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.
Private George Richard Williamson, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, has been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry on the field of battle.
Writing to his wife, who resides at 4 Hamilton Terrace, Middle Greens, Morpeth, Private Williamson, stretcher bearer, says: “I hope these few lines find you and the children quite well.
“After a very hard and trying time in the field of battle you will be pleased to learn that I have been awarded the Military Medal for doing just what I would like someone to do for me if I was in the same place as some of the wounded were that day.”
The circumstances which won for the gallant soldier the decoration as stated in the official notice as follows:— “During the attack made by the battalion on July 7 on the enemy’s line he displayed an exceptional courage and devotion to duty in attending to wounded men under intense machine gun and rifle fire.”
Before joining the Colours Private Williamson was employed in the pits at Choppington and Pegswood.
MINER’S LOST TIME
Workmen at collieries, who, in spite of the importunities of managers and the exceptionally high wages now being earned, persist in systematically absenting themselves from work, would be well advised to pay more heed to what is required of them during the present state of affairs when every available man and every bit of pith is required to aid in the common cause.
The representatives of workmen and owners on the boards that deal with groups of collieries in considering cases of delinquency are united in their determination to do their duty in bringing condign punishment to men who will, in spite of fates, persist in dereliction of duty by absenting themselves from work, and batches of hewers and shifters have been summoned before these legal tribunals, where some startling figures in regard to lost work have been presented.
At one of these bodies the figures showed that the absence of men varied from 16 to 54 per cent of the time available for work.
Up to the present no serious pressure has been employed, but it is in every way likely that more drastic action will be taken and prosecution made.
In this matter happily there is no difference of opinion between the owners and the leaders of the men.
The man who is able to work and shirks at the present time is a slacker of the most contemptible character and deserves no consideration from any quarter, especially when it is remembered what sacrifices our miners at the front have made, and are yet prepared to make.
20th July, 1916
Sir,— The development of recruiting in recent months and the passing of the Military Service Acts have led to a large number of men joining the Colours whose absence from their ordinary avocations cannot but result in some dislocation of their businesses.
We feel sure that it is the universal desire that the men who are going forth to fight our country’s battles shall in their civil positions suffer as little as possible for their patriotism, and we wish to appeal to the public to help to secure this object by continuing to support the shops and businesses of men who have themselves or whose assistants have joined the King’s Forces, and by avoiding during the war the transfer of their patronage to other establishments.
May we ask you to let this appeal be circulated in your city, borough or district.
Acting President of the Board of Trade.
WALTER H. LONG
President of the Local Government Board
ROLL OF HONOUR
ATKIN.— Private W.P. Atkin, Machine Gun Section, N.F., beloved son of Isabella and the late William Atkin of Pegswood, who died in France on the 19th inst., from wounds received in action on July 1st. Deeply mourned.
ATKIN.— Died of wounds received in action, July 19th, 1916, aged 20 years and 10 months, Private William P. Atkin, N.F.
His pleasant face and kindly ways, Are pleasant to recall; He had a loving word for each, And died beloved by all.— Ever remembered by his brother Jim in America, and his sister-in-law Maggie, and family. Deeply mourned.
CLOUGH.— Killed in action, Lance-Corpl. Geo. Clough, aged 21 years, beloved son of Robert and Elizabeth Clough, Hirst, East Schools, Ashington. Time may heal the broken heart, Time may make the wound less sore; But time can never stop the longing, For the loved ones gone before.— Ever remembered by his loving father and mother, brother and sister.
DIXON.— Killed in action, June 29th, 1916, Signaller Thomas Dixon, 398 “B” Company, Tyneside Scottish, aged 21 years and 6 months, of Choppington Colliery, the dearly loved nephew of Robert William and Eleanor Hostler; also grandson of the late Thomas and Elizabeth Laws, of West Sleekburn. (Deeply mourned by his uncle, aunt, cousins, George F., Winnie.)
