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.
Under the auspices of the National War Aims Committee, a meeting was held in the Town Hall, Morpeth, on Monday evening. There was only a moderate attendance of the public, owing to the inclemency of the weather. The Rev. J.C. Sutcliffe presided.
The Chairman said that when one saw the conditions as they were at the Front, and knew the tremendous sacrifices that had been made and were being made day by day, one felt that could only be justified on the ground that there were some things more precious than life itself. They believed that more things precious than life were at stake in this titanic struggle which was going on.
Morpeth had taken a good share in this great struggle. They had sent the cream of their young men and some who were not young. There was a great necessity of meetings of this kind being held all over the country. They always claimed that their cause was a righteous one, and he had always believed that righteous causes were causes which would bear the light of investigation.
When we went into the war we had two aims in view — the defence of Belgium and also in some measure to prevent Germany over-running France. There were some people who believed we went into the war for imperialistic motives, but he had never shared that belief, and he had tried to take as impartial a view of the situation as one possibly could.
He believed our defence of Belgium was due to a moral obligation on our part. If Germany had defeated Belgium and France she would not likely stop there. It was clear instinct that enabled our Statesmen to see that if Germany succeeded in crushing France and over-running Belgium it would only be a matter of a few years when Germany would try the same thing on England.
He had carefully read all the replies to the Pope’s Note, two months ago, and he was particularly struck with one sentence in Germany’s reply: “The Imperial Government will support every proposal which is compatible with the vital interest of the German Empire and people.”
They had to bring the German people to see that it did not necessarily follow that the vital interests of the German Empire and people were “wrapped up with the vital interests of the world at large.” Their aim was that they should bring about such a state of things that Germany would come to see that its own best interests were wrapped up with the victories of the Allies. (Applause.)
He took it that their aim was the restoration and the full independence of Belgium and of all the territories which Germany had so ruthlessly and cruelly invaded. (Applause.)
Mr Heatley said that they had reached a most critical period on the history of the war. He referred to the pacifists, and went on to say that the immediate purpose they had got to achieve was first to utterly destroy the power of German militarism, and until it was utterly destroyed peace in Europe was absolutely impossible.
He alluded to the spirit which was underlying the whole life of the German nation, and said they had to see that this horrible method of settling international disputes should cease forever, and that they should have a peace that was not going to be guaranteed by mere scraps of paper, but guaranteed by a league of civilised nations.
Mr Orrell emphasised the fact that their chief aim was to continue this war until they had beaten down Prussian militarism so that Germany could never fight this or any other nation in the future. He asked them to face their burdens manfully, and now that they saw the golden lining he felt sure they were not going to turn their backs on the brave lads who were fighting for them. (Applause.)
Mr T. Robinson proposed a vote of thanks to the speakers, which was unanimously carried.
MORPETH SOLDIER’S DEATH
Mrs Dunn, 7 Reid Street, Middle Greens, Morpeth, has received the following letter from Captain G. White, N.F.:— “I have been unable to write to you before to tell you how sorry we all were to lose Private Dunn, who was killed by a shell on October 4th during an attack. Your husband died instantly.
“I feel the loss very much, as he had been with me as a runner for a long time, and had done splendid work on many occasions. It is, I know, a great loss to you, as I know that he was often thinking of you.
“He was a splendid soldier, always smart and cheerful under trying circumstances, and one of the bravest runners we have had. He will be missed by all ranks.”
MORPETH SOLDIER’S APPEAL
Private A, Storey, 14th Northumberland Fusiliers, writes:— “Just a few lines to ask a favour through your valuable paper, which we often get in France. There are a lot of we Morpeth chaps together, and the long, dreary nights are here, so I want to appeal to your readers to send us a mouth organ or two. They would help to wile may a wear hour away, and we would be very grateful for them.”
MAYOR’S DINNER ABANDONED
The Mayor-Elect has received the following letter from Sir Arthur Yapp, Director of Food Economy:— “If it is not too late, may I say how very much I should appreciate it if you could abandon the customary banquet this year. It is not merely the scarcity of food, but the effects such functions are likely to have on the public mind at a time like this.
“If at such short notice it is absolutely impossible to abandon it altogether, would it be possible for you to arrange a very simple meal within the limits of the Public Meals’ Order without any supplements, and to give publicity to the matter beforehand by publishing this letter.
