In this feature to commemorate the First World War, we will bring you the news as it happened in 1916, 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.

Sunday, 1st January 2017, 1:00 pm
HERALD WAR REPORT. Advert from the Morpeth Herald, December 29, 1916.

For the festive season the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, has been gaily decorated. The evergreens used in the decorations were kindly given by the Rector (Canon Davies) and Mr Thomas Simpson (Hepscott). Over the buffet is hung the regimental flag of the Cheshires, and underneath was the appropriate motto, “A Happy Christmas to the Boys.”

On Christmas night the soldiers, who visited the Institute, were entertained to refreshments by the committee, Mrs Browell being in charge. The secretary of the Institute, Mr T.B. Waters, has been successful in obtaining a bagatelle board. The other day he received the following letter from Mr Robert Donkin, Rothbury:— “I have a bagatelle board which I will give you for your Soldiers’ Institute. I will pack it up and send it on to you at once.”

HERALD WAR REPORT. Advert from the Morpeth Herald, December 29, 1916.


Christmas Day was celebrated in appropriate fashion at the Red Cross Hospital, Morpeth, where some thirty patients, consisting of wounded men from the front and sick from local garrison troops, are under treatment. The dinner, consisting of roast goose, plum pudding, mince pies, and fruit for the convalescent patients, and chicken, etc., for the sick, was much appreciated by all.

After tea, a Christmas tree, beautifully decorated and laden with a variety of acceptable presents for the patients, was lighted and the gifts were distributed by the Misses Fullarton James.

The festivities ended, all joined in singing familiar hymns and carols.

HERALD WAR REPORT. Advert from the Morpeth Herald, December 29, 1916.

The following kind friends sent gifts for the patients:— The Hon. Mrs A. Joicey, geese, Christmas tree, cigarettes, crackers, presents; Mr Claud Palmer (County Director), cigarettes, tobacco, Christmas cards; Mr Burrell, Gosforth, half a barrel of grapes; Mr Sloan, Morpeth, half barrel of apples; Miss Scott, Nedderton, plum puddings; Miss Oliver, cakes, chocolates, crackers; Mrs MacDowell, scones, cigarettes; Miss Carse, crackers, serviettes, nuts; Miss Clarke, scones; Miss Kingston, cigarettes; Miss MacDowell, 12 packets cards; Miss Hudson, crackers; Mr Whittle, cigarettes; Mrs F. Brumell, mince pies; Mrs Osbaldeston, Mitford, Christmas cakes; Mrs Phillip, cigarettes; Miss J. Gillespie, apples, cigarettes, writing pads; Miss W Gillespie, chocolates; Mr George Bainbridge, correspondence tablets; Miss Cooper and Miss Bruce, apples and oranges; Miss Hopper, apples and oranges; Miss Middlemass, oranges and cigarettes; Mrs Rayne, rabbits, cigarettes, crackers, note case; Dr Philip, prizes for whist drive; Mrs Robert Oliver, cakes; Mrs Fullarton James, oranges and bananas; Mrs Hudson Stobhill, cake; Miss Hudson, socks; Miss Simpson, flowers and gifts for patients; Miss Phaup, cigarettes and apples; Miss Jones, plum pudding; Army Christmas Pudding Fund, plum puddings; Mrs Pringle, Tritlington, fresh eggs.

On Tuesday Mrs J.J. James provided a most enjoyable concert for the entertainment of the patients, in which the following ladies and gentlemen took part:— Miss Shirley Schofield, Miss Violet Kelly, Sergt. Grundy, Corporal Raines, Private Sandbach, Sergeant Thomas, and Private Dunton (elocutionist). Miss Gladys Willis, L.R.A.M., acted as the accompanist.


Drummer J. Scott, of the Morpeth Pipe Band, who was called up for military service on Wednesday, was on Christmas night made a presentation, the ceremony taking place at the Mayor’s residence.

On behalf of the members of the band and a few friends, the Mayor (Councillor J.R. Temple) handed over to Drummer Scott a handsome wristlet watch. In doing so he wished the recipient the best of luck in the Army.

The recipient suitably acknowledged the gift. He was a member of the local company of Volunteers.


The principal attraction at Morpeth on Christmas Day was a football match in aid of the local V.A.D. Hospital. The game was played in the Sports Field, kindly placed at the disposal of the promoters by Mr W.A. Grey, and the opposing teams were the Cheshire Yeomanry and the Morpeth Detachment of the Northumberland Volunteer Regiment. Mr W. Slassor was referee.

Major Barnston, M.P. for Edsbury, kicked off. A capital game resulted in the success of the Volunteers by 5 goals to 3.

In spite of the inclemency of the weather there was a large gate. The Morpeth Pipe Band played pleasing selections of music.


