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.
The quarterly meeting of Morpeth Town Council was held on Tuesday evening. The Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple) presided.
The Town Clerk read circular letters from the Ministry of Food requiring the Council to appoint a committee comprising at least one representative of labour and one woman, with a responsible executive officer, to carry out the scheme of food control within the borough.
The committee recommended that it consist of the Mayor and Mayoress, Aldermen Brown and Norman, Councillors Swinney and Grey, Councillor and Mrs Armstrong, and the Rev. Jos. Miller, and that the Town Clerk be appointed the responsible executive officer at a salary to be fixed after an experience of the work involved. The report was adopted.
An application was received from the postmaster for leave to pay pensions in the Butter Market, Town Hall, on Monday and Tuesday forenoons in order to relieve the congestion at the post office counter and consequent inconvenience to the public. The application was granted.
The Town Clerk presented a circular letter from Aberavon Town Council enclosing copy of resolution passed by that Council suggesting the return to wheaten flour alone for the manufacture of bread.
The committee recommended that the Council adopt a similar resolution — “That believing the diluted flour now used for making bread be detrimental to health the Council suggest the return to wheaten bread only in the interests of public health.” The recommendation was carried.
The Surveyor reported that he had had an inquiry from the Gas Company whether the Council wanted gas this winter. He said that the lamps which were lighted last winter were blackened down so much that they were useless. Unless they could get a better light than last year he would not advise the Council having light.
Mr Grey moved that two or three members of the Council be appointed to a committee to see what other towns, similarly situated as Morpeth, were doing in the matter of lighting. Morpeth was very inadequately lighted last winter. Other towns had four times the number of lights as they had.
Town Clerk: The Chief Constable told us he could not help it if other towns were committing a breach of the regulations.
Mr Armstrong thought the Council would be ill-advised if they were to leave their lamps unlighted. He thought they should endeavour to get more lamps lighted this winter. Of course, the lanterns were blackened very far down; but the light there was on the ground let people know where they were.
Town Clerk: Seeing that things have changed it rather looks as if the police were not so strict in regard to the lighting regulations.
Mr Grey: The lights we had last winter were better than nothing.
Mayor: I think we should try to get the town better lighted during the coming winter nights.
Mr Simpson: If the lights are not better than last winter it does not matter whether we have lights or not.
Mr Grey: My point is we want no more lights than any other town. If some towns have more, then we should have the same number of lights.
Mr Waterston: You will have to have a lamp at the bridge, or there will be an inquest shortly.
Ald. Norman moved that the Mayor and Councillor Grey be a committee to report on the matter.
Mr Turnbull: We might try the Chief Constable again.
It was decided that the Mayor and Councillor Grey inspect the lighting elsewhere, and see the Chief Constable as to increasing the number of lamps about Morpeth, and in the meantime the lighting to be started as it was last year.
PAYMENT OF ARMY ALLOWANCES
The Postmaster gives information that by permission of the Town Council, he has arranged to pay Army allowances between the hours of 9am and 2pm in the Butter Market at the Town Hall on Mondays and Tuesdays weekly.
It is particularly requested that those authorised to receive these allowances will attend on the days and during the hours mentioned.
Separation allowances will be paid on Mondays and dependents’ allowances on Tuesdays, and it should be realised that a considerable amount of inconvenience to the post office staff and the general public will result if these arrangements, which will be put in force on Monday, the 20th inst., are not adhered to.
MORPETH P.M. CHURCH
Last Sunday the Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple) and Corporation and officials attended the morning service at the Primitive Methodist Church, Morpeth.
The service was conducted by the Rev. J.C. Sutcliffe, who has recently returned after a few months’ work in France with the Y.M.C.A.
The rev. gentleman delivered a striking sermon on the war, its progress, incidents, development and policy. He made special references to his own experiences with the troops at the front.
He expressed the hope that whatever peace terms were made they would be such as to not preclude the possibility of fraternising amongst all the nations of the earth.
The training of the Morpeth Volunteers is proceeding briskly, and good progress is being made in musketry.