“If the Mayors-Elect throughout the country are prepared to take this step, it will help the food economy campaign more than almost anything else. I must apologise for giving such very short notice. My only excuse is that having been appointed Director of Food Economy so recently it has taken me some time to get my bearings.”
In deference to that request the Mayor-Elect and the retiring Mayor have agreed that the Mayor’s dinner this year should not be held, much to the regret of both. One can sympathise with them when we find that not only is the Lord Mayor of London’s Guild Hall banquet to be held as usual, but it is to be attended by members of the Government.
The Mayor and Corporation will attend Divine Service at the Wesleyan Church, Morpeth, on Sunday morning first, where Dr Wardle Stafford, Chaplain to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, has kindly agreed to conduct the service.
The military and Volunteer regiments, Boys’ Brigade, Boy Scouts, and Grammar School Cadets, and all the public bodies usually invited have been asked to join in the procession, which will be formed at the Town Hall at 10.30, and will be led to the church by the Morpeth Pipers’ Band.
ENTERTAINMENTS AT SOLDIERS’ INSTITUTE
A very enjoyable concert was given in the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, last Friday evening by members of the Shropshire Yeomanry, assisted by friends. The programme was of a varied and interesting character, and S.S.M. Snyders, who organised the concert, deserves all praise for bringing together such a galaxy of talent.
The president of the Institute, Mr George Renwick, occupied the chair. On behalf of the committee he extended a hearty welcome to the Shropshires and hoped they would make use of the Institute daily.
He traced the history of the Institute, and remarked that through the generosity of friends it had been kept going almost since the commencement of hostilities. He mentioned that refreshments were supplied at below cost price, and expressed the hope that the soldiers would be as happy there as all those who had gone before them. (Applause.)
By the kindness of Mr Renwick the soldiers were provided with cigarettes.
The Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple), who has at all times shown a kindly interest in the welfare of the soldiers stationed in the town and district, gave a concert to the “Boys” in the Soldiers’ Institute on Monday evening.
The hall was well filled, and every item was well received. The Mayor extended a hearty welcome to the soldiers and hoped they would enjoy their stay in the borough. The soldiers were supplied with cigarettes through the kindness of the Mayor.
On the motion of Councillor R.N. Swinney, the Mayor was heartily thanked for providing the entertainment, the proceedings concluding with the singing of the National Anthem.
HELP OUR SAILORS
On Wednesday (Fair Day) Mrs Ralph Spencer and Mrs F. Fenwick, through the kindness of Colonel Forrest, held a refreshment stall in the Corn Exchange, Morpeth, to provide funds to buy fruit and vegetables for our sailors.
Tea, coffee, and sandwiches were served throughout the day. There was a large attendance, and a good sum was realised.
The following ladies assisted in the serving:— Mrs Fenwick, Mrs Straughan, Miss Spencer, Miss D. Spencer, Miss Brumell, Miss Fenwick, Miss Benton, and Miss Smith.
The committee of the Morpeth Cottage Hospital wish to acknowledge with thanks the receipt of £5 from Mr Paton, the proceeds of a football match at Morpeth between Morpeth Post Girls and Blyth Spartans Munition Workers.
1st LINE, 7th N.F.
Sir,— I am informed by the officer commanding 7th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers that socks are the only articles they are likely to require during the coming winter, and that they are very much appreciated and always welcome.
I shall be grateful, therefore, if the friends of this battalion, who have contributed so generously in the past, and who still may desire to assist, will kindly send these articles to me at the following address.—
I am, yours faithfully,
ROBERT SCOTT, Lieut.-Col.
Newton House, Christon Bank,
Northumberland, Nov. 1st., 1917
ROLL OF HONOUR
Mrs C. Woodward, Mason View, Seaton Burn, has been notified that her son, A.B.C. Woodward, R.N.D., previously reported wounded, has died from his wounds.
News has been received that Lieut. T. Elmslie Middlemiss, Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action on October 17th. He was the only son of the Rev. J.T. and Mrs Middlemiss. The Beeches, West Didsbury, and grandson of the late Mr Geo, Middlemiss, Morpeth. Lieut. Middlemiss was 26 years of age.
Official news has been received that Bomb. J.C. Goulding, R.F.A., only son of Councillor John Goulding of Blyth, was killed in action on October 25th.
