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.
A local effort is to be made on Wednesday, 4th July, with a view to raising funds for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
The war has affected every section of the community and every organisation. To the NSPCC it has brought much extra work, a duty willingly undertaken and readily performed.
The disturbance of home life consequent on the war’s demand for men, and the domestic sorrow caused by the death of so many fathers, are matters that materially concern children, and everything touching the welfare of a child must naturally be the concern of the Society.
Out of a staff of inspectors numbering 263 no less than 60 have served in the Navy and Army; and of 57 male workers at the Central Office everyone of military age responded to the call to defend the honour of the nation.
One of the most interesting things that has happened has been the large number of requests received from soldiers that the Society should look after their children while they were away. Needless to say every request was acceded to.
From August, 1914, to March 31st, 1917, 33,234 children of soldiers needed the Society’s protection.
The Society is fighting against the terrible mortality amongst young children by trying to improve the conditions in which so many of them live.
For this reason alone, if for no other one, one feels one must support the Society in war time, when child life is more than every a national asset.
The most prominent feature in connection with the volunteer movement during the past week has been the week’s camp at Whitley Bay for the purpose of undergoing tests as required by the Volunteer Act and Relegations.
The Morpeth detachment turned out in strong force. Forty-eight men paraded at the Drill Hall last Saturday under the command of Lieut. Wm. Duncan.
The detachment passed into camp at Whitley Bay at six in the evening and were billeted in the hutments at the Musketry Camp, and were ready for work on Sunday morning.
Each of the battalions of the regiment were well represented, and on Sunday morning at 9 o’clock were taken over by officers and N.C.O.s of the regular regiments stationed in the district.
The men were divided into sections and inspected and put through various tests, including squad drill, route marching, extended order drill, bayonet fighting and bombing. It was satisfactory to learn that all the Morpeth men, with one of two exceptions of men who have recently joined the detachment, were successful and passed the required tests.
The only test now remaining for the Morpeth men to pass is that of musketry, for which arrangements are likely to be made to carry out the tests on the Morpeth range at an early date.
On Monday further tests were carried through and instruction given, and the majority of the Morpeth detachment returned on Monday evening well satisfied with the work done and the new experience of attending a regular military camp.
The usual weekly parade of the detachment was held at the Drill Hall on Tuesday evening when there was a good muster, and valuable instruction was given by N.C.O.s of the Cheshire Regiment on the care of arms, firing etc.
A parade was also held last night, when musketry instruction was continued, and it is intended that during the next week or two this instruction shall be further continued for the purpose of getting the men through the tests laid down by the Army Council at as early a date as possible.
Parades will be held at the Drill Hall on Sunday first at 10.10am, and next week on Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm.
The present is an excellent opportunity for further men to enrol, the evenings are fine, and the men can get into the open — on Cottingwood, where excellent exercise is obtained.
The men can be seen on parade on Tuesday and Thursday evening, and anyone desirous of joining should pay a visit and judge for themselves whether the work is not of a most valuable character and worthy of their consideration.
MORPETH FLAG DAY
Arrangements have been made to carry out a series of interesting events in the Borough of Morpeth tomorrow (Saturday). The whole affair has been organised by the Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple) with the assistance of colleagues on the Council.
One of the events is a flag day in aid of the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. The Mayoress has the arrangements in hand, and she hopes that all the ladies who have promised help will do their utmost to make the flag day a thorough success.
The Royal Field Artillery Band, Newcastle, should prove a popular attraction. By kind permission of Colonel J.A. Burrowes, C.M.B., R.F.A., the band will play selections of music in Carlisle Park from three to five in the afternoon.
There will be also be children’s sports and dancing on the green. A guides’ race for Boy Scouts under 12, and also for boys from 12 to 15 years; also a guides’ race for members of the Boys’ Brigade under 12, and for boys from 12 to 15 years of age. The Mayor will give a silver medal to the winners.
