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.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 12:59
HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, September 21, 1917.

Mr and Mrs W.A. Grey, Grange House, Morpeth, have received official news that their fourth son, Private Robert Grey, Lancashire Fusiliers, was killed in action in France on the 4th inst.

Captain Sutton, in giving the sad news, said that on the night of the 3rd inst. Private Grey was one of a carrying party taking rations up to the men in the front line. The party was caught in heavy firing by the enemy, and suffered a number of casualties, including its officer and the deceased, who was killed instantaneously.

HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, September 21, 1917.

Private Grey was 24 years of age, and joined the army in 1915. Before joining he was a dentist with Mr Halls, dentist, Morpeth, and was well known and respected in the town.

This is the third son that Mr and Mrs Grey have lost through the war and they have another three sons in the Army. Much sympathy is felt for the bereaved parents.


The menace of the submarine is a topic uppermost in the minds of the Briton in the crisis through which we are passing, and we all know and feel what the end will be — for our enemies.

HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, September 21, 1917.

Secrets and intricacies of this formidable under-sea boat are to dwellers inland of so hazy a nature that the serial appearing during the last half of the week at the Playhouse, Morpeth, will be a source of instruction and satisfaction to those who witness it.

The powerful and fascinating flying bird holds sway, and the presentation by Pathe of “An Aeroplane’s Birth” will be found entrancing to a degree. Playing as they are a vital part in the making of history, no one can fail to be interested in the making where men — and women too — are busy turning out what have proved to be the great factor in the art of war.


A special meeting of Morpeth Town Council was held last night. Ald. Ed. Norman occupied the chair.

The Town Clerk intimated that he had received a circular from the secretary of the County War Agricultural Executive Committee that morning. It was to the effect: I am directed by the Executive Committee to inform you that the advisability of increasing the area of arable land on the High Common farm has been under careful consideration.

The present cultivation of the farm is: Permanent grass or meadow 137 acres, arable land 43 acres, total 180 acres. The additional area of land on this farm that in the opinion of the Executive Committee should by cultivated for the crop of 1918 is 32 acres.

The Executive Committee, in pursuance of the Cultivation of Lands Order, 1917, hereby makes an order requiring the area of land given in the schedule to be ploughed out and cultivated for the crop of 1918.

I am to state that in making this Order it is the object of the Executive Committee to provide that owners or occupiers who voluntarily break out grass land shall be placed in a position (should any question of compensation arise in the future) not inferior to those in respect of whom the committee may be obliged to exercise its compulsory powers.

The Executive Committee will be glad to consider any observations you may desire to make, which may be addressed to me or to the Executive Officer, Mr J. Scott, Mosley Street, Newcastle. If the committee does not hear from you within twelve days of the date of the letter it will assume that you have no observations to offer.

The Town Clerk said that he wrote to Mr Potts of the Common farm to come and see him. He thought that the Council might appoint two or three of their number to meet Mr Potts with regard to the matter.

Ald. Hood: Is it not a matter for Mr Potts?

Town Clerk: We are the owners, and we should know what he is doing.

Mr Swinney moved that the Mayor and Ald. Norman be appointed to meet Mr Potts. Ald. Hood seconded the motion, which was agreed to.

Mr Elliott alluded to the ground in front of the police court buildings, and remarked that it was splendidly protected.

Town Clerk: And so it is. (Laughter.) I don’t think they will let you have the police ground.

Mr Swinney: Is there any demand for more allotments?

Town Clerk: Yes.

Surveyor: I have a demand for special places and a considerable demand for High Stanners gardens.

The Town Clerk said it was far fetched to take the police vacant land, and added that he had three applications for a garden before it was advertised.

Mr Swinney proposed that the surveyor prepare a list of all available land in the borough for the next meeting.

The Town Clerk referred to the Local Authorities (Retail Coal Prices) Order, 1917. It was stated: “It shall be the duty of all coal merchants to supply the local authority for the district or districts in which their places of business are situated or in which coal is sold or delivered by them, with such information as may be required by the local authority for the purpose of ascertaining whether the retail prices of house coal sold in bulk or in small quantities in their area comply with the requirements of this Order.”

The Town Clerk said that his object in mentioning that matter that night was because they had no coal depot within the borough at which coal was sold, and practically the whole of the town was supplied from the station, which was outside the borough.

That meant that while the whole of the inhabitants of Morpeth were being supplied with coals at depots, Morpeth had no control over them, and the Rural District Council, in whose area the depots were, and had charge of them according to this Order, had no interest in the people of Morpeth.

