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.

Saturday, 26th August 2017, 13:59 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 10:53 am
HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, August 24, 1917.

What should prove a great football attraction is the match that has been arranged to take place under the patronage of the Mayor and Corporation of Morpeth in the Grange House Field, Morpeth, on Saturday, Sept. 1st, when the champion lady munition workers teams of the North will meet.

The opposing teams will be the Wallsend Slipway Ladies versus Palmer’s, Hebburn. The match is timed to commence at 3.30 in the afternoon.

HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, August 24, 1917.

The Mayoress of Morpeth will kick off, and Mr W. McCracken, the famous Irish full-back of Newcastle United, will act as referee. The Morpeth Pipers’ Band will be in attendance.

The proceeds are to be given to the V.A.D. Hospital, Morpeth.


Things are moving briskly in Volunteer circles. Men are coming up steadily, but not in the numbers that were expected, and those who are going through their drills are showing the greatest keenness in their work.

HERALD WAR REPORT: Advert from the Morpeth Herald, August 24, 1917.

The call is still for men, and more particularly those over military age. It was not thought that the greatest difficulty would lie in this direction. Everyone understood that the man who was left at home would realise his responsibilities, if not at the start of the war, at least after it had dragged its weary length for three years without a decision.

It is difficult to understand the apathy. I spoke to one man the other day, and his remark was that there was plenty of younger men for the job, and anyway he did not see the value of the Volunteers. I reminded him that the Government seemed to think otherwise, but he shook his head as much as to say he never gave consideration to what Governments thought about anything.

It is typical of a certain class in this country. I have no doubt my friend is a critic of things in general, is “fed up” of the war, and wonders why they don’t get a move on and finish it up sharp.

Every voluntary effort has to contend with this superior type of person. I wonder if he has ever asked himself why so many have gone out and laid down their lives for him. Perhaps he thinks that equally unnecessary.

There are quite a number of over-age men who have joined up instead of adopting the rule of the critic. They are able to get their drills in, though not without an effort, and seem all the better for it. They are like their younger brothers who answered the call first, and did not need to be fetched.

I don’t know if something similar may happen to the Volunteers any day. The Government is keen on the force getting up to strength without delay, and if men are wanted they are not likely to plead for them.

The Tribunals, it is hoped, will keep the needs of the Volunteers in mind. There is to be no one slipping through in times like these. I know certain Tribunals who are keen on this matter, and others again to whom it does not seem to make such an urgent appeal.

The Tribunals can do much to fill the ranks of the Volunteer Force with a class of men who can be licked into shape for home defence.

The 5th had a very successful camp at Berwick, the last to be formed, but going strong.

The situation at Alnwick is discouraging, but I think the Tribunals might help greatly here. Is it true that men who could easily have been taking their places in the force are being exempted entirely? If so, surely it is an oversight.

The Engineer, Fortress, and Signalling Companies are in course of formation, and particulars as to joining these units can be got at the headquarters, Barras Bridge.

A splendid example has been set by the Institute of Electrical Engineers, who called a special meeting at the Mining Institute to consider ways and means of raising electric light and signal companies, and have thrown themselves whole-heartedly into the movement.

In the motor unit eight sections of transport are to be raised, three in Newcastle, two in North Shields, and one in Blyth, Hexham, and Morpeth. Particulars can be obtained from the C.M.F., Royal Grammar School, Newcastle.

Artillery companies are to be formed at Blyth and North Shields, and particulars can be got from the headquarters, Rock Cottage, East St., Tynemouth.

A County Medical Corps is also in process of formation, and field ambulances are being raised at Tynemouth and Byth.

Steady progress is being made in the training of the Morpeth Company. The services of the sergeant-instructor now attached to the company are being much appreciated. At present special instruction is being given to the non-coms.

About 90 mean have signed on for the duration of the war, and it is hoped that that figure will be raised to 100 shortly.


We have received from the Chief Constable (Captain Fullarton James) the following warning from the Duke of Northumberland in regard to air raids:—

Sir,— After three years of war it may be advisable to remind the inhabitants of Northumberland that in the event of any enemy attack, whether from the air or the sea, the best chance of security lies in immediately taking cover.

The recent attacks from the air in the South of England have proved that, as a rule, persons who take cover find security, while those who remain in the open are in far greater danger.

In this connection it must be borne in mind that the risk is not only from bombs dropped by hostile aircraft, but also from falling shell splinters from our own anti-aircraft guns and from bullets from machine guns fired during an aerial encounter; also from falling houses and debris.

Shortly, then, the instructions are:—

(1) Take cover.

(2) Keep exits open. This is important in case the building should be hit by a bomb.

(3) Lie down. The danger from fragments of an exploding bomb is lessened.

(4) Basements and cellars are the safest places. Keep these open as refuges for neighbours and passers-by.

It may not be possible to give warnings of enemy attacks, but the noise of explosives, of anti-aircraft guns in action, and a general stoppage of electric tramways (which will display a red flag on the front of the car) will in themselves warn you to observe these instructions until the danger is over.


