In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1917, 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.
In the “London Gazette” of the 17th inst. the following is announced:— Northumberland Hussars.— Captain (Temporary Major) N.I. Wright to be acting Lieut.-Colonel whilst commanding a battalion (29th October, 1916.)
In the ‘nineties Lieut.-Colonel Wright was a lieutenant in the Morpeth Company of the old Volunteer Force, and volunteered for service when the South African war broke out.
He was promoted to the rank of captain whilst in the field, and on his return home at the end of the war was given a public reception and presented by the Mayor (the late Ald. George Young) and Corporation of Morpeth with a beautiful illuminated address of congratulation and welcome.
After some years’ retirement from the Force, he again offered his services at the outbreak of the present war, and was given his old rank of captain, later promoted to major, and now to lieutenant-colonel.
Col. (then Major) Wright was wounded at the battle of Ypres in April, 1915, but returned to active duty in October of the same year.
The Morpeth Company of the Northumberland Volunteer Regiment continues to make good progress. The attendances at the week-night drills are very satisfactory, and those on parade last Sunday were complimented by Acting Second-Lieut. W. Duncan on their steadiness and smartness when carrying out company drill. The orderly officer this week is Acting Second-Lieut. T.D. Shaw.
This week interesting lectures on trench work have been given to platoons Nos. 1 and 3 by an instructor of the Cheshire Yeomanry, and platoon 2 has been receiving musketry instruction, also from instructors of the Yeomanry. On both nights the men took a keen and enthusiastic interest in the instruction given.
The usual parade will take place on Sunday morning first at 10.10am, when it is hoped there will be a large muster.
A detachment has been formed at Rothbury in connection with the Morpeth Company. The parades are held in the Jubilee Hall on Monday and Wednesday of each week at seven in the evening. Instructors from the Morpeth Company attend, and the detachment now numbers 83 enrolled men, which, to say the least, is eminently satisfactory. The interest of the men, too, is most keen, and in every way they are displaying equal enthusiasm in the drills.
The Rev. Gibson Smith of Thropton is acting as orderly corporal for the detachment, and any men in the Rothbury district wishing to join will receive every assistance and information on communicating with him.
Owing to being called up for military duties, I beg to give notice that I have given up business as a butcher from this date; and I take this opportunity to thank my numerous customers for their kind support accorded me during the 19 years I have been in business.
LINDEN HILL HEAD
MORPETH’S CIGARETTE FUND
The hon secretary of this Fund, among the numerous letters of thanks from our brave lads doing their bit in distant lands, has this week received letters of appreciation from two well-known Morpeth soldiers, E. Stevinson and S. Birkett.
The first-named states that when the word goes round that the fags have arrived there is a general company of smiling faces, as nothing pleases Tommy better than the fragrant weed. The thoughtful lads also sent a part to Sergt. J. Jobling, who was glad indeed of his smokes.
Driver Birkett, being in hospital at Malta when his smokes arrived, welcomes the benevolence of the good people of Morpeth for their thoughtfulness, and hopes that they are enjoying what is perhaps in these days the most precious gift of all — that of good health and cheerfulness.
MORPETH WAR SEWING MEETING
Tea was given at the above sewing meeting by Mrs Wood, King’s Avenue, who is to be thanked for a most successful afternoon. The sum realised was £2 11s 6d. Mrs Angus Whitefield, will give the tea next week.
The hon. secretary conveyed the thanks of Councillor and Mrs Armstrong to the ladies of the sewing meeting for their letter of condolence on the death of their son, Captain J.N. Armstrong, who died from wounds received in action.
The committee acknowledge with thanks a parcel of socks, muffler, tobacco, and handkerchiefs from Mrs P. Kilby, Thorpe Avenue; socks from Mrs Halls, and helmet from Miss Laverick.