Staff Sergeant N. Elliot, 1st Field Ambulance, R.N.D., of 12 Third Row, Ellington Colliery, has been awarded the Military Medal for bravery on the field. He also received the Card of Merit at the Dardanelles.


The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries through the War Agricultural Committee of the County Councillors are endeavouring to make provision for the distribution of Scotch seed potatoes in quantities of not more than and not less than one cwt. to small holders, occupiers of allotments and private gardens in the county, and Morpeth Town Council are now endeavouring to ascertain the probable demand for seed in this district.

All occupiers of small gardens are requested to inform the Town Council of the quantity of seed potatoes they are likely to require. The Board of Agriculture have proposed to confine the varieties to “Arran Chief,” “Dalhousie,” and “Cumberland Ideal,” and so far as can be judged at this moment the price is likely to be something like 17/6 per cwt. delivered to the nearest railway station.


Christmastide in Morpeth and district was quietly observed. Everything was carried out in a manner befitting the times and with due regard to the thoughts that were uppermost in the people’s minds.

All the shops were closed for two days, and workers generally had the privilege of enjoying two restful days from their labours, which are so strenuous in these days.

The weather was of mixed character.

There was an entire absence of those social events usually associated with this period of the year, but the joys of the home-circle were, under the circumstances, none the less appreciated.

In the homes of those who had the brave lads home on leave from the battlefields of France, there must have been great joy at the reunion.

From all accounts the young people were not denied those pleasure so dear to their hearts at this season, and Santa Claus proved as lavish and liberal in the distribution of his gifts as he has ever been in past years.

It was also gratifying to find that the children and the old people in public institutions were not forgotten in these momentous times, owing to the generosity and thoughtfulness of numerous kind friends.

The soldiers in the trenches were also rendered happy by the parcels from the homeland, and so, taking everything into consideration, we have all much to be thankful for.


Soon the year will have run its course, and although the dark clouds of war still overhang us there is no need to be downcast.

Naturally the year just drawing to a close will hold bitter memories to many people at the thought of those loved ones who have fallen on the field of battle.

The bringing in of the New Year will undoubtedly mean new resolutions, but of a different sort to those we have been so accustomed to hear.

One of the chief toasts that will certainly be handed round will have reference to the day — the day that will see the war, which has brought so much desolation in its train — brought to a triumphant issue by the Allies, and the marching home of our own brave and victorious troops.

It is our wish, we feel sure, of one and all to make the commencement of another year as bright as ever possible, and we wish out readers “A Happy New year.”


The President of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries desires to remind farmers that the arrangements remain in force for the employment of soldiers on ordinary agricultural work.

A farmer living in the neighbourhood of a military station who desires to employ soldiers at short notice for a period not exceeding six working days, may apply direct to the Commanding Officer of the military station for the men he requires.

Convalescent soldiers at infantry depots, command depots, and convalescent hospital may be employed temporarily on agricultural work within easy reach of where they are stationed.

If such men are required at short notice, the farmer my apply direct to the officer commanding the depot or hospital.

In all other cases a farmer who desires to employ soldiers or convalescent soldiers on his land must apply to the Local Employment Exchange of the Board of Trade.

Information and advice on the subject of the solider labour can be obtained from the Secretaries of the County War Agricultural Committees as well as from the local employment exchanges.


Private Alfred William Wood, West Yorks, has died of wounds received in action. He was eldest son of the late William Wood, Lisburn Villa, and grandson of the late Wm. Taylor, East Parade, Alnwick.

Mrs Jobson, Dispensary Street, Alnwick, has been officially informed that her nephew Private Andrew Jobson, N.F. (previously reported missing,) was killed in action on 26th September, 1915.

Mrs Weallens, Rennington Moor, Alnwick, is officially informed that her husband, Private James Weallens, N.F., was wounded and missing on September 15th.

Corporal G.T. Clark, 58 Hedley Street, Gosforth, has died of wounds received in action.

Mrs Dunn, 137 Pont Street, Seaton Hirst, Ashington, has received official news that her husband, Sergt. George Dunn, has been missing since November 14th. Sergt. Dunn is the eldest son of Mr and Mrs John Dunn of 9 Manchester Street, Morpeth.

Mrs Gourley, 44 Jubilee Street, Annitsford, has received official news that her son, Able Seaman Gabriel Bird-Gourley, Tyneside Z/6544, R.N.D., who was previously reported wounded, is now reported killed in action on November 13th. He was 20 years of age, and prior to joining the Navy worked at Seghill Colliery.


At the Burt Hall on Tuesday the Wages Committee of the Northumberland Miners Association had under consideration the quarterly ascertainment of the selling price of coal. It showed that the average selling price was 17s 7.29d. per ton, or 1 4.52d. less than in the previous quarter, which is equal to a reduction of 11 per cent, in the county percentage of wages, making the percentage 120 above the basis of 1879.