A sergeant-instructor has now been attached to the company, taking up his duties on Tuesday night last.
MR STRAKER ON AN EARLY PEACE
“When will the war end?” That ever-recurring query is discussed by Mr William Straker in his August circular to the Northumberland miners as follows:—
“I think the signs are favourable for an early peace. Much depends on the attitude of the democracy of this country. Notwithstanding the professions of love for the democracy of Germany by people who never loved democracy either in Germany or anywhere else, I am still of the opinion that the least likely thing in the world to occur is for ‘the leopard to change his spots.’
“While these people are saying that their desire is to see the democracy of Germany rise to revolt against the military system under which they live, they are at the same time endeavouring by every artifice possible to hinder any encouragement being given the Germany democracy to revolt.
“The fact is that it is the last thing they desire to see. They know that the wave of democratic feeling, taking its rise in Russia, will reach our own shores much sooner if it receives an impetus in Germany.
“But what that class of people are afraid of, the working classes of this country ought to be glad to welcome.
“Doubtless there is a strong feeling growing in Germany on the side of peace, and if we in this country would encourage it by our sympathy it might take practical form in the way it has done in Russia.
“But so long as we cry for the crushing of the German nation by military and economic means the German Government will be able to secure the undivided support of its people against threats of national destruction such as our junkers boast we will accomplish.
“The soonest way to end this war, and prevent wars in the future, is for international democracy to manage its own affairs.
“I have again been charged with inconsistency in doing what I can to secure the support for our men at the front while being against the war from its inception.
“Let me repeat what I have often put to you before. So long as this country sends our young men to the front to face the guns of the enemy, so long must we support them there. To send them and leave them with inadequate supplies would be a crime of the deepest dye.
“I believe it would be for the world’s good if peace was to be declared tomorrow; but the country does not think that. Therefore, my lads and your lads who have been sent out there must be supported.”
MORPETH GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS’ HELP
In connection with the scheme of the National Service Department for harvest work for public school boys, the school undertook to send a detachment of cadets to camp at Kirkwhelpington. The camp was pitched in the vicarage paddock, lent by the vicar (Rev. R.R. Hedley), from July 27th to August 11th, under the command of Lieut. Kennedy.
The detachment consisted of Sergt. Major Hepburn, Sergeants Reay, Dixon, Anderson, and Sample, and 20 cadets, and during the fortnight put in something like 2,000 hours of work on various farms.
A correspondent sends us the following:— An interesting and successful experiment in the employment of boys on the land has been made in connection with Morpeth Grammar school.
A party of 25 boys, all members of the school cadet unit, was encamped for a fortnight at Kirkwhelpington, and the boys were hired in squads of from two to ten by the local farmers.
Owing to the exceptionally early season the hay harvest was almost over, and the work consisted chiefly of thistle cutting, and the sturdy, workmanlike manner in which the boys carried out this rather monotonous work spoke well for the spirit in which they entered the movement.
Probably no section of the community is more desirous of helping the country in its present needs than the public schoolboy, and this opportunity to “do his bit” was eagerly seized upon.
Much of the success of the experiment is due to the military authorities, who supplied the equipment and personnel for the camp, and gave great assistance in the organisation, and due also to great help of the Rev. R.R. Hedley, and Mrs Hedley.
That the boys have benefited by the work cannot be doubted. Despite the unfavourable weather they returned in excellent spirits, and it is highly creditable to all concerned that the camp could show a perfectly clean bill of health.
The experiment has proved one which the boys, the parents, and the farmers will gladly see repeated, and there appears to be no reason why camps of this kind should not become regular annual institutions.
FARMERS AND MEAT PRICES
A largely attended meeting of farmers and others interested in the prices of cattle and meat was held in the Market Place, Morpeth, on Wednesday for the purpose of protesting against the action of the Food Controller. The Mayor (Councillor J.T. Temple) presided.
The Mayor said that the question was one of great importance, particularly to such places as Morpeth, which depended so much on the farming industry.
