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, 19th June 2016, 9:00 am
HERALD WAR REPORT: News, notices and adverts from the Morpeth Herald, June 16, 1916.

We have received the following communication from Shoeing-Smith Corporal J. Alder, R.F.A., of Morpeth, who is at present in hospital in the South of England.

He says:— ”I would like to inform my many friends that I am in hospital suffering from a wound in my right leg. Before my mishap I had a rare good spell out in France. I think after thirteen months I am entitled to a bit of a rest after being in such places as Ypres, and going through the battle of Loos in September last.

HERALD WAR REPORT: News, notices and adverts from the Morpeth Herald, June 16, 1916.

“The death of Lord Kitchener was a big shock to all of us in hospital. He was a great soldier, and was well liked by every other soldier both in England and the other side of the Channel.

“I may say that I am progressing wonderfully well, and it will not be long before I am discharged from hospital. I will get a few days leave, and then out again beside my pals.”


HENDERSON.— Killed in action, previously reported missing since June 16th, 1915, Private T. Henderson, No. 8937, N.F., dearly beloved husband of Maggie Henderson, of Lord Hood Yard, Morpeth, aged 38 years.— In the bloom of life death claimed him. In the prime of his manhood days, None knew him but to love him, None mentioned his name but with praise. His cheery face I’ll never forget, Though years may pass away. As I gaze on your photo that hangs on the wall Your smiles and your welcome I often recall. I miss you and mourn you in sorrow unseen. And dwell on the memory of days that have been. He died for his country, And lies in a British soldiers grave. That unknown grave is the bitterest blow None but an aching heart can know.— Deeply mourned by his loving wife and nine children.

HERALD WAR REPORT: News, notices and adverts from the Morpeth Herald, June 16, 1916.


The monthly meeting of the Morpeth Town Council was held on Tuesday evening. The Mayor (Alderman Ed. Norman) presided.

Before commencing the usual business, the Mayor said: I would like to say a few words on the sad loss the country has sustained in the death of Lord Kitchener.

You will remember that a month tonight it was my sad duty to make reference and to ask your sympathy for one of our own number who came to a sudden end, and we felt that loss. The death of Ald. Carr was a loss to this Council and to this town. Tonight, it is my duty to bring before you not only a national loss, but a loss to this Empire of ours in the sad and untimely death of Lord Kitchener.

He has been so much to us since the war commenced — a man who was so well-fitted to take up the work he was called upon to do. Ever since he left Sandhurst he had proved that he was something far above the ordinary. It is not necessary for me to trace right through his career as a soldier. Everyone mourned the loss of such a great leader, who had accomplished great things in his time. His useful life he had spent for the good of the Empire.

There is not a man in the British Army who was better known or more appreciated. I believe that no man was more beloved, because he was a man who was ever straight and was a friend of those who went straight, When the country needed in her emergency a great man to take the lead and rally the men of England around him the chance fell upon the right man, and he did the right work in the right spirit.

When we remember the young men of England who responded to the call of Kitchener we think of the power and influence of that notable solider who has fallen. So Kitchener has done his work nobly and well and has cast an inspiration over the manhood of our nation. We have especially watched his career for the last two years, and whenever his name has been mentioned it has had an influence for good — an inspiration for those who were ready to serve. There was not a soldier who fell on the field of battle but his heart went out to those who were left behind.

I cannot refer to him without thinking of those who responded to his call belonging to this town, and had fallen in battle. While our sympathy is given to the one we do not withhold it from the others. We also extend our sympathy tho those of our townsmen who mourn the loss of dear ones.

Kitchener has died as he would like to die — for his country. I believe this trouble which has come to us will make a better nation, stronger and more resolute than ever, and we shall have an inspiration that will help us in the days to come. I will now ask you to show your sympathy to those who are left behind to mourn the loss of a great soldier by standing. The members then stood silently in their places.

• The Mayor intimated that over 200 munition workers were coming to Morpeth on the 8th July. He had had a letter from Mrs D. Allison, who was taking a great interest in the munition workers, asking for the use of the picnic field and a place to meet in the evening. He had written to that lady offering the field next to the Castle Wood for the sports and also the Corn Exchange at night for their gathering and presentation of prizes.

He had had a visit from a gentleman who was making the necessary arrangements and he invited all the councillors to attend the ceremony in connection with the presentation of prizes. He thought that those women, who were doing their best as munition workers ought to have every encouragement, and he hoped that as many of the members as possible would meet at the Town Hall at 6pm on the date mentioned.

On the motion of Mr Swinney, it was agreed to confirm the arrangements that had been made by the Mayor.

