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.

Referring to the death of Trooper J.A. Miller, 14th Hussars, the second son of the late Michael Miller, blacksmith, Morpeth, Capt. E.J. Bridges, commanding C Squadron, writes to Mrs J. White, of Newcastle, as follows:—

“I write with very great regret to inform you that he was killed on December 1st, 1915. He was shot low down in the body by a bullet, and died shortly after, painlessly. The regiment was under pretty heavy fire at the time.

“Pte. Miller was a most excellent young soldier, of good character, and a credit to himself and to his regiment. His death in action is a sincere loss to his regiment and to the squadron I have the honour to command. Should he have any other relations living, I beg that you will inform them that he died doing his duty, and that his name will be placed on a roll of memorial, which will doubtless be raised at some future date to those of the regiment who have fallen in this war.”


The limited supply of sugar to householders is a subject which is causing no little amount of discontent in the district.

Owing to the shortage, retail dealers are unable to get their regular supplies, with the result that consumers are being curtailed in their quantities. The strictest economy is being urged in this respect.

It has been said half a loaf is better than none, with which we agree, but it is not an easy task for a person to suddenly restrict himself to a knot of sugar in his cup of tea when he has used himself for years to take three.

We are also told there is much difficulty in getting salt, which is also essential to the housewife.


There does not seem any likelihood of an early termination of the war, and thus it devolves upon all to endure our sacrifices and difficulties with a good grace.

The times are abnormal, and may be safely said without a parallel in our history, hence the necessity of adopting ourselves to the circumstances. Many things politically and economically have been put into practice during these last few months that few contemplated before the outbreak of war.


There does not seem any likelihood of our annual flower shows being held this year.

What with the large number of members now serving in the Army and those that are left behind disinclined for such an undertaking, it is perhaps the better course to abandon such until a more convenient season.


The East Chevington Institute annual sports are abandoned this year owing to the war.




Miss Elsie Fraser, of Morpeth, has at present her father and four uncles serving in the firing line, also her grandfather on home defence.

Two uncles enlisted months ago, and five uncles are under the group system. A cousin is lying in hospital badly wounded.

Her grandmother, Mrs Fraser, Mitford Village, is the proud mother of seven of those above mentioned.


The demand for labour of all kinds on farms was never greater than at the present time.

Since the war commenced many of the farm hands have forsaken the plough and donned the uniform of the King. That the demand for men is greater than the supply was amply demonstrated at the March Hirings at Morpeth on Wednesday.

As was only to be expected, the men held out for a substantial increase in wages, and in the earlier part of the day hiring proceeded slowly.

In many instances capable men succeeded in making engagements at from five to six shillings more a week. In some cases as much as 32/- a week was asked, but the highest figure agreed to be paid for service was 30/- with the usual privileges, a noteworthy advance on agreements made at any previous hirings.

No matter what the weather is like, the occasion is regarded by the country people as a holiday, and on Wednesday they came into the town in large numbers, and no doubt the tradespeople would largely benefit by their presence.

The town was much quieter than usual in the evening, owing to the fact that Murphy’s roundabouts and other shows, which have provided the “fun of the fair” for years past, did not put in an appearance.


Mr T.B. Waters, secretary of the Soldiers Institute, Morpeth, has received the following communication from Andrew Davison, a son of the Borough surveyor, who is “Somehere in France”:—

“From both the “Herald” and the fresh arrival of the parcels of comforts I knew you had been up and doing again, and that once again a host of good Morpethians had readily answered your appeals in a really fine practical manner and it fairly warmed our hearts when we learnt from your letter of their generosity in giving so freely to your fund for our comforts.

“It proves once again the keen interest Morpeth people still have in the welfare of our lads, and their kindness is the means of bringing us lots of the luxuries of home-life which, to men out here, are nothing short of God-sends.

““Blighty” is the soldiers’ dream of paradise, a place across the sea where everybody we hold dear lives and where there are no shells or bullets. Anything from there seems to bring all the joys and spirits of the place and people with it and does us no end of good.