A meeting will be held at 6.30 in the evening, when the band will discourse music, and a number of artistes will sing patriotic songs.
Two local soldier heroes will be presented with their medals — Sergeant J.B. Dodds, N.F., the Military Medal, and Sergeant John Thomson, N.F., the Medaille Militaire (French decoration). On behalf of the local War Heroes’ Fund presentations will also be made to the gallant soldiers.
The Mayor will preside, and the speakers will include the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, the Sheriff of Newcastle and Mr Geo. Renwick.
Given fine weather tomorrow’s proceedings should prove in every respect very interesting and enjoyable to the townspeople and visitors.
NATIONAL SERVICE CAMPAIGN
A meeting of the National Service Committee was held in the Council Chamber, Morpeth, on Tuesday for the purpose of receiving and considering reports of work done and results achieved, pass accounts for payment, and make any arrangements deemed necessary. The Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple) presided.
Mr Fearby said there had been no report drawn up because Mr W. Simpson, who took over canvassing work, had promised to give him a report, but had not done so.
So far as his own work was concerned he could only say that everybody worked harmoniously together. They had good and enthusiastic meetings in the cinemas, and speakers were procured, who laid their views before the people in a businesslike manner, and he thought a very great impression was made.
He had to thank those who assisted him in the campaign. He was not sure of the exact number of the people who had given their names, as Mr W. Simpson had all the details.
So far as expenditure was concerned he had two or three accounts, and these had been sent to London, but he had not heard from the Government Department yet. The whole expenditure was between £4 and £5. More than £2 of that was fees for Mr W. Simpson assisting. With the exception of that everybody gave their services gratuitously.
The Town Clerk then observed that the Mayor had just opened a letter which contained Mr W. Simpson’s report.
The report of Mr Wm. Simpson, canvass organiser, as to house-to-house canvass read as follows:—
“As directed by the committee at their meeting on March 23rd, I organised a staff of 28 volunteer canvassers, who, under my supervision, made a personal canvass of the Borough, divided into 14 districts. With six exceptions all those who volunteered returned their canvass books with the intimation that they had not time to canvass, and I had their places to fill at the last minute.
“The Town Clerk lent the National Registration Enumerators’ books, which were of great service as canvass books. If it has not been for these books some days would have elapsed before a start could have been made.
“The canvass was delayed for a day or two owing to the absence of literature. None was forthcoming through the secretary, so I applied to the Town Clerk, who procured and supplied all that was necessary.
“The canvassers found that a large number of the men they required were on military duty, a considerable number had been killed in action, some had returned discharged from the service incapacitated by their injuries and a large number of service age were working in mines or in other employment of national importance.
“As the canvass was done in the evenings most of the available men were out, so the idea of obtaining completed enrolment forms had to be abandoned, and forms and a supply of literature were left at each house. Under the circumstances results cannot be stated, though I understand the number of enrolment forms presented at the post office has been considerable.”
Mr Fearby said he had great difficulty in getting literature. He applied to three places at Newcastle, and then telegraphed to London. They said they would send some, and he waited a week before it came, and he had even to pay the carriage.
The Town Clerk read his report as follows:— “The committee has not met since March 23rd. At the meeting a public meeting in the Town Hall was arranged to be addressed by the Sub-Commissioner, Mr Charles Percy, and, if possible, Mr Gratton Doyle or an M.P. and Mr Geo. Renwick.
“Mr Percy reported having arranged with Mr Renwick. I communicated with Mr Doyle, but the curtailment of the train service prevented his getting home to Birtley.
“Finding from the secretary that he had taken no steps to advertise the meeting, I prepared and issued the necessary handbills and leaflets, and procured and had distributed a large quantity of literature. I also obtained large coloured posters and had them fixed up on posting stations, travelling vans, and on other suitable advertising medium.
“Mr Renwick and Mr Percy addressed a fairly good meeting in the Town Hall on March 30th.