NORTHUMBERLAND APPEALS TRIBUNAL
At the Northumberland Appeals Tribunal on Friday a letter was read from the Newcastle Board of Guardians, withdrawing an appeal on behalf of the headmaster and superintendent of the Ponteland Cottages Homes, and stating that the man had joined the Army.
ROLL OF HONOUR
PITCHFORD.— Missing since July 10th, 1916, now reported killed, Private Albert Pitchford, aged 21 years, fifth son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Pitchford, of 6 Leslie Row, Radcliffe, Acklington.— (Ever remembered and mourned by his sister and brother, Hannah and Jos. Bell.)
JAMIESON.— Mr William Jamieson, of 79 South Row, Bedlington Colliery, has received official news from the War Office of the death of his son, Private Robert Jamieson. He was killed in action on Dec. 30th, 1916. Previous to enlistment he worked at Bebside Colliery, and was 24 years of age. “He did his duty well.”
Killed in action, on Nov. 13th, 1916, aged 20 years and 8 months, A.B. John Price (Z 3404 T), Anson Batt., R.N.D. Also A.B. Thomas Mulrow (Z 2808 T), Howe Batt., R.N.D., aged 20 years and 11 months, both of Ashington.— (Will never be forgot by their sorrowing pals — Bob, Andy, Harry, Tony, Ned, Jack, Mark, Reuben, and J.B.)
A PUBLIC DANCE
Will be held in Hartburn School on Friday, 2nd February. Admission, Gents 1/-; Ladies, 6d. Dancing to commence at 7.30.
Proceeds will be given to the Red Cross Fund. Refreshments at moderate charges.
E. DAWSON, Secretary.
ALL LADS 18 YEARS OF AGE CALLED UP.
The Secretary of the War Office makes the following announcement:—
The War Cabinet has instructed the Secretary of State for War to call up for military service all lads as, and when, they attain the age of 18 years, instead of as at present 18 years and 7 months.
The necessary proclamation will be issued immediately.
It is not to be understood that this implies any departure from the present arrangements whereby no man is sent overseas until he has attained the age of 19.
There is no present intention to depart from the existing arrangements or to modify existing orders on this point.
The decision is to call up all lads as, and when, they attain the age of 18 years, to train them and to employ them in home defence until they reach the age of 19.
By doing this it would be possible to reduce the requirements for men of more mature years who are fit only for one or other of the lower medical categories.
All lads born in 1898 and in January, 1899, who are still in civil life, may report at once at the recruiting office in which they are registered.
In any case, they will be required to report in accordance with the proclamation which is about to be issued, subject always to the regulations under the Military Service Acts, 1916, or the instructions relating to attested men, as the case may be.
The only lads as a class who should not, in the meantime, report, are those who have passed through an apprenticeship in one or other of the skilled engineering trades, and who are fully engaged on war work in the shipyards or munition factories. Such lads should remain at their work.
Others who have passed through an apprenticeship as above, but who are not fully engaged on war work in the shipyards or munition factories, may report to their recruiting office and request to be trade tested for artificers. There are vacancies for such lads in the following corps:— Royal Regiment of Artillery; Royal Engineers; Royal Flying Corps; M.G.C.; Heavy Section (Tanks), A.S.C., and A.O.C.
COUNTY APPEAL TRIBUNAL
A meeting of the Northumberland Appeal Tribunal was held at Alnwick on Friday last week. Mr D.H. Watson Askey presided.
Mr Wm. Slater, timber merchant, appealed against the decision of the Morpeth tribunal in respect to George Sisterson, who is employed by him, and if taken for the Army he would not be able to carry out his contracts. The Ministry of Munitions was willing to issue badges when satisfied the employee was engaged on urgent war work, and appellant explained to the tribunal that Sisterson was so engaged. He was 28 and a single man. The reason why the application had been dismissed on the 8th July was because of a misunderstanding on account of his (appellant’s) non-attendance at the meeting.— The appeal was granted, conditional exemption being given Sisterson while Sisterson remained in his present employment.
