In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1918, 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.
Melancholy interest was attached to the presentation which was made under the auspices of the Morpeth War Heroes Fund to the mother of the late Lance-Corporal Purvis, who won the Military Medal at the cost of his life.
The presentation ceremony took place in the Council Chamber. The Mayor (Councillor Jas. Elliott), who presided, handed over the medal, and also a wristlet watch, the gift from the Heroes Fund.
The Mayor said that they had with them that night Mrs Purvis, the mother of one of their gallant Morpeth lads, who unfortunately had paid the great sacrifice. He volunteered in the first month of the war, and was over in France in 1915. He took part in all the battles in which his regiment, the Northumberland Fusiliers, were engaged, as a bomber, including the Somme.
He was recommended for the D.C.M., but why he did not receive that honour he could not tell. Later on his continued devotion to his works, and his utter disregard of danger, earned for him the Military Medal. He would briefly refer to the sad incident.
It was on the 9th April last year. Lance-Corporal Purvis was then a stretcher bearer in his company and doing good work at that. When the call was made for volunteers to go and cut through the German wire entanglements on the Arras front he volunteered, and it was when engaged in that dangerous work that their hero lost his life.
He was sure that all of them would extend to Mrs Purvis their deepest sympathy, and he hoped that the knowledge that her brave son had died fighting for his King and country would be some consolation to her — another of their brave mothers who had reared and sent such gallant and daring lads to serve England and the world from such a detestable and inhuman foe.
Concluding, the Mayor said: It is a great honour to me, Mrs Purvis, to hand you the Military Medal won by your beloved son at the expense of his life, and also this wristlet watch from the Morpeth Heroes Fund, and I earnestly hope that your other two sons will be spared to come back and be a comfort and a joy to you when the war is over.
Ald. Norman thanked the Mayor for the privilege he had given him to express his gratitude and appreciation. They had good reason to be proud of their gallant lads who were fighting their battles, and especially did they remember with more than gratitude those who had paid the great sacrifice.
They were pleased to see Mrs Purvis, the mother of their dead hero, present. They were indebted to the mothers of their country, who had reared their boys with such noble spirit and aspirations. He believed the mothers had much to do with the way their men acquitted themselves over there. They had shown in a little measure their appreciation to the mother who had sent such a noble lad who had laid down his life for others.
They appreciated him more when they knew that he went as a volunteer. He also volunteered on that fatal night, ready to risk his own life, to make the way clear for the men to go forward to the attack. They were proud of the British soldiers who went forth with such a splendid and gallant spirit to meet the foe.
He hoped that during the Mayor’s year of office that peace would be declared, and to none would it be more welcome than to the mothers who were patiently waiting to welcome their lads home again.
They were proud of the regiment to which their dead hero belonged. The Northumberland Fusiliers were known throughout the Empire as the Fighting Fifth.
They gave their best wishes to the mother, and they wished her God-speed. They would unite with the Mayor in wishing her other boys a safe return home. They were grateful to her for having so nobly given up her son to fight for our homes in Morpeth.
Councillor Chas. Grey also expressed to Mrs Purvis his sympathy in her sad loss. There was one thing he must congratulate her upon, and that was the splendid spirit she had shown throughout. If there was one thing more than another which had struck him in this war it had been the magnificent spirit displayed by the mothers of England.
Mrs Purvis lost her husband six years ago, and she brought up her sons and just when this lad would have been a support to her he voluntarily went and fought their battles. One of the grandest things in the world was to see such a spirit. He understood from Mrs Purvis that she had two sons who were just going.
Hindenburg had said that this was going to be a battle of nerves. If this was a battle of nerves, and Mrs Purvis was a sample of the English women, then Hindenburg was lost. He hoped that her other sons would be spared to her, and that she might feel, great as was her loss, that she had given her son for a good cause and the rest of mankind.
Mr W. Purdy, on behalf of Mrs Purvis and family, thanked the Mayor and other members of the Council for their kindness and sympathy, and for the handsome present. He hoped the time would be soon when they would have peace.
County Councillor R. Nicholson, on behalf of the outside public, expressed his gratitude to the Mayor and other gentlemen associated with him in those presentations. They could sympathise with Mrs Purvis in her great loss. She could rest assured that her son was all right, and he would be honoured beyond the living.
They were determined to see this great war through for the sake of future generations. It was a great honour to the women to support the men as they had done. If it had not been for the women their hands would have been tied. Their courage had been supreme, and all honour to them.