DIXON.— Killed in action on June 29th, aged 21 years and 6 months, Signaller Thomas Dixon, dearly beloved son of Isabella and the late William Dixon, and step-son of Thomas Smith, of Choppington Colliery.— Deeply mourned by his loving father, mother, brothers and sister. Rest in peace.
GALLON.— Choppington, killed in action, June 24th, 1916, aged 30 years, Private J.R. Gallon. N.F., the dearly beloved brother of Private William Gallon, N.F., now in France, and sisters Mary Lucy Houliston, Rachel Brown, Annie Ellen Appleby.— Ever remembered by his brothers-in-law, and sister-in-law, nieces and nephews. Deeply mourned.
GALLON.— Choppington, killed in action, June 24th, 1916, aged 30 years, Private J.R. Gallon, N.F., dearly beloved husband of Catherine Gallon. For King and Country he did his best, May God grant him eternal rest.— Deeply mourned by his sorrowing wife, mother-in-law, and father-in-law, and all who knew him.
GRAY.— Killed in action in France, Signaller John George Gray, 4th Batt. Tyneside Scottish, dearly beloved son of Richard and Martha Gray, 11 North Row, West Sleekburn, aged 18 years and 11 months. Peace, perfect Peace, With a loved one far away; In Jesu’s keeping he is safe and they.— Ever remembered by his loving sister and brother-in-law, Alice and John Henry Smith.
HOPE.— Killed in action at Suvla Bay, Aug. 19th, 1915, George, eldest and dearly beloved son of John Thomas and Mary Ann Hope (nee O’Donnell), late of Cowpen Village. On whose soul sweet Jesus have mercy. RIP.
McDONALD.— Died of wounds received in action on July 6th, 1916, Private Robert McDonald, N.F., dearly beloved brother of Mrs Aspley. There is a chain death cannot ever sever, Sweet remembrance last for ever.
TULLY.— Killed in action, June 30th, aged 24 years, Private Robert T. Tully, beloved son of James and Jane A. Tully, 18 Gibson Street, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. Deeply lamented by father and mother, brothers and sisters, also his loved one, Mina. The golden gates were opened, A gentle voice said “Come!” With farewell words unspoken, He calmly entered home.
TAIT.— Killed in action in France, on July 3rd, 1916, Sergt. Robert J. Tait, Border Regiment, dearly beloved son of John M. and Ellen Tait, 24 Spencer Terrace, Walbottle, and grandson of the late Archibald Turnbull, Rothley Sawmill, Cambo.
POSTPONEMENT OF HOLIDAYS
In these anxious and trying times when so many of our brave men are sacrificing so much for the nation both on land and sea, the postponement of the August Bank Holidays, as was the case at Whitsuntide, was the best course for the Government to pursue under all the circumstances.
We all more or less realise the urgent necessity there is for maintaining an undiminished output of munitions for the successful carrying on of the war, and although we are not all engaged in making munitions it is for us who are employed in other occupations not to create the holiday atmosphere, but to do business as usual and so give encouragement to those who are fighting our battles on land and sea.
POSTPONEMENT OF HOLIDAYS
The Government having decided, in view of the urgent necessity of maintaining an undiminished output of munitions, that it is essential in the national interest that all holidays, either general or local, be postponed, until such subsequent date as may be announced.
The August Bank Holidays will be suspended by Royal Proclamation.
I have therefore to request that all holidays, and not merely those of workmen directly engaged on munitions, be postponed, that anything in the nature of a holiday atmosphere be avoided, and that shopkeepers, tradesmen and others will keep open their places of business so that the days which would otherwise have been holidays will be treated as ordinary working days.
His Majesty’s Government make themselves responsible for seeing that the holidays are merely postponed, and not abandoned, and that as soon as military exigencies do permit, all postponed holidays will be given in full.
Town Hall, Morpeth.
July 21st, 1916.
LOCAL SOLDIER’S STORY OF THE ADVANCE
Private A. Lumsdon, a nephew of Mr John Cairns, agent of the Northumberland Miners’ Association, who is lying wounded in hospital in this country, writing to his uncle refers briefly to his wounds caused by shrapnel in the great advance of the Northumberlands on July 1st.