• The Inspector having reported that his month’s experiment in collecting waste paper for sale did not point to its being remunerative as a permanency, the committee recommended that it be allowed to drop.— This was agreed to.

• It was agreed on the recommendation of the committee, that in view of the shortage of labour due to the war the Council’s workmen be asked to accept a week’s pay instead of their annual week’s holiday.

• The committee recommended that all questions of war allowance to Corporation workmen called to the colours be deferred till all those of military age had been called up so that the whole of them could be dealt with together. They also recommended that all further questions of abatement to corporation tenants be deferred till it was seen what the Government finally decided to do with regard to allowance for rent, rates etc., and that the whole question of war allowance by the Corporation be then re-allowed. The recommendations were adopted.

• It was reported that the Town Clerk had read a circular from the Local Government Board drawing attention to the necessity for making arrangements with the police for ascertaining that the National Registration Act was being complied with.

The committee recommended that the police be asked to meet the Mayor and Councillors Simpson, Elliott, Grey and Temple, and to organise jointly with the Council for a house-to-house inspection of registration cards and other arrangements to which the regulations referred.

It was also recommended that handbills be published to give notice of the registration requirements and penalties for default.— Those recommendations were also adopted.

• The Town Clerk, it was reported by the committee, had read a circular from the Local Government Board requesting the Council to render an account of expenditure in connection with the National Registration for the year ended March 31st, 1916, in view of the Exchequer’s contribution.

The committee recommended that the Town Clerk claim whatever expenses the Council was entitled to from the Local Government Board for the last financial year, and that he be paid a salary of six guineas for the maintenance of the register for the year 1916-17.— Agreed to.

• The Surveyor having reported that he had consulted the Corporation workmen, all of whom, with one exception wished to avail themselves of the benefit of the war savings scheme proposed by Mr Armstrong, the committee recommended that Mr Armstrong’s motion be adopted as follows:— ”That in view of encouraging thrift amongst the Council’s workmen and assisting the war funds, each UDC workmen be offered an increase of sixpence in his weekly wage on condition that he paid that sum and another sixpence from his present wage to the surveyor a the time of receiving his pay for investment for him in war bonds.”— The recommendation was adopted.


The readiness with which all classes in this country accepted the postponement of the Whit Monday holiday is a sure indication of the fine spirit that is abroad in these abnormal times.

It testifies to the fact that the nation now realises that any little sacrifice that is made by those at home is always helping towards the grand goal — victory to our arms.

In this part of the country business, in all its branches, was carried on as usual. The weather was, by the way, not conducive to the enjoyment of holiday-making, for the sky was overcast and a cold wind reminded one more of November than of June.


An interesting social gathering was held in Guide Post Social Club on Monday night to do honour to one of their members who is joining the Colours. Mr S.F. Lunn occupied the chair.

The chairman, in his opening remarks, said he had known Mr Cutter, the recipient, for many years as a workman in the Guide Post Co-operative Store, and who is at the present time manager of the grocery department of Stobswood branch of the Widdrington Store, and had great pleasure in asking Mr Jas. A. Johnstone, the president of the club, to make the presentation.

Mr Johnstone said it gave him great pleasure to be in that position that night to do honour to an old school-mate, who was going to fill his place on the field of honour, where many brave lads had gone before, and in handing Mr Cutter a beautiful wristlet watch, subscribed by his mates, hoped that, like the late Lord Kitchener, he would “carry it on” until we secured an honourable peace.

Mr Cutter, in responding, said he was prepared to do as others had done before him, to do his duty to his King and country, and if spared to see the end, he hoped it would be an honourable one.


Amongst the interesting letters acknowledging parcels from the front, Mr W.W Mather, Newsham, has received the following from Private J.H Johnson of New Delaval, which well indicates the characteristic wit and fine spirit of the northern lads in the trenches:—

Mr Mather,— As this is our rest day, I take the opportunity to send you my thanks for the parcel I duly received which was sent to me on May 25th. The activity at the front has increased very much since the last letter I sent to you. The artillery fire is getting more intense, and those soldiers of the new army who are under heavy shell fire almost daily are undergoing a severe strain just now; but they are meeting it with the same calm confidence, fortitude, and light-heartedness that has imbued the British soldier right throughout the war. We are out to win this war, and nothing is going to stop us.

I conclude my letter, Mr Mather, by relating to you two witty stories. They are true stories these, as I happened to hear them myself.

