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.

Signaller Fred Wilkinson, eldest son of Mr W.L. Wilkinson, The Oaks, Morpeth has been wounded at the Front.

Mr Wilkinson received the first intimation of his son being wounded from Private Geoffrey James, eldest son of Mr J.J. James, stationer and printer, Newgate Street.

Writing to his father from the 26th General Hospital, C9 Ward, B.F.E., Signaller Wilkinson says:—

“Just a line to let you know how I am going on. You will have got my card and the letter from the ‘Sky Pilot’ telling you that I am wounded.

“I was on my way up to the trenches to take over duty. I had to pass through an area which was being shelled. The shelling stopped and I made my way on, and was just nicely in the line of fire when I heard one coming. I jumped into the side of the road, where there happened to be a gutter. It dabbed three yards from me, but the gutter saved me. It was followed up with another, which landed in the same place. The next one was right in beside me.

“I was jammed flat and the fumes which came off the explosive choked me. The chap who was with me was crying like a child. He was not touched, but had completely lost his nerve. However, I got myself out somehow, and with short rushes along the gutter, which was up to the knees in liquid mud, I at last managed to reach safety. My chum was waiting for me and he was pleased to see me, as he thought I was done for.

“My wounds are very slight. One in the right ear and the other in the right arm above the elbow. The right side of my face is peppered with very small shrapnel.

“I must express my profound satisfaction at the way our Red Cross carry out their work. Nobody could look after anyone better. After I had been passed through the two clearing stations I had a nice long train journey down here. Had plenty to eat and drink on our way down. How our Sisters do work.

“I have been in here two days now. I was X-rayed this morning and everything was satisfactory. I have an air cushion to sit on, and a nice back rest. Sister washes me thrice a day. Quite a time with temporatives and medicines. I have a severe cold on my chest, which was due to the gas fumes. However, I am a lot better now. Of course a little weak. I am being well looked after here. Eggs and mince meat, peas and ham, soda water and milk. Nothing is left out. They think of everything. Don’t worry over my chest as I have been thoroughly sounded, and it has been found that it is just the result of the gas fumes.

“Did you get a fright when you heard I was wounded? I could not write, so the ‘Sky Pilot’ wrote for me. I am writing this with my wounded arm. The gramophone is in full swing now. I am on the sea coast. Boiled eggs and toast for tea. What a change from my usual menu when in the fighting line.”

The Army Scripture Reader, H.A. Wisbey, B.F.E., France, writes to Mr Wilkinson as follows:— ”During my visit to hospital here, yesterday, I made the acquaintance of your dear laddie, Fred Wilkinson, 7th N.F. I found him very bright and quite happy, and in good health. He has been wounded in the right arm, but it is a slight wound. He will be quite all right. He has also a bullet wound in his right arm, a flesh wound.

“I thought, with his permission, I would drop you a line as it will save you much worry. I have told you the worst. He is quite all right. Thank God he has been preserved. He has a nice bed, can eat well, and has every care and comfort possible. He will write to you as soon as his arm will allow him. God bless you all.”


Our readers will have observed that the Government has resolved to greatly restrict the import of paper and paper-making materials, and this policy will have a far reaching effect on daily and weekly newspapers.

Already it has brought about a reduction in the size of a large number of journals, and certainly no newspaper will be able to continue to print an unlimited number of copies, as it has done in the past. Accordingly the supplies to newsagents will be much reduced, and they will have to restrict their quantities to the actual requirements of their customers.

The consequence will be that people who buy their papers in a casual fashion at this or that shop will run the risk of not getting supplied at all, and they will save themselves disappointment, assist the publishers to cope with the new conditions, and help the newsagents by placing a standing order with the latter for the paper or papers they require.


Since the opening of the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, many enjoyable concerts have been given, and these have been greatly appreciated by the soldiers stationed in the town and neighbourhood. Last Friday evening a first-class concert, successfully arranged by Mrs Geo. Renwick, of Springhill, was given to a crowded audience.

The programme submitted for the delectation of those present was a highly entertaining one, and three of the artistes, who hailed from Newcastle, had each a splendid reception, double encores being demanded from them.