Describing the battle, he states that he saw many of his comrades fall, but he managed to reach the second German trenches.
His major exclaimed, “Now, lads, keeps what you have got,” and they did so. Lumsdon described how well they did keep what they got until they were reinforced.
He is progressing as well as can be expected.
An intercessory and memorial service in memory of the four heroes on the Presbyterian Roll of Honour who have laid down their lives in battle for their King and Country, took place in St George’s Presbyterian Church, Morpeth, on Sunday evening.
There was a good congregation, and among those present were bereaved parents and friends and others who have sons on the roll of honour.
The service, which was conducted by the Rev. Dr Drysdale, was of a most impressive character.
Appropriate hymns and music were rendered.
Dr Drysdale took his text from I. John, iii, 16 (R.V.): “Hereby we know Love in that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
“We are holding a service this evening,” said the Doctor, “in honour of and in memory of four youthful heroes who have laid down their lives for us and their country. Their names are:
Thomas Marshall (8th Northumberland Fusiliers)
Frank Douglas (Tyneside Scottish)
T.H. Tweedy (8th S.L.I.)
Fred Swinney (7th Northumberland Fusiliers)
Alas! there may be many other names to be added speedily to theirs.
Nor are we to forget the multitudes — the increasing multitudes — of those outside our ranks who have laid down their lives for us. And we bear in mind also those here and elsewhere, who have been wounded for us since the war began.
But we desire specially to honour those of our own number who have laid down their lives on our behalf, and in the interests of the high cause they have been called to represent.
LABOUR REPRESENTATION COMMITTEE
The annual conference in connection with the Wansbeck Division Labour Representation Committee was held in the Presbyterian Hall, Newbiggin, last Saturday afternoon. Delegates were present from the various affiliated societies.
The first business was the consideration of the Executive Committee’s annual report.
The report said: — In our last report we deplored the outbreak of the great European War, which unfortunately still continues its ravages, and seems to be never-ending in its attacks on the lives and liberties of the workers of the world.
There are, however, gleams of light in the black sky, and it is encouraging to know that in all the belligerent countries there is a courageous minority striving to bring about a settlement by negotiation rather than by force of arms.
We associate ourselves with all these efforts and sincerely hope that at a very early date a just and lasting peace will be established among the warring nations.
In war time the working class always has to bear the heaviest burden, and we have to regretfully record that during the past year two Acts for imposing Compulsory Military Service have been passed by Parliament, the second Act having associated with it all the evils of industrial compulsion.
These Acts were both unnecessary, and at the same time a serious blow to national unity of purpose. A country that had supplied such an enormous army by voluntary methods had no need to introduce compulsion, unless it was to satisfy the insistent demands of the labour and trades unionism.
We have consistently opposed these compulsory methods, and felt so strongly on that matter that we appointed Mr Geo.H. Warne to attend the great London Conference on January 6th, 1916, when a resolution against the Government’s proposals was carried by 1,998,000 to 783,000, a majority of 1,215,000 against compulsion.
This was afterwards endorsed by the Bristol Labour Party Conference, when a resolution declaring opposition to conscription in any form was carried by 1,796,000 votes to 219,000.
Our action has, therefore, been in line with that of organised labour throughout the country.
Mr Moorhead, speaking on behalf of the Broomhill miners, said they were not satisfied with the attitude the Executive had taken up with regard to sending the secretary to London to vote against the Compulsion Bill. Seeing that there was a sharp division of opinion in the country, the Executive ought to have had a mandate from the electors of the Wansbeck Division before they took up their attitude.
The chairman replied that it was fairly difficult to ascertain the voice of the Division on the question. It was a matter of extreme urgency. They had acted strictly in accordance with what they had previously carried out.
HIGH COST OF LIVING
Blyth Independent Labour Party has decided to hold a great protest meeting on July 30th against the high cost of living, when the speakers will be Mr Robert Smillie, president of the Miners’ Federation, and Mr William Straker, secretary of the Northumberland Miners’ Association.