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.
The presentation of the Military Medal which has been won by Private George Richard Williamson, of the Northumberland Fusiliers, took place in the Market Place, Morpeth, on Sunday morning last, the ceremony being performed by the Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple.)
The townspeople were, naturally, much interested in the event and turned out in large numbers to witness the proceedings connected with the ceremony. The reception accorded the soldier-hero was really an enthusiastic one — and one which he richly deserves.
Private Williamson, whose home is at 4 Hamilton Terrace, earned his distinction, according to the official notice, as follows:— During the attack made by his battalion on the enemy’s line on July 7th, he displayed exceptional courage and devotion to duty in attending to wounded men under intense machine gun and rifle fire.
In addition to the general public, the various units quartered in the town were well represented, including the Cheshire Yeomanry in command of Captain Dewhurst, the Morpeth Volunteers in command of Mr Wm. Duncan, and the local company of the Boys’ Brigade under Captain J.H. Johnson. The Boys’ Brigade Band, and the Volunteers Pipers’ Band were in attendance. The military formed a square in the centre of which the Mayor, supported by members of the council made the presentation.
The Mayor said it was his pleasing duty, on behalf of the town, to do honour to a brave soldier who had been especially picked out by his Commanding Officer as being worthy of the great distinction. No matter how much they abhorred war, they were all proud of the fact that England and the Empire had risen nobly to the occasion.
They had all read in the papers of the glorious deeds of our soldiers in France — deeds that would live for ever in the pages of history and add fresh lustre to the annals of the British Army. They were proud that Morpeth was taking its share in the fight for liberty and civilisation, and that their men were proving themselves true Northumbrians, and worthy descendants of the Old and Bold, the Fighting Fifth.
They had met to do honour to Private Williamson, whose mission was not to take life, but to support the wounded. It needed no words of his to tell of his bravery. They had read of his exceptional courage and devotion to duty in attending to wounded men under intense machine gun and rifle fire. He was glad to state that Private Williamson was congratulated by the G.O.C. on being awarded the Military Medal.
Private Williamson left his home, his wife and little ones, proceeded the Mayor, to fight for his country. He joined in September, 1914, and along with others he encamped on the Common under Lieut. Sanderson in the early days of the war. He had seen much service, and had been wounded.
They were all proud of their gallant townsman, and he (the Mayor) looked upon it as a great honour when asked to perform the presentation ceremony. He then pinned on the medal amidst great applause.
After the singing of the National Anthem, Private Williamson thanked the Mayor for his kindly words, and also those assembled for the reception they had given him. He would never forget the honour they had done him (Applause.)
It is very gratifying to note that the Morpeth detachment of the 1st Northumberland Regiment still continues to make good progress, and every effort is being made to form a company in the Borough.
On Tuesday evening Mr Wm. Duncan, the officer in command, took the opportunity of congratulating the men on the way in which they were performing their drills. He also announced the pleasing fact that Tuesday’s drill witnessed the biggest muster since the detachment was formed, the number on parade being 135. So far the enrolments reach the satisfactory total of 166.
Both officers and men work with enthusiasm and esprit de corps. The general bearing of the men on parade is excellent, and they are now devoting themselves to rifle drill.
The commencement of a platoon at Pegswood is now under construction, and it is hoped that the Morpeth detachment will receive a considerable addition to their strength.
The miners of several districts have turned out excellently in support of the volunteers, and it is anticipated that Pegswood will not be behind hand in coming forward as soon as arrangements can be made. A public meeting at Pegswood is to be called for December 18th, when it is hoped many men will enrol and so strengthen the movement in this district.
The Morpeth detachment is to take part in the inspection by Lord French on Sunday first at Newcastle.
The men will parade at the Market Place at 7.30 in the morning, and proceed by train to Newcastle, where the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Forces is to review the regiment in full force.
“WHITE ELEPHANT” SALE
A splendid effort was made by the committee of the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, last Saturday to augment the funds so much needed for the successful carrying on of the work of the Institute. During the past two years the Institute has played an important part in contributing to the comfort of the soldiers who have been quartered in the town and neighbourhood.