Mr Geo. Renwick, the popular president of the Institute, presided. He said they were delighted that this institute was doing a good work. He felt sure that all the men appreciated this place, and recognised that some little sacrifice was being made to keep them comfortable during the wintry weather. Little did the committee think, when they opened this hall fifteen months ago, that they would have to carry it on so long, but no matter if they had to keep it open some time longer the soldiers would always be welcome. (Applause.)

By the kindness of Mr Fenwick the men were supplied with cigarettes during the concert.

The programme was opened by Trooper Edmund Gaeton, of the Denbigh Hussars, who played pleasing selections on the piano. For all her numbers, Mrs Fred Andersen of Newcastle, who has a voice of beautiful calibre, was repeatedly encored. Miss A. Heenan was immensely popular in all her songs, and the catchy choruses were taken up by the audience with great gusto. She had to respond to a double encore. Mr E.T. Heenan was equally successful in all his songs, his contributions including “Take a pair of sparkling eyes” and “Thora.” Mrs Andersen and Mr Heenan were heard to great advantage in the duet “Il Travatore.”

Others who contributed to the programme with much acceptance were:— Signaller Walley, Trooper R.C. Eastwood, and Trooper Eastwood (recitation). Mrs Andersen, Miss Heenan, and Trooper Gaeton acted as accompanists.

On the call of Trooper Ackerley a hearty vote of thanks was accorded to the artistes and chairman.


The 14 soldiers from the small village of North Middleton, who are serving with H.M. Forces, have each been supplied with two pairs of socks, also with pipes and a good supply of tobacco.

The wool for the socks was purchased from the proceeds of a cake guessing competition. The cake was kindly supplied by Mrs Robson of Todridge. The pipes and tobacco were kindly given by Mr and Mrs Clayton, Middleton Hall.


Sapper J. Bawdon, 7th N.F., of Hirst, has died of wounds.

Sapper T. Wardle, of Backworth, has died in France.

Private W. Hopkins of Bedlington has died while on active service in Egypt.

Private W. Schonewald of Hartford Colliery has been killed.

Private Andrew Hamilton, of Isabella Colliery, Blyth, who was a member of the Tyneside Scottish, has been killed in France.

Information has been received at Blyth that Private W. Clark, of Cowpen Colliery, has been seriously wounded in France. In December Private Clark was awarded the D.C.M. for bravery. When home on leave some three weeks ago, he was the recipient of a public presentation.

The death has occurred in the military hospital at Ashington of a well-known Blyth trimmer who has been on war service in France. Going out a transport worker, Private Jas. King, whose home was in Regent Street, Blyth, took very ill, and was taken to the Halifax Hospital in Yorkshire, and subsequently transferred to Ashington, where he died on Saturday evening. He leaves a widow and family. Deceased, who was 40 years of age, was a son of Mr John King, another well-known trimmer who came from Howdon-on-Tyne to Blyth many years ago, and was a brother of Teddy King, the well-known Southern League footballer.


COWEN.— Routledges Buildings, Barrington. Killed in action, in France, on February 20th, 1916, Private T.H. Cowen, youngest son of the late William and Elizabeth Cowen, of Morpeth. Deeply mourned by his two sisters, Maggie and Isabella; also sister-in-law, and his brother, Private Robt. Cowen, now in France.


Tea was kindly given on Thursday, 9th March, by Mrs Allon Burn, Oakleigh, and realised £2 3s. 3d.

The hon. treasurer and committee have to thank Mrs R.J. Carr for a donation of £1, part of the sale of dolls made by her and sold for the benefit of the soldiers; and Mrs Drysdale, Mrs Halls, and Mrs A. Burn for gifts of socks and mittens.


Some day we hope the war will end, and when that comes there will be a tremendous development of farming by motor machinery.

It would be an immense help if this were going on now, but that is impossible for two reasons: we have not yet hit on the most useful form of engine, and if we had it could not be made because all the engineering establishments are busy with munitions. The time is coming, however, when both difficulties will be met.

Attention has already been called in this column to the movement which has been going on for some time in this line in U.S.A., where they are very keen indeed on the matter, and at the present rate are likely to come out ahead of us. There are a long way over a hundred of the leading firms of engineers and implement makers over there who have taken up the question of motors and implements to suit them for the land, and though nothing very good has been evolved yet, still it will come soon.


It is appalling to think that in these times, when our brave soldiers are undergoing the awful hardships of a terrible war, that men, who are privileged to stay at home, can, without thought or care, indulge in the pernicious habit of gambling.