Mr Alderson, solicitor, Morpeth, appealed against the decision of the Morpeth tribunal in respect to Thomas Frederick Rutherford, magisterial clerk, in his employment. It was claimed that the work in which Rutherford was engaged was of national importance. It had been found impossible to obtain a substitute, and it was not possible to train a girl to petty sessional work, and it was a very heavy area, courts being held nearly every day.— The appeal was allowed, conditional exemption being granted.
Mr T.D. Shaw, solicitor, Morpeth, on behalf of Mr Ralph S. Wood, farmer, Hagg House, Cresswell, appealed against the decision of the Rural tribunal in respect to Oswald Rogers, employed by Mr Wood as ploughman and stockman, who had been granted temporary exemption till a substitute was found.— Mr Shaw said the appeal was really against substitution.
Rogers had done some service, having been in the Life Guards in 1915 and been discharged. Rogers was practically the only man who could take up the management, Mr Wood for 18 months or two years having been practically unable to do the work himself, and he had a large farm, 150 acres being arable land. The Military Representative pointed out that Rogers was 22 years of age, and had passed for general service, and this was evidently a case for substitution.— Mr Shaw stated that Rogers had been in the Household Cavalry and discharged as unfit for the duties.— The Military Representative stated he was instructed that Rogers had only been in the Household Cavalry three days.
It was remarked that a shoemaker might be sent as a substitute to look after cattle.— Military Representative: A shoemaker or artisan will not be sent.— Mr Wood remarked that the substitute should be to the satisfaction of the farmer. If a man was substituted who knew nothing it would cause great inconvenience.— Appeal dismissed.
Mr Shaw also appealed for John Allan Anderson, jun., Morpeth, manager of a wholesale and retail ale, wine, and spirit, and aerated water business, also the Gubeon farm. Mr Shaw pointed out that Mr Anderson, sen., had nine fully licensed premises, besides the aerated water factory and the Gubeon farm, and was now unable to undertake any of the management, being 73 years of age. He had three sons, one of whom had gone into the Army and another into the Navy, and now the one for whom he appealed had to undertake the whole management.
After further explaining the position, Mr Shaw stated that before the war they employed 25 men, 11 of whom had joined the Colours, and of the few who were yet employed his client was the only eligible man for the service. Efforts had been made to get someone to fill his client’s place, but these had all been of no avail. To the advertisements in all the papers in Northumberland they had only received two replies and these from persons with no experience and could not undertake the responsibility of the duties.
The clerk employed was infirm, and consequently could not undertake the responsibility of looking after the nine houses. It was not a job for women to move barrels of beer, nor were they acquainted with looking after the beer.— Temporary exemption was granted till May 1st to see what arrangements could be made to get someone.
An appeal was made for David Kerr McArthur, foreman corn miller, employed by Messrs R. Oliver and Son, of Wansbeck Flour Mills. The grounds of appeal were that McArthur was the only skilled man in the mill, and it was to the national interest that he should continue in the work in which he was engaged.— Mr Oliver stated that McArthur was 40½ years of age, married, and had six children. He had not been medically examined, but he had the best of health during the 12 or 14 years he had been in their employment.
He was in a certified occupation. Those who were of opinion that they were not making flour were labouring under a misunderstanding, for they manufactured flour, and their mill was the only one in the district. They had besides a bakery, and were under a contract from the War Office. His nephew was killed at the battle of Loos. They were six men short of the number employed before the war.— Conditional exemption was granted.
The Military appealed against the decision of the Morpeth Rural tribunal in respect to John Robson, farm manager, employed on Earsdon West Farm, Longhorsley.— Mr R. Nicholson, solicitor, Morpeth, represented the appellant, and stated that there were three sons of Mrs Robson, who is a widow — John, 25 years of age; Edward, 24 years of age, and medically unfit; and Robert, a boy of 16. Before the war five men were employed, now there were only three. If John were taken she would have to give up the farm. There was no other male labour but these three sons on the farm.— The tribunal dismissed the appeal.