The effort took the form of a “White Elephant” sale, and it is gratifying to state that its success far exceeded the most sanguine anticipations of the promoters. So perfect were the arrangements that had been made for the venture that everything was in readiness at the scheduled time — two o’clock in the afternoon — for the opening ceremony, which was gracefully performed by Lady Armstrong of Cragside.
The hall was artistically decorated for the occasion, and the numerous stalls were well laden with all manner of articles, among the contributions being some which were rare and valuable. For instance, there were several interesting souvenirs, made from shells, and sent by local soldiers from Somme battlefield. Several toy white elephants, beautifully made and finished by wounded soldiers in Coxlodge Hospital, were also among the gifts received.
In spite of the inclemency of the weather there was a large attendance at the opening ceremony, and naturally, great interest was taken in the proceedings as the occasion marked Lady Armstrong’s first public appearance in the borough. Mr Geo. Renwick, president of the Institute, occupied the chair.
Pointing to the stall in front of the platform, Mr Renwick said they had some valuable white elephants which had been made by some wounded men at Coxlodge hospital, and sent as their contribution to the sale. (Applause.) He expected to get a lot of money for them. He saw a large number of articles, useful and otherwise on the stalls, and he wanted everybody to make up their minds that they were going to liberally support the sale.
He was pleased to tell that before they had commenced operations they had received in subscriptions no less a sum than £125 18s 6d. (Applause). They appreciated that the subscription of 2/- just as much as they did the £10 or other sums. He had no doubt that those who had given the lesser sum were less able to afford it than those who had given the larger amount.
He then explained the reason for holding the sale on behalf of the Institute. At the commencement of the war, he said, they had no accommodation in the town for the recreation and amusement of the soldiers stationed in the district. The Y.M.C.A. had placed at the disposal of the soldiers their premises, but they were not large enough.
The suggestion was made to build a place, and Mr F. Brumell, who owned the land on which the Institute was erected, offered them the site free for the duration of the war. They got to work, and soon subscriptions poured in, and three months after the outbreak of war the Institute was built, and it had remained up ever since.
They provided all sorts of refreshments for the men, but provisions had gone up, and there was an agitation all over the country for corresponding rise in wages to meet the extra cost of food. The soldier had not got his wages raised, and he only consented to join in this enterprise that the cost of refreshments was not increased one iota. (Hear, hear, and applause).
The war had gone on two years and three months, and no man or woman knew when it was going to end. Two years ago he ventured to say, when presenting prizes to the girls at Morpeth High School, that some of them would be women before the war finished. He was then told he was a pessimist, and we was still, because he had never been able to get people to know the strength of the people they were up against.
The war had only begun, and it would get worse, and whatever sacrifices they had made in the past, they would have much greater sacrifices in the future; but he was sure that all were determined to carry on the war to a successful conclusion. (Applause).
He referred to an article in the Cornhill Magazine written by Captain Armstrong, containing an account of the 7th Northumberland Fusiliers. “They are your boys and our boys. They went out and fought nobly, and none more so than the noble son of Lord Armstrong.” (Applause). Captain Armstrong had been wounded, but he was out again at the front.
They knew there were boys from Morpeth and district, who also had been wounded. Some of them were still here and it behoved those who remained behind to take care of the boys. He was sure that Morpeth would do its share nobly in that respect. He had now much pleasure in calling upon Lady Armstrong to declare the sale open. (Applause).
Lady Armstrong, who had a hearty reception, in the course of an interesting speech, said: It gives me great pleasure to come here today to open your “White Elephant” sale on behalf of your Soldiers’ Institute. I know you will agree with me that there could not be a more worthy object that this, and that we cannot do too much for our soldiers. I know also that you fully appreciate how much this Institute contributes to the comfort of the soldiers quartered in Morpeth
In the afternoon Mr Renwick took up the role of auctioneer and disposed of a numerous assortment of articles. Among the things he offered by auction were the souvenirs from the battlefield, which he said were absolutely genuine. They had been sent through one of his sons in France for the sale.
During the afternoon and evening the proceedings were enlivened with selections by the Morpeth Pipers’ Band and Mr W. Barker’s orchestral band.
The stallholders had such a busy time that nearly all the well-laden stalls were practically cleared of their contents in two hours.