He then moved a vote of thanks to the Mayor, which concluded the ceremony.
MORPETH NURSE IN HONOURS LIST
In the “Nursing Mirror and Midwives’ Journal” there appears, under the heading “Who’s Who in the Honours List,” the following interesting article:—
Miss Evangeline Owen Schofield, who was last year awarded the Royal Red Cross, Second Class, has now been promoted to the First Class of that honour.
She is the eldest daughter of Mr F.E. Schofield, J.P., of Morpeth, Northumberland, and was educated at Rutherford College, Newcastle-on-Tyne, where she won a Science Scholarship. She later served a five years’ apprenticeship with her father as a dispensing chemist.
Deciding upon a nursing career, she passed on to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as a probationer, and after obtaining her certificate worked as a private nurse at Hexham, and then spent two years at Castle Douglas Cottage Hospital.
On the outbreak of war Miss Schofield volunteered to her old training school to be put on the Civil Reserve, and went out to France as a nursing sister on active service in the first week of August, 1914. She has lately been sister-in-charge at different casualty clearing stations.
Miss Schofield is a loyal daughter of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and is very proud for her Alma Mater that the full honour has been awarded to her.
Miss Schofield’s sisters are as successful in their own line as she is in hers, one being a M.Sc. of Durham University, another a B.Sc., a third a B.A., and the fourth managing assistant to her father.
A SOLDIER’S THANKS
We have received a letter from one of the Shropshires giving details of their journey to their destination and expressing gratitude for the kindness received at the hands of the Morpeth people.
His letter concluded by saying:— “We wish to heartily thank all those who worked so hard to make our time in Morpeth so enjoyable. The great regrets at having to leave you may be left untold; the pleasant memories of the great kindness shown by one and all will provide happy thoughts for years to come, and Morpeth and our friends will never be forgotten.”
PRESENTATION AT MORPETH
A popular presentation took place in the Constitutional Club, Morpeth, last Monday evening, when Mr T.H. Cooper, coachbuilder, who left the town on Tuesday to join up, was made the recipient of a handsome wristlet watch from his numerous friends in the borough. Mr James Jardin (Town Clerk of Morpeth) presided.
The Chairman said that he hardly knew whether to look for smiles of approbation or tears in their eyes, because they were losing Mr Cooper, or whether they felt that once Mr Cooper joined the Army what was undoubtedly their loss would be the Army’s gain.
Mr Cooper was obeying his country’s call, and was going to fight for his country. He had been a good many years in Morpeth, and everyone of them would admit that while he had been in this town he had discharged his duty not only to himself and to those dependent upon him, but to the town in a manner which had won the respect of everyone who knew him.
During his stay in Morpeth he had endeared himself with everybody he had come in contact. He had been a genial soul, and carried one of those smiling faces which had brought comfort and joy to many a gathering.
As a member of the Volunteer Training Corps, he had been an inspiring influence, and the cause of enthusiasm, which had led the Morpeth Company to be one of the best companies in the county. When he joined the fighting forces in France he would bring that same enthusiasm and cheer into the ranks of the regiment he joined that would encourage them to fight even harder than they had done in order to attain that victory which all felt they would ultimately gain in the world-war which they were at present waging.
Many of them had felt for some time past that Mr Cooper was not only a fit subject to be fighting for his country, but that he was a more fit subject to be here maintaining the agricultural industry in that condition of efficiency which was absolutely essential if they were to survive the period of starvation which their enemies had set to bring upon them.
It had been pointed out by the National Service League and by the food economists that the battle would not necessarily be won on the battlefield, but it depended very largely whether they could hold out at home. Many of the men who were fighting had already sent home messages to the effect “that we can manage nicely if we hold out here.”
Many of them with that in their minds had done their best to keep Mr Cooper at home in order that he might assist in the carrying on of the agricultural industry, which went a long way towards enabling them to keep the home fires burning while the men at the Front were fighting their battles.
Unless they could maintain their position at home it was useless to carry on the fight. If they were to be starved out all the sacrifices which their soldiers were making for them would be of no avail.
Up to the present time they believed that Mr Cooper was serving as good a purpose here as at the Front, but the powers that be decreed that he had to go. Everyone regretted that they were losing Mr Cooper, but while that was so they all fairly believed that he would perform his duties nobly and well in the Army.