There has been much speculation lately as to how long the war is going to last. The phrase that has become a joke and which makes we soldiers smile the smile that won’t come off is when a pessimist tells us that the first five years shall be the worst. Well, rumour was going very strong a few weeks back that our battalion was about to leave the firing line here and embark for that ancient and historic place called Egypt.

A group of our lads were discussing this rumour one day, and soon began to express their opinion as to what we should do and how long we should stay at this place when we got there. At this point the 15 platoon wit (A.W), who was very pessimistic about it all, chirped in: “Wey, lads, it’s this way — if ye gan to Egypt 50 years eftor this we’ll be shaking hands in front o’ the Pyramids and sayin’ ti each uther, ‘Aw wonder hoo the war’s gan on noo; we’ve nivver hard nowt for the last 20 years.”

While performing our work in the firing line during broad daylight and working between trenches we have to be very careful on occasions, especially in slightly exposed places not to show ourselves in the lease for fear of being sniped at or even shelled. One day a party of our lads came back from the trenches in rather high glee at having worked so near our first line in a more open place than usual without having been seen by the enemy’s snipers.

Of course they began to get rather braggy about it until they came in contact with 15 platoons’s wit, and one of the lads said to him: “It’s this way, lad. We war working that near the forst line thi day that if we had dropped wor false teeth the Gormons would have hard we.”

But the 15 platoon wit put the tin hat on when he replied: “Wey, that’s nowt, lads. Aw waas workin’ that near the enemy’s lines yisterday aw had ti disguise misel as a wettor-lily, or else the Gormans wud hev tuen’s prisoner!”

Sincerely hoping you are keeping well, and thanks once more for the parcel.


Of the local affairs one is called upon to give forth to the public just now not the least interesting are the matters that come before the local tribunals, which, like adversity, bring strange associations and peculiar circumstances.

The saying “single men first” has become so trite a saying that it has been generally accepted as correct. It was not so at the Seaton Delaval Tribunal on Wednesday, however, where two brothers in partnership each sought exemption. Both were medically and otherwise fit for service. The married man, however, was ordered to join the service and the single one was exempted.

It is remarkable what a lot of people claim to be indispensable through military service. Vendors of all sorts of goods make the claim.

Blyth way, a rather good thing I noticed this morning in the train. A miner travelling from Blyth to his work at some neighbouring pit shoved into the van a large drilling machine, for which he was told 6d. would have to be paid, but this was politely refused, and when the railway official was asked the reason, the miner quietly replied, “Do you not know I am on military service!” That settled it.


The Commandant wishes to acknowledge the following gifts with many thanks:— Mrs J. Swinney, magazines; Miss Arkless, books; Mrs Challoner, Anonymous, Mrs J. Simpson, Mrs Harding, and Miss Pringle (Tritlington), cakes, bread, scones, and butter; Mrs MacBridge and Mrs Harvey, milk and cream; Mr R. Kirkley, per Mr J. Morgan, cigarettes; Mrs Jennings, Miss Simpson, Girls’ High School, Miss Jean, Mrs MacDowall, flowers and fruit; Miss Simpson, Miss MacDowall, socks; Councillor Elliott, fruit and vegetables.


The first annual meeting of the Ashington V.T.C. was held in the Drill Hall on the 7th inst. Mr J.J Hall presided, and there was a fair number of members present.

The main object of the meeting was to get the feeling of the officers and members as to how many were willing to take the oath and serve under His Majesty the King.— Mr Denton, the commander, put it before the meeting, when there was a fair response, about 30 volunteering.

The Chairman, in his remarks, wished the corps every success, and urged the men to be loyal, and also commended the movement as embodying the volunteer principle and as being capable of rendering great national service if needed.

Mr W. Wilson, the hon. secretary, presented the financial statement, which showed a balance in hand of about £28, which was very satisfactory. He also stated that the corps were greatly indebted to the Ashington Coal Company for providing a shooting range and several articles free of cost for the use of the V.T.C.

Mr J. J. Hall then presented the prizes for the officers and N.C.O.s’ shooting competition. 1st. Drill-Inst. Chambers, gold medal; 2nd. Section-Com. Houston, silver wristlet watch.

Mr Purdy and Mr Young on behalf of the two members, thanked the officers who had so diligently and untiringly worked for the good of the corps even when the V.T.C. was at a low ebb. Com. Denton, Inst. Chambers, and Inst. McMenemy never shirked their interest and zeal being to make the V.T.C. a success.

Mr Wilson was elected hon. secretary, and a vote of thanks to the chairman concluded the meeting.


Corporal J. Aysley, N.F. of Kitty Brewster, has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty.

He has been commended for saving lives of soldiers and for capable work on the field.