“Trying to thank you and all your kind supporters is a hopeless task, so I must leave it entirely to your understanding, and I think you can all easily imagine our gratitude. As soon as we get back to rest I shall try and write to all those who have helped you, but meanwhile will you kindly convey our warmest thanks to everyone.

“The contents of the last parcels were just right — candles, biscuits, chocolate, and cigs., pads, envelopes, etc. They were A1.”


The monthly meeting of the Morpeth Guardians was held on Wednesday. The Hon. and Rev. W.C. Ellis presided.

It was agreed to let the military have the use of the vagrancy ward.

Mr J. Craigs, in submitting the tender for groceries, said he regretted to say that they had a considerable advance in the price of goods that mattered.

Since the last meeting they had 12 per cent on flour, 27½ per cent on rice, 15 per cent on sugar, 50 per cent on salt.

He had been comparing the differences of prices between the contracts shortly after the war commenced and the contracts now, and the difference was somewhat startling.

The difference between the contract of two years ago and now for sugar was 140 per cent advance, and flour 90 per cent. Most of the goods they used were up 50 per cent.

When faced with such figures they ought to act with great caution in admitting people into the institution.

The contract of Messrs Picketing was accepted.

Mr Pearson, Newgate Street, asked for a slight advance in his contract, which expired at the end of this month, for potatoes and onions supplied to the workhouse. The cost of these things had gone up considerably.

Mr Young thought that leeks could be put in the soup instead of onions.

Mr Craigs remarked that Mr Pearson was not asking much of an increase and suggested that the matter be left to the Contract Committee to decide what should be given.

This was agreed to.


The Northumberland War Agricultural Committee state that arrangements have been made by the Army Council for furlough to be given to a limited number of soldiers serving at home who have been accustomed to working on farms.

The furlough granted to each soldier will only last for such number of days, not exceeding four weeks, as he is actually required for the work.

The conditions include (a) that other suitable labour cannot be obtained; (b) that the farmer will undertake to pay each soldier 4/- a day without board and lodgings, or 2/6 a day if board and lodgings are provided; the hours worked to be those customary in the district; and (c) that the farmer will provide conveyance from and to the nearest railway station.


At a meeting of the Northumberland Education Committee held on Thursday last week, it was reported that the sub-committee appointed to deal with the employment of children of school age had made the following recommendation:—

In districts where, in connection with the agricultural and mining industries, there is a bona fide deficiency of labour owing to the war, and efforts made to supply the deficiency by other means have failed, the Education Committee will be prepared to consider applications as follows:—

(1) In respect of boys (and under very exceptional circumstances girls) who have reached thirteen years of age (and who are not otherwise entitled to exemption) who are to be permanently employed in work of a suitable character.

(2) In respect of boys who have reached the age of twelve years for occasional employment under license as follows:— From March 1st to November 30th a boy regularly attending school would attend (excluding holidays) for 300 school meetings. The license would permit the child to be absent for 100 school meetings (50 days).

The absences would be permitted according to requirements, but no single period of absence will be allowed to exceed four successive weeks.

Mr J. Craigs, chairman of the sub-committee, said it was not the intention of the sub-committee to release school children on a wholesale scale. Applications would be subject to close enquiry.

Consideration of the whole question was deferred to the next meeting.

A letter was received from the managers of the Newbiggin West Council School submitting an application by Miss Ethel Trigg, certificated assistant, for leave of absence from school to serve as a nurse during the war.

The application was not granted.

A communication was received from the managers of the Bothal School, Ashington, submitting an application by Miss J. Galloway, assistant teacher, who is acting outside school hours as a Commandant of a V.A.D. hospital for wounded soldiers, for leave of absence on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons until a resident military surgeon was appointed to the hospital.

The application was not granted.


The above gathering, promoted for the purpose of raising money for the Y.M.C.A. Soldiers’ Fund, was held in the school on Friday evening. It was extraordinarily well supported and proved a record for Mitford in the way of attendance.

For the whist drive there were 120 players.