Alnwick Castle, 14th August, 1917.


The Morpeth Cottage Hospital in common with other institutions of the kind, has suffered financially from the effects of the war; and in order to replenish its funds a flower-day was held in the borough last Saturday. Notwithstanding the showery weather, the effort met with much success.

An additional attraction was provided by the presence of the Band of the Royal Field Artillery under Bandmaster Elliott. Both afternoon and evening the Band played in the Market Place to large and appreciative crowds. For about half-an-hour the band rendered several pieces in front of the V.A. Hospital, which the wounded soldiers greatly appreciated.

In the evening the Mayor presided over a meeting in the Market Place, when a military medal was presented to the widow of Private John Watson, N.F. He was supported by the Deputy-Mayor, Ald. Ed. Norman, Councillors R.N. Swinney, Isaac Armstrong, Mr Baylis, and Mrs Watson.

The Mayor said that the special effort that day was for the benefit of the Morpeth Cottage Hospital. They had had many flag days and such like events in Morpeth this summer, but never one for such a worthy object.

This was the Deputy-Mayor’s Day. He took a particular interest in the hospital, and he understood that the Deputy-Mayor had collected in subscriptions nearly £20 to start with. (Applause.) The Band had also come for the benefit of the hospital, and he was sure the band’s visit was doubly welcome.

Mr Baylis spoke of the splendid work carried on by the hospital. The staff consisted of a matron and visiting nurse. The Nurse had made during the last twelve months nearly 3,000 visits to the sick and poor of Morpeth. The number of in-patients during the same period had approached 100.

The revenue was derived mainly from voluntary subscriptions and donations, but unfortunately owing to the war there had been a falling off in subscriptions during the past two years.

A special effort had been necessary, and to Mr Charlton (the Deputy Mayor) was chiefly due the credit for initiating and carrying out the scheme on behalf of the hospital. He had done magnificently, having collected nearly £20.

He wanted to impress upon them that this was a purely municipal effort, the Mayor and Mayoress having done splendid work to make it a success. He also expressed his appreciation of the work that had been done by the Borough Surveyor (Mr J. Davison), assisted by Mr Hindmarsh and Mr Manners. They had arranged the illuminations in the Carlisle Park for the evening concert. He was sure they were all disappointed that the weather had rendered their efforts futile.

The Mayor said that his next duty was of a melancholy nature. He had to present a military medal to the widow of Private John Watson, N.F.

It was awarded, he said, to the latter for gallantry in the field of battle. He carried a wounded officer out of danger in the midst of terrible firing, and next day he volunteered with six others to cut wires near the German trenches and was shot by a sniper.

Private Watson had laid down his life like hundreds of others for the cause of freedom and liberty. He hoped those men had not given their lives in vain.

He felt sure that Mrs Watson would treasure the medal in the days to come. He then handed it over to the widow.

Ald. Ed Norman said it was his privilege to have to speak for one who was unable in the fullness of her heart to say what she would like. They little knew all that was passing through her mind and heart that night as she remembered the one whom she loved, one who had laid down his life for this country.

They were proud of such men. The war had taught them many things and had brought out the best of the British soldier, while it had brought out the worst in the Germans. They were there to show their appreciation of what had been done for them.

They were glad to see the lads from the Front. Tonight they remembered those who had fallen and extended to the relatives their sincerest sympathy.

He alluded to the bravery of our troops. Every day was leading them nearer to the goal.

No one appreciated the work of hospitals and nurses more than our gallant soldiers and sailors. The Cottage Hospital was doing a splendid work in the town for the families of these men at the Front.

The late Private Watson had shown that he was one of the right sort when he readily risked his life for his officer. “We honour his memory, and will remember with gratitude his brave deed,” added Ald. Norman.

Councillor R.N. Swinney said he agreed with the Mayor that the presentation of the medal should be made as publicly as possible. It was the first time they had had to present a medal to the widow of a gallant soldier. He hoped it would be the last time that they would have such a melancholy duty to perform.

They had a local War Heroes’ Fund of which he (Councillor Swinney) was secretary, and it was the intention of the committee to give Mrs Watson a present from the fund. (Applause.)

The Cottage Hospital had a splendid record. In connection with the institution there was a maternity nurse, and every man and woman could realise the need there was for such a nurse in these times.

He then moved a vote of thanks to the Mayor and speakers, and to all who had acted as flower sellers. The vote was enthusiastically carried.

Owing to the unpropitious weather, the idea of holding the concert in the Park was abandoned.


Able Seaman John Kelly, 61 Rosalind St., Ashington, previously reported missing, is now reported killed in action.

Henry C. Hepple, second son of the late Mr R. Hepple, of Mitford, and Mrs Hepple, North Shields, has been lost whilst serving on a mine-sweeper.

Mrs Alder, of Chantry Place, Morpeth, has received news that her husband, Private J. Alder, of the King’s Liverpools, has been wounded and is lying in hospital at Bristol.