The habit seems to be growing in the mining centres, as the number of cases which come regularly before our local courts truly testify.

It is bad enough for grown-ups to encourage the gambling spirit among persons who have arrived at the age of discretion, but when it comes to encouraging boys of ten and eleven years to join in the game of “throwing the coin and betting on the throws,” as was mentioned in evidence at the Morpeth court on Wednesday, then it is time for the Bench, when such cases come before them, to make an example of them, so that it will act as a deterrent to others not to do likewise.


A very successful whist drive and social was held in the Village Hall, Cambo, in aid of the British Red Cross Society, £16 being realised.

Prizes were given by ladies of the committee, and were won by the following:— Ladies: 1st, Mrs Henderson, Scots Gap; 2nd, Miss Graham, Wallington; consolation, Miss Brown, Dovecot. Gentlemen: 1st, Mr A. Carr, Kirkwhelpington; 2nd, Mr T. Henderson, Scots Gap; consolation, Mr T. Cowan, Bolam.


A very enjoyable supper and dance, given by the residents of Longhirst to the officers, N.C.O.’s and men of the C Squadron, 2nd Cheshire Yeomanry, took place in the School, Longhirst, on Friday last, there being about 130 guests.

Amongst those who accepted invitations were Major Sir Philip Grey Egerton, Capt. H.B. Jones, Lieut. Royd, Lieut. Bushel, Lieut. Brooks, Lieut. Ferguson, Sergt-Major Lamb, Sergt-Major Potter, Quarter-master Sergt. MacWalters, the Hon. Mrs Joicey, Rev. R, Procter, and others.

Dancing commenced shortly after eight and continued most pleasantly until after 3. Mrs Carmen and Mr Chas Main, of Ashington, provided excellent music. Altogether the function proved most enjoyable, and this satisfactory result was in a great measure due to the excellent arrangements made by the committee.


It is sixteen years today since the late Queen Victoria ordered that the shamrock should be distributed on St Patrick’s Day to her Irish soldiers, and the practice has been annually kept up in the Army since.

This year the celebration is likely to be popular generally as it is in the north here to take the form of a flag day, when there will be such a “wearin’ of the green” as has not been witnessed before.

The funds are to be devoted for comforts for the Irish soldiers who have gone forth to face the terrors of the battlefield, for the cause of the Empire and of our Allies.


A young man, residing in a village near Alnwick, was one of the seventy applicants who appeared before the Alnwick Rural District Tribunal for exemption from military service. He applied for a total exemption, having conscientious objections, and was questioned by Mr Houston Boswall, the military representative for the district.

Applicant said he was quite willing to act as a postman or barber for the Army, two avocations in which he was at present engaged.

The Chairman (Councillor J.H Mansfield): I do not know whether they will require a barber or not.

Mr Houston Boswall: What is your objection? You want other people to risk their lives to save your life, and you sit over the fire and shave people?

Applicant: I don’t sit over the fire and shave people.

Have you anyone depending on you?— My friends live at Robin Hood’s Bay. I have three brothers in the Army.

How is it that they are all out fighting and you are not?— I suppose they hold a different opinion to me.

Do you belong to the Quaker sect, or something of that sort?— No; two of my brothers are in the Canadian Contingent.

The application for exemption from military service was disallowed.


The following gifts have been made to the above:— 1 doz. eggs, Mrs Cecil Perceval; books, Miss Socket; £1 per Mrs Philip; 4/- for eggs, Girls’ High School; loaves and tea-cakes, Mrs Tate; apples, Miss MacDowall; 3 doz. eggs, Meldon School Children; cakes, Miss Lowrison; cake, Mrs James Simpson; flowers, Miss Dickie; 3 dish-cloths, pyjama suit, 3 bed-jackets, Mrs Rayne.


Men wanted for enrolment under the Group System; particularly, Stokers, Seamen, Engine-fitters, Shipwrights, Fitters, and Turners, and Instrument Makers.

Candidates can enrol at once, and elect to be called up any time within the next 8 months with 14 days’ notice. No appeals allowed. Men attested for Army Reserve B are eligible for Royal Navy (Group System). Above Ratings are also open for immediate service.— Apply to Sergt. H.W. Lodder, 45 Bridge Street, Morpeth.