They appreciated the necessity for regulating food prices at such a time as this, and no class of the community could be more willing to do their best in that direction than farmers. But it would be unfair to ask them to carry on at a loss.
Although the Food Controller might be desirous of doing justice to all, they felt that he was making a mistake, and they would ask that matters be rectified as soon as possible.
They felt that in Morpeth they were going to suffer tremendously. The farmers would not be the only sufferers in that respect. If things went on as they were there would be no beef for the people at Christmas, just as there were no potatoes a few months ago. The Order had done harm to their store cattle trade.
Mr L. Robson said that a want of adhesion and co-operation amongst the farmers had placed them at the mercy of politicians. It was proposed to slaughter half-a-million half-fat cattle. He was not aware that any body of farmers had been asked for advice.
The majority of farmers thought the Food Controller had made a mistake. There were black sheep in every fold, but the British farmer was willing to do his part in the way of sacrifice.
The proposal would penalise the farmer and would ultimately penalise the public. The downward sliding scale fixed by the Food Controller would make the selling prices of beef less when the cost of production was greatest. The only effect would be that thousands of cattle purchased in the spring for fattening, and thousands purchased for the same purpose in the autumn, would be slaughtered.
The half-fat cattle which they expected from Ireland, and which in some measure filled the gap, would meet a like fate.
Farmers were asked to use up their raw material for the production of beef at a time when the cry was “Increase home production.”
The supply of manure would also be curtailed at a time when they were asked to till out more land and when artificial manures were almost unobtainable.
The price of 60/- per cwt. fixed for January must to all thinking people appear to be totally inadequate. He did not know what the majority thought would be a fair price, but his own opinion was that if it has been fixed at 74/- to the early summer or June, nobody would have complained.
They were aware of the difficulties the Government had to face, and he had no desire to see those difficulties increased in any way whatever; but to ask the farmer to sell at a less price that he had paid and use up his raw material for the production of wheat and do away with the sources of his manure supply, and, in the same breath, to ask them to increase that production, was to him absurd.
He then moved the following resolution:— “That this meeting protests against the prices for cattle as fixed by the Food Controller, particularly for January. We respectfully point out that the prices as fixed will lead to the slaughter of immature cattle in the autumn months; that this must inevitably result in a serious shortage of meat in the early part of next year; that it is wasteful, and will unnecessarily deplete our flocks and herds, and be a great national loss, as well as cause serious hardship to the farming community; that the want of farmyard manure will adversely affect next year’s crops at a time when the maximum production of food in this country is of the utmost importance; and that copies of this resolution be sent to the Prime Minister, the Food Controller, the President of the Board of Agriculture, the local MPs, and the Lord-Lieutenant of the county.”
Mr O. McBryde seconded the resolution. It was usual, he said, when they wished to bring down prices to get an increase of supply, but they were going to attempt to reduce the supply to bring down prices, which was quite impossible. Most cattle had been bought at from 70/- to 80/- per cwt. How then could they expect farmers to sell out at 60/-?
Mr J. Summerbell pointed out that the lack of manure would effect crops for three years.
Major Crawford said that those who had spoken had done so as farmers. He was desirous of saying a word as a member of the general public.
They must all agree that the prices of meat had reached an exorbitant figure, and that it was necessary that the Government should make some attempt to prevent them reaching a still higher figure, and thus keep meat within the reach of the purse of the ordinary man. But they had a right to ask whether the Government was likely to effect that through their present proposal. He thought the contrary was possible.
The resolution was carried.
MORPETH COTTAGE HOSPITAL
To-morrow (Saturday) under the patronage of the Mayor and Mayoress, and by the kind permission of Colonel Burrowes, C.M.G., and the officers of the regiment, the band of the Royal Field Artillery will play selections in Castle Square and the Market Place, and give an evening concert in the Carlisle Park in aid of the funds of the above institution.
It is earnestly hoped that the public will respond liberally to this appeal, for the Cottage Hospital for many years has done much good work in the town and district, and has in common with other institutions of the kind, suffered very considerably from the effects of the war.
Should the weather prove unfavourable the evening concert will be held in the Town Hall.