Councillor W. Tapson, 44 Third Row, Ashington, has received word that his son-in-law, Bomb. J. Matthews, R.F.A., has been killed in action.

Information has been received by Mr and Mrs John Dunn, of Netherwitton, that their son, Lance-Corporal W. Dunn, of the Black Watch, has been killed in action in France.

Mrs M. Cockburn, 69 Blyth Street, Seaton Delaval, has been notified that her son, Signaller Mark Cockburn, R.N.V.R., has been drowned at sea.

Mr and Mrs Alick Gardiner, 87 Park Terrace, Wideopen, have been notified that their son, Private Alick Gardiner, H.L.I., has been killed in action.

Mr and Mrs W. Smith, Swarland Terrace, Chevington Drift, have received word that their son, A.B.D. Smith, Anson Battalion, has died of wounds.

Mr and Mrs T. Dunn, 12 Forrest Yard, Morpeth, have received word that their son Private T. Dunn, N.F., has been wounded in action in France, left and right arm. He is in hospital at Blackburn.

Sergt. Lee, of Victoria Terrace, Bedlington, has been killed close to the enemy trenches.

Mr James Faill, of Wingates, Longhorsley, has received official news that his son, Rifleman R. Faill, King’s Royal Rifles, has been admitted into Northampton War Hospital, wounded and gassed.

Mr and Mrs Railston, Hepscott Manor, have received word that their son, Gunner W.J. Railston, R.F.A., has been wounded at Birmingham.

Sergt. Mark Spowart, N.F., of Coquet Street, Amble, has been killed in action.

News has been received that Private Albert Pitchford has been killed in action in France. He joined the ranks at the outbreak of war. He had previously been wounded.

Mrs Bewick, of Wansbeck Road, Dudley, has received official news that her husband, Private J.S. Bewick, Lancashire Fusiliers,’ has been killed in action. Previous to enlistment, he was employed as a banksman at Dudley Colliery.

Mrs Tully, of Front Street, Seaton Burn, has been informed that her husband, Pte. John Tully, has died from the effects of gas poisoning received in action. Prior to joining the Army the deceased was employed as a butcher at the Seaton Burn branch of the Cramlington District Co-operative Society.

Mrs Maud M. Charteris, 4 Gray Street, North Blyth, has just received word from the War Office that her brother, Private J.C. Cunningham, N.F., who was reported missing on 15th September, 1916, is now reported killed on that date.

M.E. Watson has received a letter from the Commanding Officer that Trooper Thos. Wm. Pattison, Northumberland Hussars, has died of wounds.


SPOWART.— Died of wounds received in action, August 11th, 1917, aged 35 years, Acting Sergt. Mark Spowart, beloved husband of Mary Spowart, Coquet Street, Amble, and son of Isabella and the late George Spowart, late of Widdrington Colliery.

HEPPLE.— Drowned on the 5th July, 1917, in Port Natal while on active service, Henry C. Hepple, second son of the late Robert Hepple, of Mitford, Morpeth, and of Mrs Hepple, of North Shields. Interred in the Military Cemetery, Durban, South Africa.

DIXON.— Missing July 1st, 1916, now officially reported killed, Private Robert Dixon (744), N.F., aged 40 years, of Bedlington Station.

LOGAN.— Killed in action June 14th, 1917, Private William Logan (7107), N.F., aged 21 years, beloved son of the late Thomas and Henry Logan, of 9 Double Row, Barrington Colliery.

MAVIN.— Killed in action, July 19th, 1917, Leading Seaman Cuthbert James Mavin, aged 25 years, R.N.D.— Deeply mourned by his fiancee, Maggie; also Mr and Mrs Taylor and family, Ellington.

CHESTERTON.— Reported missing since September 15th, 1916, now presumed dead, Lance-Corpl. Edward Chesterton (2979), N.F., aged 22 years, dearly beloved son of Thomas and Annie Chesterton, 113 Maple Street, Hirst.


A special effort is to be made on Thursday next to give financial aid to the V.A.D. Hospital, Morpeth. The effort is to take the form of a garden fete at Springhill, the residence of Mr and Mrs Geo. Renwick.

The proceedings have been timed to commence at three in the afternoon, and the programme that has been arranged is of a varied and interesting character.

There are attractions for everybody, such as a pig hunt, clock golf, hoopla, fortune telling, slicing the rabbit, wheel of fortune, pillow fight, wheelbarrow race, eating bun race, thread and needle race, and egg and spoon race.

In the afternoon the Maypole dance will be given, and Morris dancers will also appear. In the evening an excellent concert will be provided, including comic sketches. The Morpeth Gleemen will take part in the concert.

Tea will be served on the grounds, but own sugar must be brought.

We are asked to state that the members of the committee or the secretary will be pleased to receive prizes for the sports and provisions and refreshments for the tea.

We feel sure that the townspeople generally will rally round the committee and make this effort on behalf of our wounded heroes a huge success.

The charge of admission is sixpence each.