Among the amusements were a hoopla stall, in charge of Lance-Corporal J. Whyte and Private Pyatt; wheel of fortune in charge of Councillor R.N. Swinney, assisted by Signallers Jas. Elliott, G. Ackerley, G. Smith, and Stansfield; and “The Surrender of the Kaiser,” made and worked by Mr Ed. Swinney.
The committee wish to thank all donors for their kindly gifts to the sale, the result of which will mean that they will be enabled to continue to run the Institute on the old lines, and supply refreshments to the soldiers at the same prices which have prevailed since the opening of the Institute.
The handsome sum of over £300, including donations, was realised.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Private Matthew Trewick, N.F., husband of Mrs Treiwck, 34 Coquet Terrace, Dudley, is officially reported as having been killed in action.
Mr and Mrs Dowie, of 19 Third Street, Netherton Colliery, have received word from the War Office that their son has been killed in action.
Mrs Roberts, Blaydon Terrace, Seaton Burn, has received official news that her husband, Private T.P. Roberts, N.F., previously reported wounded, has since died of wounds.
Private R. Dungait, No. 23768, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, was reported wounded on October 8th, but no news whatever has been heard of him since. Any information respecting him will be most thankfully received by his parents, Mr and Mrs Dungait, High Weetslade Farm, Dudley.
Mr J. Butters, White House, Ewesley, near Rothbury, has received official news that his youngest brother, Private Thomas Butters, N.F., was killed in action on Sept. 15th. Private Butters went out with his battalion on April 20th, 1915, and was in possession of the Military Medal.
Mr John Barrass, of the North View Allotment, Shiremoor, has received news of the death of his son, John Barrass, N.F., who was killed in action.
Mr and Mrs J. Barnes, Bell Villa, Ponteland, have received information from their son, A.B. David J. Barnes, that he has been wounded in the back, and is now in hospital at Cambridge. He was previously wounded in June, 1915, at the Dardanelles.
Mrs Irwin, 220 High Street, Gosforth, has had official information that her son, Private R. Irwin, East Lance, was killed in action on October 23rd.
Mr William Davis, coal trimmer, of Plessey Road, Blyth, has received intimation that his son, Private Wm. Hudson Davis, N.F., has been killed in Salonica, whither he went only eight weeks before his death.
Mr and Mrs G.S. Peters, of 42 Ridley Street, Cramlington, have received official intimation that their nephew, Private Geo, Henry Jones, was killed in action on the 1st November. Private Jones, who resided with his uncle prior to enlisting in the N.F., was employed as a shoemaker by the Cramlington District Co-operative Society.
Mrs Tate, Middleton, near Morpeth, has received information that her younger son Private John Tate, Northern Cyclists Battalion, attached Northumberland Fusiliers, was severely wounded in the chest on the night of November 4th. He is in a clearing station in France.
News has been received that Lance-Corporal Elliott Ashton, N.F., has been killed in action in France. He is the youngest son of Mr Ed. Ashton, baker, Morpeth. Before joining the Army, Lance-Corporal Ashton was a shorthand clerk in an office on the Quayside, Newcastle, and was greatly respected.
News has been received that Corporal Norris Ridley Johnson, Royal Fusiliers (Sporting Battalion), was killed in action in France on November 13th. Corporal Johnson, before joining the Army, was in Barclays Bank, Morpeth, where he was much respected, being a young man of great promise. For some time he attended Morpeth Auction Mart on behalf of Barclays Bank, and was well liked by the farmers and butchers there. He was well known in Morpeth, and very popular with his comrades. He was an active member of the Morpeth Golf Club and the Morpeth Y.M.C.A. and a member of the football team of the association. He was 25 years of age, and youngest son of Mr and the late John Johnson, Parkside, Wark-on-Tyne.
Miss M. Finlay, 13 Fairfield Road, Gosforth, has received official news from the War Office that her brother, Captain J. C. Finlay, was killed in action on the 23rd Nov.
ROLL OF HONOUR
ASHTON.— Killed in action, on Nov. 13th, 1916, Lance-Corporal Elliott Ashton, youngest son of Edward and Annie Ashton, of Morpeth.
PATTISON.— In loving and affectionate remembrance of our dear son, Joseph Pattison, Howe Battalion, R.N.D., who died from wounds received in France on Nov. 22nd, 1916, aged 20 years.— (Ever remembered by his loving father, mother, sisters, and brothers.)