The supper was dispensed by the Ladies’ Committee. The whole of the provisions had been given, or subscribed for, by the people of the surrounding district, and so generous was the response that a quantity was left over.

This was sold and the proceeds were handed to the general fund.

Dancing commenced about 11pm and continued with great animation until 3.30am.

Excellent music was supplied by Messrs Shepherd and Luke, Morpeth, assisted at intervals by Miss Walton, Mr W. Elliott (Newton Underwood), and Mr G. Thompson (Mitford).

Towards the conclusion of the proceedings Mr Slater, Mitford, thanked all who had contributed in any way to make the appeal for the Y.M.C.A. support such a success. The total sum realised was approximately £30.


Private William Nelson, 5th N.F., husband of Mrs M. Nelson, of Seghill, has been killed in action.

News has been received by Mr and Mrs John Roper, Hotspur Street, Alnwick, that their youngest son, Private George Roper, 2/7th Northumberland Fusiliers, died on February 22nd from a wound in the head received in action in France on the preceding day.

Private Clark, who recently was given the D.C.M., has been wounded.


DUNN.— Killed in action on February 17th, Lance-Sergt. James Dunn, 2nd Tyneside Scottish, brother of Mrs Croyle, 20, West Greens, Morpeth.— Deeply mourned.


The committee have to thank Mrs Hudson, of Barmoor, for giving tea on Thursday, March 2nd, which realised £1 8s, and a donation from Mrs Jobling of 2/6. They also desire to acknowledge their indebtedness to Miss H. B. Nicholson, West View, for auditing the accounts from time to time.

The money received by the hon treasurer, Mrs Atkinson, Well Bank, since the beginning of the sewing meetings, has amounted to £213 13s 1d, with an expenditure of £204 13s 4d, leaving a balance in hand of £8 19s 9d.

This sum does not include large quantities of material, socks, etc., given by various donors, but has been largely augmented by the manufacture and disposal of mats made at the sewing meeting by a band of willing workers and others, the gifts of friends unable to attend.


The free-gift auction sale, held at the Morpeth Auction Mart last week in aid of the British Farmers’ Red Cross Fund, was attended by very gratifying results, the total amount realised, including donations, amounting to over £400.

The promoters desire to thank all the ladies and gentlemen for their contributions and kindly help.


Lieut.-Colonel R. Scott acknowledges with thanks the following articles for the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers:— Netherwitton Sewing Party, 24 pairs socks; I. Spence, 4 pair socks; Mrs Davis, Orpington, 12 pairs mitts, 24 mufflers; per Mrs Gillespie, 22 pairs socks, 9 pairs mitts, 1 muffler; Miss Howey, 1 pair socks, 3 pairs mitts; The Hon. Mrs G. Liddell, 5 pairs socks; Miss Lawson, Morpeth, 4 pairs mitts, 1 pair socks; Mrs P.C. Swan, 24 pairs socks; Mothers’ Meeting, Rothbury, 24 pairs mitts; The Christian Meeting, Broomhill, 5 pairs socks; Mrs Bainbridge, 8 pairs socks, 6 pairs mitts, 1 muffler; Mrs Jobling, 1 pair socks, 2 pairs mitts, 1 muffler; Miss Blacklock, 6 pairs socks; Miss Straughan, 6 mufflers; per Mrs Irwin Wright, 12 pairs socks, 2 pairs mittens, 1 shirt; Mrs W.L. Short, 3 pairs socks; Mrs Falconer Ball, 12 pairs socks; Mrs Young, Felton, 4 pairs socks; The Misses Taylor Wooler, 4 mufflers, 1 pair mitts.


The commandant of the V.A.D. Hospital acknowledges with thanks the following gifts:— Mrs Hudson, apples; Mrs Charles Wilkinson, cakes and butter; Mrs Gutherson, oranges and nuts; anonymous, pyjama suit; Mrs Mitchell, Ulgham Manor, fresh eggs.


