton, R.N.D.:— ”For some months I was commanding your son’s platoon, and he was one of the best men I had, always prompt and clean on parade, cheerful under all circumstances, and a favourite with all hands. As to the manner of his death, I am afraid I can give you no information, as I was hit early in May myself. The Howe Battalion had a fine record, and your son helped to make it. We can do with many more like him to finish this dreadful war. Permit me to offer you my sympathy in your great loss.”
AT THE MERCY OF THE RAILWAY CO.
There are times when the lot of a picture hall manager is not to be envied — particularly when, from no fault of his own, the star picture does not arrive. Mr Tinsley was in the unfortunate position last Sunday night, much to be regretted, after the brilliant sequence of successes to which the Sunday night audiences have been treated of late.
Last Sunday night’s selection failed to turn up in time for exhibition. Allowance must be made for the fact that at the present moment we are at war, and all interests in connection with the war must be studied first.
Fortunately, it is not often one has been disappointed at the Playhouse, when one takes into consideration the tremendous number of pictures shown, but in view of the exceptional circumstances at present prevailing, the people of Morpeth have the good sense to appreciate the cause of an occasional little disappointment like this.
MORPETH LOCAL TRIBUNAL
The new tribunal constituted under the Military Service Act, 1916, for the municipal borough of Morpeth held their first meeting in the Council Chambers on Monday. There were present the Mayor (Ald. Norman); Town Clerk (Mr Jas. Jardin), Aldermen Brown and Carr, Councillors Duncan, Armstrong, and Jackson, and Major Crawford, military representative.
Applications for exemption were heard, three of which received temporary exemption for two months. The rest of the claims were not assented to.
Persons desirous of making claims for exemption are reminded that application ought as far as possible to be made to the clerk of the tribunal, Mr Wm. Duncan, 51 Newgate Street, not later than ten days after the calling up of their group or class. The tribunal also calls the attention of applicants that they must not approach a member of the tribunal as to their claims, and any attempt to so approach or canvass the tribunal is strictly prohibited.
Unattested single men of military age are reminded that their claims for exemption must be made before March 2nd, 1916.
MILITARY SERVICE ACT AND ORDERS
Sir,— Would you kindly oblige by allowing me a small space in your valuable paper to give a little information to those who are desirous, upon good and sufficient grounds, to claim exemption from the Military Service Act, viz.:—
1. A special exemption form must be obtained from the clerk to the local tribunal. This form must be filled in and returned to the said clerk before March 2nd, 1916.
2. There are no conditions that force you to attest before securing an exemption form.
3. You may secure exemption from combatant duties only, or absolute and complete exemption.
4. Conscientious objectors can be granted an absolute exemption if the tribunal are fully satisfied of the facts.
5. A person may take to the local tribunal a friend or lawyer to watch and argue his case.
6. Persons wishing to complete exemption on “conscientious” grounds must make their own application to the tribunal, and not alone rely on their employers claiming that they are indispensable.
7. If applicants fail to secure the exemption they require they can appeal to the Appeal Tribunal. This appeal should be sent in to the local tribunal within three days.
8. No person is allowed to sit on a tribunal who have publicly expressed sentiments which would appear to make them unfair judges in cases which are before such tribunals.
9. The tribunals are open to the public unless there is any special reason why at any time they should be cleared; even then, the wishes of the applicant must be consulted.
Hoping these few points will be of some assistance to your readers. Should anyone be desirous of further information I will be only too glad to give the same.
3 Duke Street, Ashington.
TRIBUNALS AND FARMERS
A correspondent writing on the above subject, states:— ”There are few to speak on behalf of farmers, because it may be that they are not members of a powerful union. But who is likely to know how many men it takes to work a farm — the man who has to do it, and who, moreover, has to pay his workmen, or officials in London, members of committees and tribunals who hardly know wheat from oats, and who never handled a plough?
“Will the military adviser tell us how many men it takes to work a pit? Farmers meet with scant consideration, though on them our existence ultimately depends?”
FREE-GIFT AUCTION SALE AT MORPETH
A very successful free-gift auction sale was held at the Morpeth Auction Mart on Wednesday in aid of the British Farmers’ Red Cross Fund. The sale, which was organised by the auctioneers, Messrs Thos. Clark and T.B. Waters, was generously supported by farmers and others in the surrounding district.
The contributions included fat sheep, veal calves, pork pigs, donkeys, H.B. mare, dogs, half-ton new land hay, fresh eggs, barley, wheat, and oats, poultry, ducks, and game, peacock and pea-hen; flour, potatoes etc.
For the various lots offered there was brisk bidding, and, on the whole satisfactory prices were realised.
A large company assembled in the mart to witness the opening ceremony, which was performed by Mrs George Renwick, of Springhill. The Mayor (Ald. Ed. Norman) presided over the gathering. Mr T.B. Waters in a few words introduced the Mayor, who had a hearty reception.
The Mayor said it gave him great pleasure to preside at that gathering, which might mean so much to those who were suffering for the nation. He was pleased that the farmers throughout England had contributed to this most worthy of all institutions, the Red Cross Society.
The work of the Society was so essential that it would have to be continued for a long time after the war was over. They would have the care of those who had suffered for them in battle. The expenses were great, and what England needed to do was to aid that voluntary effort which was, in some measure, being put forward that day at Morpeth.
England was prominent in many things, and England was taking the lead in many things, and they did not want to be behind in connection with the grand work of the Red Cross Society.