PATTERSON.— Killed in France, on the 10th Nov., 1916, Able Seaman Harry Patterson, R.N.V.R., aged 21 years, youngest and dearly beloved son of William Henry and Alice Patterson, of Ashington.— (Deeply mourned by his sorrowing father, mother, brother, sisters, and all friends.)
JEFFERSON.— Previously reported missing, now reported killed in action, July 1st, 1916, Private Christopher Jefferson (811, Tyneside Scottish), aged 33 years, dearly beloved and eldest son of John and Barbara Jefferson, Bedlington.— (Deeply mourned by his father, mother, brothers, and sisters, and his loving wife and two children.)
The half-yearly Council meeting of the Northumberland Miners’ Association was continued at the Burt Hall, Newcastle, on Saturday, when an important resolution from West Wylam was the principal topic under discussion. It read:—
“That we request the Executive Committee of the Miners’ Federation to draft proposals calculated to secure an end of the present European War on honourable terms, so that at the earliest possible time the terrible slaughter of human lives, with all the consequent suffering to tens of thousands of others, including women and children, may be terminated; and that such proposals shall be laid before a special conference of the Federation at an early date, and, if approved, submitted to the Government.
The motion was discussed throughout the afternoon session, but when the Council adjourned until tomorrow (Saturday) no decision had been arrived at,
The following notice, which was carried unanimously, also evoked comment from several members:— “That we, the miners of Northumberland, protest against what we regard as a misuse of the Military Service Act by colliery managers, who, in our opinion, are using the Act to get clear of men who have the courage to claim what is their due.”
It was alleged, also, that colliery managers used the Act to get rid of men, who were physically defective.
The motion that the following proposed rule should be placed on the agenda of the annual conference of the Miners’ Federation was rejected by 48 notes to 11:— “That on any question of national importance, or on any proposal agreed to by a National Conference, the Executive Committee or a National Conference may call the members of the Federation out on strike without a ballot of the members, should the Committee or Conference desire to do so.”
The delegates to the miners’ conference at Southport last week on the question of absenteeism, urged the adoption by the county of the conference’s recommendation that joint committees for various collieries should be empowered to inflict fines on chronic absentees.
FLAG DAY AT MORPETH
The flag day in aid of the Veterinary Corps Comforts Fund, collected by Mrs Taylor on Wednesday last, owing to Saturday (the 18th ult,) being such an inclement day, was very successful.
Mrs Taylor has been able to send to Mrs Moore, the wife of Brigadier-General Moore, the sum of £20 in aid of the above fund, and begs to thank all subscribers and helpers who have enabled her to send such a very good subscription.
MAYOR OR MORPETH ENTERTAINED
One of the most enjoyable public functions ever held in Morpeth took place on Thursday night, last week, when the Mayor of the Borough (Councillor John R. Temple) was entertained to dinner by his numerous friends, the general arrangements being carried out by Councillors T.W. Charlton (deputy Mayor) and R.N Swinney. The gathering was held in the George and Dragon Hotel, and under the direction of the host and hostess (Mr and Mrs J. Morgan) an excellent repast was served.
The chair was occupied by Councillor R.N. Swinney.
He could say that Mr Temple had started well. They had a V.A.D. Hospital in the town, and that hospital was in need of funds, and on the day the Mayor was elected and the holding of the Mayoress’ reception, it was decided to hold a dance in the Town Hall.
The Mayor and Mayoress at once informed the committee, who had the arrangements in hand for the dance, that they would leave all the decorations up in the Town Hall, and clear all hire expenses, including the band. Through their generosity and the start they got, the promoters of the dance were enabled to hand over to the hospital the handsome sum of £114 6s 4d. (Applause.)
The Mayor, who was cordially received, thanked the Chairman for his kind remarks, and the company for the way in which they had received them. When he took over the office of Mayor he confessed he did so with trepidation, but after the initial ceremonies and he had been thoroughly embarked on the sea of public life as Mayor of the Borough, he found that his was a very interesting occupation.
They could not, however, get away from the war, and at present the social life in Morpeth was about a dead letter, but they could try and keep things going as well as they could under the circumstances. As the song had it, they would try and keep the “home fires burning till the lads came home.”