News has been received by his relatives, who reside at Hawthorn Road, Hirst, of the death in action in France of Private John W. Moffatt, D Company, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, a well known and widely respected local preacher and a prominent member of the Hirst Primitive Methodist Church.

At the close of the evening service at the deceased soldier’s late church on Sunday last, Mr G. Campbell moved, and Mr W.S. Pattison seconded, that a letter of condolence be sent to the relatives of Private Moffatt, assuring them of the congregation’s heartfelt sympathy in their bereavement.

Mr Campbell said that deceased had rendered great service to his fellow comrades in the trenches by holding prayer meetings for their spiritual solace and help. About two months ago Private Moffat conducted the burial service at the interment of the late Capt. Donkin of Rothbury.

The deceased was admired by his officers and men, and several letters had been received by parents of young men at the front testifying to Private Moffatt’s spiritual life among them.

The deceased was a lover of truth, and he built his character on the life and work of Jesus Christ. He was truly one of Nature’s, “Yea, God;s gentlemen.” He knew no life apart from Christ, he drew life’s inspiration from him. He lived in a state of constant close and absolute dependence upon Him. His will was consulted by him in all his plans and actions and a supreme regard for His glory was ever cherished by him. He did not receive a Victoria Cross from King George at Buckingham Palace, but he has gone “home” to receive a crown of righteousness on his head by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The speaker then appealed to the congregation to be kind and loving to those who mourn his loss.

The resolution of condolence was passed, the congregation standing meanwhile, and the organist, Miss Amy Cook, played the Dead March in “Saul.” The congregation was deeply moved during the service.

There is to be a memorial service for Private Moffatt at the Hirst P.M. Church on Sunday, March 12th.


The members of the Blyth tribunal on Tuesday held a long sitting and dealt with about 100 cases. In no cases were total exemptions from service given, but in a number of cases they were put back for periods of six months.

A considerable number of soldiers on home service sought exemption but were refused, some in the case of an officer, who was put back for reasons urged by him in regard to business matters. Many of the men who have been on home service are now being drafted to the front.

There are large numbers of young single miners and others in the district who have not attested, and will not now, of course, have the opportunity of appealing and who will be called to service.


The Ashington Harmonic Rifle Club, whose numbers have been greatly depleted owing to enlistments during the war, have lately admitted some 25 ladies as members.

The latter have proved very enthusiastic in their practice with the rifle, the result of which was shown in a friendly match on the club’s range on Tuesday night, Ladies v. Gentlemen.


The war has cleared away many misconceptions, and not a few abuses, which is some compensation at least; and in many matters customs have gone which will never return.

Traders started early closing, and no one was a penny the worse. Shops closed at 6.30pm on three days and at 8 on Fridays and 9 on Saturdays, and the result must have been a great saving of time and money.

Now that the days are lengthening, the tradesmen have had a meeting to consider whether the shops should keep open longer. It has been decided to close at 7pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, but not to extend the hours at all on Fridays and Saturdays.

It has been found that there is really no real need for shop assistants to be kept working up to well nigh midnight at the week-end, which was the case under the old dispensation.


In the Ashington P.M. Sunday School a ham tea was given to the sick and wounded soldiers from the V.A.D. Hospital and also in the town and district. The tea was given by the members of the local branch of the B.W.T.A., a good number being present. After tea a concert was given, and was thoroughly enjoyed by all present.

The following artistes took part: Mrs Martin, soprano; Miss Johnson, contralto; Miss Brotherton, elocutionist; Gunner Healy, a patient from the V.A.D. Hospital; Messrs Anson and Frederickson, mandoline; Mrs Frederickson, accompanist; violinists, Miss Goldstraw and Mr Vogler. A quartette party from the Buffalo Picture House gave their services.

Councillor W. S. Pattison presided, and Mr Harrison accompanied.

Fruit and cigarettes were handed to the soldiers at intervals and also sent to the hospital for those not able to be present.


Private R. Thompson, 8th N.F., wishes to thank the members of Ashington Council for Christmas parcel which he received safely after leaving the Dardanelles, also card with kind thoughts and wishes.