He was glad that they had chosen Mrs Renwick to open the sale. (Applause.) She was doing much for the soldiers in Morpeth and elsewhere, and had their welfare at heart. She had given all her sons to fight the battles of the country as well as much of her time and means. (Applause.) He had now great pleasure in asking her to open the sale.
Mrs Geo. Renwick, who was well received, said it had been to her a great pleasure to accept the invitation to open the sale. During her life-time she had performed many duties of various kinds. She had christened ships, launched pontoon docks, opened dry docks, sales of work, and presented prizes, but she must admit that this was the first time she had performed a ceremony of that description.
Women were taking a prominent part in carrying on the affairs of the country and were doing things which they had not contemplated they would be called upon to do. In many cases they were doing extremely well, and they could not help feeling proud that their sex was accomplishing so much. They must not ape the man, but do their work in a womanly, kindly way, and prove that they could be useful to the country in its time of need. (Applause.)
Mrs Renwick then put up the first lot — a calf from Mr George Renwick, which quickly realised £20. Mrs Spencer, of Netherwitton Hall, sold the second lot, a travelling rug, which realised £2 15s.
Mr Lancelot Robson, stated he was pleased to see such a large company. He hoped they would have an excellent sale. He announced that they had received £100 in donations, and the Mart Company had given a donation of ten guineas. (Applause.) He then proposed a vote of thanks to Mrs Renwick, Mrs Spencer, the Mayor, and all those who had so generously contributed to the sale.
The motion was enthusiastically given.
The sale was then proceeded with, and at the close it was announced that £238 5s had been raised.
In connection with the sale, “Tag Day” was held on Wednesday, the proceeds being given for the same worthy object. A number of zealous ladies during the day successfully pursued their efforts to augment the fund, the amount realised being £17.
A meeting of the Northumberland Education Committee was held yesterday at the Moothall, Newcastle, Sir Francis D. Blake, Bart., presiding.
The Secretary reported that thirty-six headmasters and seventeen assistant masters were known up to the present to have attested for military service under Lord Derby’s scheme, and that in conference with H.M. Inspector, the attested headmasters had been provisionally divided into three classes namely (a) cases where it was considered that a claim should be made to the Local Tribunal by the Local Education Authority on the ground that the headmaster is indispensable; (b) doubtful cases under the previous clause; and (c) cases where no appeal is recommended; it being suggested that no appeal should be made by the Local Education Authority for the retention of assistant masters in their civil employment.
On the recommendation of the Elementary Education Sub-Committee, the report was approved.
On reconsideration of the application by the County Association of the National Union of Teachers for a war bonus for teachers on the same basis as that applicable to the clerical staff of the County Council, the Elementary Education Sub-Committee recommended that consideration be adjourned until next meeting of the sub-committee.
The same sub-committee recommended that in the appointment of teachers, periods of war service be taken into consideration in fixing the commencing salary under the scale.
BACKYARD POULTRY KEEPING
This at the present time ought to be more than the usual hobby; it should be considered a duty by every householder who has a right to a portion of a backyard. You may require to ask permission from your landlord, but no sane person would refuse to allow tenants to help to make the nation more self-supporting, if each tenant undertakes to keep his own fowls on his own particular portion.
That hens do thrive and lay eggs in abundance in confinement has been proved over and over again by many a diligent backyarder. The house required must be built according to space available; it may be a roomy house for the number of fowls or it may be a small sleeping house with a run attached. The run to be successful must be dry and well sheltered; one with a roof like a scratching-shed is the best.
RED CROSS HOSPITAL, MORPETH
The Commandant of the V.A.D. Hospital acknowledges the following gifts with thanks:— Mrs Carr and the Misses Hudson, chocolates and cigarettes; Mrs J. Jennings, flowers and fruit; Mrs Rayne, eggs and fresh fish; Mrs Dickie, flowers and fruit.
THE MAYORESS OF MORPETHS’S SEWING MEETING
The hon. treasurer, Mrs Atkinson, Wellbank, has to acknowledge with many thanks a donation of 5/- from Mrs Carr and 5/- from Mrs Pyle, Hudson Place; also mufflers from Mrs Creighton; 3 pairs socks, Miss Harbottle, Bella Vista; Miss Angus, helmets, mufflers, mittens; Mrs Halls, socks.
The committee have to thank Mrs Sherring for tea on the 17th, and Mrs Strickland for tea on the 24th February, which realised respectively £1 13s 7d. and £1 13s 8d.
During the week the ladies of the Sewing Meeting have made and dispatched 2,510 bomb bags for the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers.
B.W.T.A. (ASHINGTON BRANCH.)
On Wednesday February 16th, in the Ashington P.M. Sunday School, a ham tea was given to the sick and wounded soldiers from the V.A.D. Hospital, also those soldiers in the town and district. The tea was given by the members of the local branch of the B.W.T.A., when a good number were present.
After tea a grand concert was given, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all present.
Fruit and vegetables were handed out during an interval, and on leaving the building; fruit and cigarettes were also sent to the hospital to those not able to be present.
THE NEED OF ECONOMY
The period of the year is coming round when the estimates for a new rate will be receiving the attention of Urban and Rural Councils, and in these days of heavy calls the need for the strictest economy on the part of public spending departments cannot be over-emphasised.
Several local bodies have already had the figures giving the estimated expenditure for the next six months before them, and in each case an effort has been made to keep the new rate as low as possible.
It is noticeable that the ratepayers in the Alnwick Union are rather fortunate, the rate for the next six months showing a reduction of 1½d. in the pound. In the Rothbury Union and Rural District Council the combined rates show a penny down on last half-year. While the rate in the Morpeth Rural District does not show a reduction, it compares favourable with the districts above-mentioned.