It was officially reported that the committee were of the opinion that the men should not suffer any further reduction in wages so long as the cost of living kept as high as it was. The reduction in the average selling price of coal was largely due, it was pointed out, to the Government’s limitation of prices of coal to our Allies.

The committee had no objection to the Government doing that, even to the extent of supplying the Allies with free coal, but they did object to the burden falling upon the mining communities in the exporting districts, rather than upon the whole country.

If the Government took control of the whole coal produce in the country, the chances were that prices would fall still lower, with the result that the wages should continue to go down unless they took a stand against it.

The cost of food had gone up 84 per cent since the war broke out, and the general cost of living had gone up 64 per cent, while the actual wages of the miners had only increased 46.66 per cent. The committee felt that it would not, therefore, submit to any further reduction in wages in face of a position like that.

The committee agreed to communicate these views, in the form of a resolution, to the Prime Minister, the President of the Board of Trade, Sir Richard Redmayne, Chief Inspector of Mines, and the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, and also to the Coalowners’ Association of Northumberland.

It was further resolved to ask the coalowners of the county to meet the committee so that the latter might put the position before them.


An interesting function, in the shape of a social and presentation, took place at the Playhouse, Morpeth, on Friday evening last. The occasion was the leave-taking of Mr Jack Potts (stage-manager of the theatre) who is taking up the sterner duties of a soldier’s life.

The gathering, of a unique character, was composed chiefly of the friends of Mr Potts associated with cinema life in the town. The presentation consisted of a beautiful luminous wristlet watch and purse of money, showing the regard and esteem in which Mr Potts is held by friends both in and outside the theatre.

The manager of the theatre (Mr Fred Tinsley) presided, and, in happy vein, spoke of Mr Potts’ long connection with the cinema, in fact, since its inception in the town. In handing over the gifts, Mr Tinsley said they were all sorry to lose the services of so good and conscientious a servant, but they all knew that he would do his duty in whatever form that duty took.

Mr Potts, in reply, said he would never forget their great kindness, more especially the kindness and courtesy extended to him by the management, who had ever been his friends. He could look upon that time as the happiest in his life.

In thanking the subscribers, Mr Potts said he had only done what any other man would have done — his best. In the days to come their useful present would ever remind him of the good friends he had left behind him at Morpeth. He thanked them again for their gift and good wishes.

The remainder of the evening was devoted to harmony.


The steward of the Pegswood Social Club (Mr T.T. Thompson), having been called up for military service, it was decided by the members that the good services of their steward should be recognised in some tangible fashion. The gifts took the form of a gold half-hunter watch, with a gold double albert, and a silver matchbox.

The Chairman of the Club (Mr R. Potts) presided, and paid a warm tribute to the service of Mr Thompson. He had carried out his duties thoroughly and in a manner worthy of emulation. He had been a credit to the management of the club, and doubtless he would also be a credit to the British Army. In handing over the gifts on behalf of the subscribers, Mr Potts wished the steward good luck in his new sphere of labour.

Mr Thompson briefly responded. He had only done what other men would have done — his duty. He thanked the members and committee sincerely for their great kindness.


Mrs Chris Taylor, of Newgate Street, Morpeth, who some time ago organised a flower day in aid of the fund to provide comforts for the men of the Army Veterinary Corps, has received the following letter of appreciation from Mrs Moore, the wife of Brigadier-General Moore, of Longhirst:—

Please accept my hearty congratulations on the “Flower Day” which you and your friends have so successfully organised and carried through at Morpeth for the benefit of the Army Veterinary Comforts Fund. I have much pleasure in now enclosing a formal receipt for your substantial cheque of £20, and will be glad if you can convey to all those who have assisted you my warm thanks, and the appreciation also of the ladies who are associated with me on our Comforts’ Fund Committee.

Let it be known amongst those friends, interested in the welfare and comfort of the men of the A.V.C. on active service, that since October 1 I have personally despatched over sixty bales of woollen garments, stationery, games, books, pipes, pouches, wallets, hussiffs, etc., for distribution amongst the veterinary units in the field and base veterinary hospitals in France; as well as bales and boxes of the same articles which have gone to A.V.C. units in Salonika and Egypt.

Also 700 warm woollen vests, 200 warm woollen pants, 200 oilskin coats and 200 sou’wester caps have been suppled by the Comforts’ Fund for the benefit of the men who are specially exposed to cold and wet. I feel sure those who have subscribed so generously will feel that the Fund is fulfilling a very great work, and it is my earnest endeavour to continue and the supply of comforts, relying on the continued generosity of our contributors.

All gifts of woollen articles or money are warmly welcomed, and I can assure you of the gratitude and appreciation of “Our men at the Front.”

Yours sincerely,


Strathyre, Parsifal Road,