He was sure that he would take with him the good feeling of the people of Morpeth and their very best wishes. (Applause.)
Mr Allon Burn, who made the presentation, said that the duty he had to perform was a very acceptable one. Mr Cooper was leaving the next day to take up his duties as a soldier of the King. He felt sure that he went with a good heart and with the intention of fulfilling those duties which his King, country, and Empire called for him to do.
He had never met a man more qualified and more desirous of doing his duty than Mr Cooper. He had always been a man who had carried out his duties as a citizen in a proper way. He had also entered into the social side of the borough in a way which had brightened up their lot as citizens of that borough. He stood out as one who had performed his duty and taken a pleasure in doing it.
He was the founder of what was a very successful and promising business in the town, a business which might develop into large things. It was especially hard for him to leave it, and they honoured him all the more for going and sacrificing those things.
In conclusion he said that it afforded him great pleasure, in the name of the gentlemen present and those who had subscribed, to hand over to him the wristlet watch which would always remind him of the many friends he had left behind in Morpeth. He then wished the recipient success in the Army and a safe and speedy return. (Applause.)
In accepting the gift, Mr Cooper returned his grateful thanks. It was 12 years since he had come to Morpeth, and he had felt more at home here than anywhere else. He soon discovered that Northumbrians were the best people he had every come across. They made one welcome and were always ready to give a helping hand.
He referred in eulogistic terms to his connection with the Volunteers. He was going with a good spirit. He had done his duty at home, and would do his duty in the Army. (Applause.)
He thanked Mr Jardin and Mr Burn for their kind and appreciative remarks, and also Mr R. Elliott who had organised the presentation on his behalf. He hoped the day was not far distant when they would all assemble in that room again and sing “Oh, Tomorrow Night!” (Applause.)
The Chairman then proposed that they wish Mr Cooper “good health, the best of luck, rapid promotion, and an early return to Morpeth.” The toast was carried with enthusiasm.
An excellent evening’s enjoyment comprised songs, recitations, and conjuring, and concluded with “Auld Lang Syne” and “God save the King.”
NEW LIFEBOAT FOR THE NORTHUMBERLAND COAST
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has just sent a new powerful motor lifeboat to the Tynemouth station, to replace the motor lifeboat which has been stationed there since 1911, and has saved 68 lives.
The boat bears the name “Henry Frederick Swan,” in accordance with the wishes expressed by Mrs Love of Bath, who has presented the boat to the Institution.
It is not always realised that the Institution, which is supported solely by voluntary contributions, provides and maintains the whole of the lifeboat service of the United Kingdom, and that many of the most important stations are on the East Coast, where so much shipping has been lost by the action of the submarines.
The Fleet of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution now consists of 260 lifeboats, 17 of which are stationed on the coast of Northumberland. These boats are constantly rendering splendid service in saving life from shipwreck, and have been particularly active in rescuing men from H.M. ships and minesweepers, trawlers, etc., since the outbreak of war.
The number rescued up to date is 4,328, of whom over 1,400 have been saved from “war casualties.”
Contributions in aid of the Institution will be gladly received by all the bankers in the United Kingdom, by the several local honorary secretaries and by the secretary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
A ready response has been made to the appeal for funds for the Morpeth Company.
The men of Morpeth Company continue to put a good deal of enthusiasm into their work, and this is not to be wondered at when one takes into account the splendid lead which is given by their officers.
Last Sunday morning the men had a route march, under ideal weather conditions, which was greatly enjoyed, and on Tuesday evening they were on Cottingwood, where they were engaged in most interesting work — scouting and outpost duty.
It is interesting to note that the Company will have its own bugle and pipe band.
The recreation room has been equipped with three sets of boxing gloves, and arrangements are being made to hold a boxing tournament, for three weights, for which prizes will be given. Any member who desires to take part in the bouts should send in this name to Second-Lieut. Chas. Gray.
On Friday evening, March 1st, a whist drive and dance will be held in the Drill Hall, and all members of the Company, who will each be permitted to bring a lady friend, will be admitted free.
The monthly competition and spoon shot in connection with No. 4 (Amble district) Signal Section, Northumberland Volunteers, was held at the miniature range at the Drill Hall. Pte. S. Hagon was the winner of the spoon, and Pte. J.W. Anderson was second. At a shoot held prior to this Private Penrose tied with Private Turnbull for first place.