Mrs Coutts, Granby Buildings, Morpeth, has received the following letter from Lieut. C.R. Strides regarding the death of her husband:— “No doubt you have been informed of the death of your husband, Lance-Corporal Coutts, N.F., but will not have had particulars.
“Your husband was wounded by a bomb whilst on duty. From the first he seemed quite cheery and received every attention, and was taken to the casualty clearing station. In spite of the severe wounds he received we thought by his wonderful spirit and pluck, he would probably survive. However, such was not the case, and he died from his wounds.
“I sincerely offer you my heartfelt sympathy in your great loss. Your husband was always known as a good soldier, friend, and comrade, and is a great loss to his battalion.
“I have visited your husband’s grave. It is in a beautifully kept cemetery, and, if possible, I will endeavour to obtain and send you a photograph of his grave.”
AN INTERESTING FUNCTION
The annual meat tea to the annuitants under the Mary Hollon Annuity and Coal Fund was held at the George and Dragon Hotel on Monday.
The Rev. Mr Ward said it was very pleasant indeed for them to enjoy the hospitality of the donor of this deed. He did not hesitate to say that there was not one of them, so far as it was in their power, who would not find a greater pleasure in giving than in receiving hospitality.
It was not in lavishing luxuries on themselves, but trying to bear one another’s burdens that they found the deepest and most satisfying of joys. Those were dark and dreadful years through which they were passing, and the strain upon their endurance was very severe, but already they were beginning to reap the precious harvest from their triumphs, and they were gathering the fruits that he believed would be for their permanent enrichment.
Take for example thrift and economy. Notwithstanding the immensely increased cost of food never was there more money saved in this country than has been during the past two years. Investors might be counted not only by the thousands but by the millions. Those investments had to a very large extent been drawn from the middle and working classes of the land. He thought that fact would make for the stability of the country after the war.
He thought the war had developed the generosity of the country. Although millions of money had been cheerfully lent to the Government in its hour of dire need, yet it was very gratifying to know that the charities of the country were never more magnificently supported than during the past two or three years.
A very interesting fact came to his knowledge a little while ago. A German aeroplane dropped a bomb into a field and made a vast crater and killed a cow. Now the owner of the cow and the crater knew how to make an honest penny, and so he arranged that the headless animal and the crater should be on view to the public at a charge of two-pence each, and the money thus raised was for the Red Cross Fund. Fifty thousand people went to see the scene, and in this way £400 was raised for the Red Cross Fund. Their orphans, their hospitals, and church enterprises, at home and abroad, had received contributions far beyond anticipations.
The war had brought out the courage and endurance of the country. Although the struggle was so hard and so long they were going to win, and this was going to be the end of the war. They would win not because of our military and naval supremacy, but because they were fighting for the cause of the truth, justice, and humanity. (App.)
They would join in hearty congratulations to the retiring Mayor and Mayoress, who had both had such a good year of office. They would also welcome the Mayor-elect, and hope and pray that during his year of office there would come the blessings of peace. (Applause.)
The Mayor-elect proposed a vote of thanks to the Mayor for presiding. He said that the Mayor had discharged his onerous duties during the past year with dignity and satisfaction both in the Council and in the town. He had not spared himself. He had never missed a Council or a committee meeting, and had been most regular in his attendance at war savings, food control, tribunal, and Red Cross sales.
Owing to the darkened thoroughfares the annuitants were driven home in cabs provided by Mr A. Straughan.
COUNTY APPEALS TRIBUNAL
A meeting of the Northumberland Appeal Tribunal (Berwick area) was held in the Council Chamber, Green Bat, Alnwick, on Friday last, Mr Watson Askew presiding.
The following applications were made for leave to appeal to the Central Tribunal:— Joseph Hopper, rabbit catcher, Throphill, Morpeth, on the grounds that he was doing more valuable work and of national importance by weekly contributing to the food supply than he could be doing in the Army according to his medical category.
He had killed 3,243 rabbits during the last 12 months and 5,000 the year before. The tenants on the Mitford estate had said they would do all they could to keep the rabbits down but in spite of their efforts and Hopper’s work they complained that rabbits were doing damage to their crops.
A letter was read from the Food Production Department of the Board of Agriculture, which mentioned a rabbit catcher’s work was of national importance, and the Tribunal struck off the case.