Morpeth, under those conditions, was unprotected, and he suggested that the Council might instruct him to write to the Rural Council asking them whether they were prepared to allow the station and other places immediately adjoining the borough boundaries to be regarded within the borough to execute the duties of the Coal Order.

He added that the Rural Council had consented to Woodhorn and North Seaton being included in the Newbiggin urban district for the purposes of carrying out similar Orders.

Mr Swinney moved that the Town Clerk write to the Rural Council on the lines he had suggested. Mr Armstrong seconded the motion, which was carried. It was also agreed to include Cottingwood and Tranwell in the application.


To find ways and means to increase the strength of the Morpeth Company is at present having the special attention of those most closely associated with the Volunteer movement in the borough.

After drill last Sunday morning the matter was considered by the members, and several useful suggestions were thrown out, all of which, if carried into effect, would not only stimulate an interest in the doings of the company, but help to bring in those who are outside the movement.

It is felt that a recreation room at headquarters, the forming of a football team, and the holding of competitions for shooting and drill would undoubtedly create greater interest and enthusiasm among the members. A committee has been appointed to draw up a programme on the lines suggested.

The drills are being well attended, and the work of the company continues to run smoothly. Particular attention is at present being centred in bayonet fighting and instruction in musketry.

The strength of the company is placed at 170, and of that number 100 have signed on for the duration of the war.

Anyone wishing to enrol can do so any Tuesday or Thursday evening at 7 o’clock or on Sundays at 10am. It is worthy of note that youths between the age of 17 and 18 years are eligible for membership.


All women who have worked on the land since August, 1914, for over 30 days are entitled to a Government Armlet.

Also those who had retired from work but began again because of the war.

Those who have worked full time are entitled to a stripe to wear above the Armlet.

All women working 24 hours weekly may buy outfits.

Apply Mrs Renwick, Mission Room, Morpeth.


It is reported to the Food Production Department that women are being trained as rabbit catchers on various estates in the country, notably at Belsay Castle, and that the head keeper at the latter place reports most favourably upon them.


Mrs Milburn, of Storey Street, Cramlington, has been notified that her husband, Sergt. John Milburn, has been killed by a sniper.

Mr and Mrs Luke Jacques, 16 Middle Row, Bates Cottages, Seaton Delaval, have received word of the death from wounds received in action of their son-in-law, Sergt. Wm. T.B. Marshall, R.F.A.

Mr and Mrs William Lawson, of Brighton Villa, Morpeth, have received official word from the War Office that their youngest son, Second-Lieut. E.G. Lawson, who has been posted as wounded and missing since November 14th, 1916, is now presumed dead.

Sergt. James Frederick Hood, son of Mr and Mrs James Hood, Front Street, Rothbury, is officially reported killed in action. He had been missing since September 15th, 1916.

Signaller Edward Neal, 17 Eleventh Row, Ashington, has been killed in action.

Information has been received of the death of Staff-Sergeant Thomas Cripps, R.E., son of Mr and Mrs T.J. Cripps, Ingleside House, Seaton Burn.

Mr and Mrs Thos. Lee Tyneley, near Alnwick, have been officially informed that their son, Private H. Waite Lee, missing since Sept. 15th, 1916, is reported killed in action in France on that date.

Sergt. T. Thompson, North Radcliffe, died of wounds on August 27th.

Mr and Mrs T. Gelson, Tower Lane, Alnwick, have received information that their only son, Private Thomas Gelson, late of the Army Service Corps, is missing in France.

Lieut. Arthur Gibson Dunn, M.D., R.A.M.C., of Eldon Street, Newcastle, who was last Friday reported as having been killed in action, was a son of Mr T. Dunn, Bedlington.

Mr and Mrs Ingleby, of 16 Lee Street, Annitsford, have received official news that their son, Private Joseph Ingleby, has died from wounds received in action on 11th September.

Mrs A. Houghton, Wansbeck Mills House, Morpeth, has received a card from her husband, Private A. Houghton, Northamptonshire Regiment, saying that he is a prisoner in Germany and is quite well. He was reported mussing on the 16th July.


ELLIOTT.— Killed in action August 31st, 1917, aged 33 years, Corporal James D. Elliott, of the Royal Engineers, beloved husband of Jeannie Elliott, of Smith’s Buildings, Bedlington, late of Togston Barns, Acklington.— Ever remembered by his sorrowing wife and four little children.

GREY.— Killed in action in France, on September 4th, aged 24 years, Private Robert Grey, Lancashire Fusiliers, and fourth son of Mr and Mrs W.A. Grey, Grange House, Morpeth.