Mr Nicholson also represented William Storey (37), Linden Hill Head, Longhorsley, butcher, this being another case where the Military appealed against the decision of the Morpeth Rural tribunal. Mr Nicholson pointed out that Storey had a wide area to supply with meat. The Co-operative Stores round about did not send their butchers into the district which his client travelled. There was another butcher in Longhorsley, who was the only opponent.
Storey only employed a boy of 18 years, and he would not put himself in his way of joining the Army. The people, a large number, in his area had unsolicited presented a memorial desiring Storey’s exemption. He had about 250 customers. If called upon, these people would be put to great inconvenience. Under the circumstances he trusted the judgement of the local tribunal would not be upset.— The tribunal allowed the military appeal.
Mr Nicholson further appealed against the decision of the Morpeth Rural tribunal in respect to Joseph Davison, of West Stobswood, cowkeeper and milk dealer, also a smallholder, Mr Nicholson pointed out that there were domestic hardships in this case.— The tribunal dismissed the appeal.
At the Coal Trade Offices, Newcastle, on Saturday, a conference was held between representatives of the Northumberland Miners’ Association, the deputies, the colliery mechanics, and the Enginemen and Firemens’ Association, and the Coalowners’ Association, when the men’s leaders submitted their claim that there should be no further reduction in wages for the duration of the war.
Wages are determined by the rise and fall in the average net selling price of coal, and at the last quarterly ascertainment the selling price was shown to have fallen by 1/4½ per ton, which meant 11 per cent reduction in wages, the sliding scale providing that for every rise or fall of 1½d. per ton in the selling price, wages rise or fall 1 per cent. Thus wages have fallen in the current quarter from 131 per cent to 120 per cent above the basis of 1879.
The Wages Committee of the Northumberland Miners’ Association had already considered the position, and the other colliery organisations joined with them in urging that the men should not suffer any further reduction of wages during the war or so long as the cost of living was at the present level.
The committee have pointed out that the rise in the cost of food since the war commenced was 84 per cent, and the general increase in the cost of living 64 per cent. When the war commenced the Northumberland miners had 50 per cent, on basis wages, and now they are 70 per cent above that figure, but this additional 70 per cent is on basic wages, and is equal to only 46.66 per cent on actual wages at the beginning of the war.
Mr T. Taylor presided, and the proceedings last about three hours.
It was urged from the men’s side that while the Government had not yet taken over the coal mines, they had, so far as coal export was concerned, taken control of coal prices, and as wages were governed entirely by prices, then for practical purposes the Government controlled the mines. Not only had the Government done this, but they had interfered with the export trade in other directions.
To this the men had no objection whatever, but they did claim that the mining community in an exporting district should not have to bear the whole burden of something which the Government did in the interests of the whole country.
The men’s leaders also complained that in the negotiations for the regulation of the export of coal the Government consulted the colliery owners, the coal exporters, and the shippers but absolutely ignored the workers in the industry. The miners contended that they had just as much right to be consulted in a matter of this kind as had the other interests mentioned. In these circumstances the men felt the time had come for them to make a stand, and assert their importance to the industry.
It was further pointed out that the supplementary sliding scale was established to deal with exceptional circumstances arising out of the war. These circumstances embraced high prices of coal and very high cost of living, and the sliding scale helped to increase wages to meet the higher cost of living, but not entirely. If the Government by their action — and to this the miners did not object — reduced their wages, they deprived the men of the benefits accruing to them under the supplementary scale. The men intimated that they were determined to resist any further reduction in wages while the cost of living remained as it was.
The coalowners’ answer to the men’s claims was, it is stated, that the Government had not yet taken the mines over, and that in these circumstances the men’s unions should abide by the terms of the sliding scale to which they were parties.
The men’s representatives suggested that the coalowners should communicate with the Government in the matter, as the trade unions concerned had already done.
The meeting did not come to any decision, but it is understood that the coalowners will further consider the question.