“Councillor Armstrong and myself canvassed No. 1 District of the town. Mr Simpson reported his inability to proceed with the canvass for want of literature, which it was understood would be supplied from headquarters or by the Chief Commissioner in Newcastle on application.
“As the canvass was being held up I arranged with the Commissioner for a week’s daily supply of literature, and Mr John T. Watson arranged with a Newcastle porter to see same sent off by train till all the canvassers were amply provided for.
“I have supplied the Sub-Commissioner with the information for which he has asked, and have also answered the correspondence of the National Service Department.
“For want of meetings of the committee, the following requirements of the department have not received the attention they required:— (a) Appeal for volunteers for the Women’s Land Army, for which a woman’s department of the movement has been formed, but no branch has been established in connection with the Morpeth Committee; (b) The provision and utilisation of part time labour; (c) The obtaining of labour or part time labour for harvesting and agriculture; (d) Obtaining information as to timber available for national service in and around the area; (e) Co-operation amongst trades so as to get the best out of the labour available.
“The Department do not intend that the endeavour to obtain volunteers under the original scheme should be allowed to drop, and further, that in consequence of the calling of men to the Forces from the munition works and other works of national importance, a demand for substitution volunteers has arisen which it is hoped to meet through the appointment of fresh National Service committees for the compiling and maintenance of registers of available volunteers for either whole or part-time labour, or the re-constitution of the old committees.
“On June 5th the Mayor received a letter from the National Service Department asking for a return of what this Council had done with regard to these matters or for reasons why nothing had been done. The Mayor feels that this communication necessitates some action on the part of the committee.”
After several questions had been asked, the Town Clerk, said: The first thing to consider is, having regard to what you see going on all over the country, whether you will go on with the national movement here or give it up. In either case it is your duty to report to the National Service Commissioners.
If you agree not to give it up it will be necessary to appoint a committee. A committee was appointed the other night to appoint a larger committee to do the work. It will be necessary for you to have a committee consisting of at least 30 or 40 members. Then get yourselves into working order to carry out the compiling of the new register and do the other work that has been left undone.
Here is a pile of circulars that should have been considered by the committee. The Town Clerk then read a circular from headquarters with regard to the economising of labour resources and said: We are treating it far too lightly here. The committee ought to have had a meeting every week in order to do justice to the campaign.
The failure of the scheme in Morpeth, as in other places, has been the difficulty of getting people to go heart and soul into it. Take the house-to-house canvass, and you will not find the names of more than three members of the Town Council who have taken any part.
They want to know the names of all persons who will volunteer for full time or part time. It is no use getting the names and putting these on scraps of paper or backs of envelopes. We have got to prepare something of the system of a register.
Mr Fearby: Do you think you will get a committee of 40?
Town Clerk: My view is that the work will devolve on about half of the Council. Let that half sit down and make a list of the people well known in Morpeth to be workers in a matter of this kind.
My scheme is: Get a meeting of the Council and let them write down 30 or 40 reliable workers, and divide the town into districts. Each district can be allotted to say three workers. There you have a small committee of three in each district and each can bring the result of their work to the Central committee.
It is only a suggestion which may be improved and developed. Of course you are here to decide whether you go on or not.
Mr Fearby: I think we should go on as loyal subjects. I will do my utmost in any capacity. I think it will be better if we have half-a-dozen members from the Council who will willingly undertake the work. You will get better results.
Mr Simpson moved that the Town Clerk be asked to take the work in hand. They all knew how well he had carried out the National Service register, and he felt sure that he would carry this work through with the same success.
Mr Fearby said he was quite agreeable to the proposal. The motion was carried.
The Town Clerk said he was interested in the work.
Mr Thomas Hutchinson, schoolmaster, Pegswood, presided at a public meeting on Tuesday evening, when the Rev. Joseph Miller of Morpeth delivered an instructive discourse on the subject of the war and good economy.— Mr G.R. Nichol, afterwards spoke.
The meeting was very successful.