MASON.— Reported wounded and missing, now reported killed in action on 15th September, 1916, Private G. Robert Mason (Bob), 26777, 7th N.F., aged 24 years and 4 months, youngest and dearly beloved son of James and Helen Mason, 37 Juliet Street, Hirst, late of Bedlington.— deeply mourned by his loving father, mother, sisters, and brothers, and his loving sweetheart Lottie.

SMITH.— Killed in action in France, September 26th, 1916, Private J.W. Smith, Grenadier Guards.— Lovingly remembered by Maggie, also by her father and mother, Mr and Mrs Gray.


Mr William Straker’s circular to the Northumberland Miners’ Association is chiefly concerned with the doings of the recent Trade Union Congress.

The Congress, he says, afforded a fine instance of the activities of the two arms of the Labour movement — the Labour Party and the Congress — and he goes on to say that the time is coming when the economic considerations will so press themselves upon us that they have far too long shut them out. We may be sure that there are parties in this country not neglecting the economic problems with which we will shortly be face to face.

After the war, when its terrible expenditure is realised and the consequences of that expenditure fall on the shoulders of the wage-earners, trade unionists will then awaken to the necessity of maintaining a united front, instead of allowing themselves to be weakened by dissensions as they are at the present time.

While Mr Hill was speaking on democracy I could not help asking myself: How do we in this country stand? A few days ago I heard Mr G.N. Barnes M.P. declare that we are. Yet we have a Cabinet of five ruling with the power of dictators. Three of these five are the very antithesis of everything for which democracy stands. With these men in power what sense is there in making ourselves believe that we are a democratic country? For the time being, at least, we have given up democracy, and I am afraid we will have to pay the price of our folly.

John Hill reminded the Congress that democracy is not the gift of Kings or Governments, but was brought to this country, to France, to America, and to Russia by the leaders of common men, “War,” he said, “is the negation of democracy, whether we win or lose.”

On this subject Mr Straker says:— Reconstruction must mean more than merely adjusting relationships between employer and employed. It ought to mean, to commence with, nationalisation of some of the biggest industries in the country. But this is the thing which the possessing classes are afraid of. Even now they are becoming alarmed and warning the workers against it.

“The opponents of nationalisation point to what they call the failure of State Control during the present war. I would point out that State control was rendered necessary by the failure of private ownership to meet the country’s needs when the real testing time came.

“Moreover, I would point out that State control, adopted at a time when the nation was engaged in a struggle of life and death, and State ownership established when all the best thought of the nation can be given to it are two vastly different things.

“In State control it was necessary to appoint either a controller who was independent of the industry to be controlled, and consequently knew too little of the work put into his hands, or it was necessary to appoint a controller who had a large personal interest in the controlled industry, and consequently knew too much about the work put into his hands, so far as the interest of the country is concerned.

“In State ownership there would be no division of interest, and all the best brains and expert ability would be employed by the State in industrial management and agency. The mere fact of the ownership being changed would not prevent the newcomer securing all the highest services of those who now devote their services to the private owner.”


The Commandant wishes to thank those who have been kind enough to send the following gifts:— Fruit and vegetables, Miss Cutter, Mrs Jobling (Howard Castle), Miss Jobling, Mrs Clayton, Mrs Orde, Mrs Davison, Mrs Tweedy (Tritlington), Miss Davidson; fresh eggs, Mrs Eustace Smith, Mrs Pringle (Tritlington), Mrs Slater (Clifton), Mrs Cutter; cakes, Miss Wanlace; brown loaf, Mrs J.S. Mackay; old linen, Miss Harbottle.


Sir,— Will you kindly allow me to bring to the notice of your readers the work of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society.

I venture to think that in this time of stress no body of men have done better for their country than the men of the British Mercantile Marine. The public owe to them a debt of gratitude, and I think the people of the North will not be slow in acknowledging the debt and seeking to repay it.

It is the rescued men and the relatives of those who have died that this society is helping, and the following figures speak for themselves.

In addition to its ordinary work, this society expended in direct consequence of the war up to June 30th, 1917, £62,860, comprising relief afforded to 1,298 widows, 2,408 orphans, 500 aged parents, and 29,289 sailors and fishermen.

Funds are greatly needed to pay off a heavy overdraft at the bank and to carry on this work of love.

Some 9,000 British seamen have given their lives that this country might be fed and the supplies for our army maintained. Will you help?— Yours, etc.,


Ward’s Buildings, High Bridge, Newcastle-on-Tyne.