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.

Monday, 18th April 2016, 9:00 am
HERALD WAR REPORT: News, notices and adverts from the Morpeth Herald, April 14, 1916.

A large and influential company assembled in the Soldiers’ Institute, Morpeth, on Thursday evening, March 6th, to give a send off to the 6th Northumberland Fusiliers on leaving the district.

From every point of view the programme proved a success, due principally to the organising powers of Mr T.B. Walters, secretary of the institute. The chair was taken by Mr Geo. Renwick, Springhill, Morpeth.

HERALD WAR REPORT: News, notices and adverts from the Morpeth Herald, April 14, 1916.

In his opening remarks, the chairman said that he on behalf of the people of Morpeth had asked the Officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the 6th Northumberlands to come there in order to express their regret at losing such a fine set of soldiers.

The other day he had been speaking to an official of the town and he asked what kind of character the 6th had. The reply was “Good,” which was very gratifying indeed. But the men who had come to Morpeth since the outbreak of war had always borne a good character. He hoped that they would be well-treated in their new quarters and that they would carry out the traditions of the Fighting Fifth, which he had no doubt they would.

Mr Renwick then called on Mr C.F. Murphy for a whistling solo, which was followed by a song from Trooper Stubbs; a song by Signaller Wally; a recitation by Mrs Baylis, “Spotty”; and a song by Pte. Herald, all of which were greatly appreciated.

Colonel Kyle, apologising for being late, said: “I wish, as we are leaving Morpeth, to express, on behalf of the men, to Mr Renwick, Mr Waters, and the committee of this institute, their gratitude at the way they had been entertained during their stay at Morpeth. No doubt this institute has added greatly to the comfort they had experienced.

HERALD WAR REPORT: News, notices and adverts from the Morpeth Herald, April 14, 1916.

“Throughout the Empire, ladies and gentlemen who were not immediately engaged in military work had bound themselves together in order to erect such comfortable places for the soldiers. Soldiers were not thankless for what they had received, for he was there on behalf of the men to thank the people of Morpeth for the way they had received them. Letters from those who are now in France all express thanks for the way such institutes had catered for them while they were in training. (Cheers.)

“I also wish to point out to the people of Morpeth that we bear a good character, and I may add that no troops have been so well behaved as the Northumberland Fusiliers. (Cheers.)

“This evening we are indebted to Mr Renwick whose hospitality is known throughout Northumberland. In connection with this institute, Mr Renwick has devoted much time, labour, and, I may say, money, on behalf of the soldiers who visit this town. He then called on the troops to show their appreciation, which was expressed in the usual way.

Mr Rewick then rose and addressed the assembly. He said:— “We do not expect your thanks in more forcible language, neither do we expect long speeches from soldiers; speeches are only for politicians, and soldiers are expected to fight for us. I am proud of your good character and I hope you will be comfortable in your new quarters, and in the end that you will have a safe return.” (Cheers.)

Troopers Elliott and Gaeton then treated the assembly to “Rag Time,” in which the troops joined. This was followed by songs by Pte. Stubbs and Pte. Sainsby. Mr Renwick then treated the audience with “Cappy”; a song by Pte. Sainsby, and another song by Mr Renwick entitled “Wee Doch-an-doris.”

Mr Renwick next moved a vote of thanks to Mr Waters, which was given very enthusiastically, followed by “For he’s a jolly good fellow.”

In his reply Mr Waters stated that anything he had done he had considered as doing his little bit towards the great end. He hoped the men would be well looked after in their new billets, and wished them good luck and God-speed. Mr Waters also remarked that in the work of the institute he had been greatly assisted by the ladies of the town.

During the evening refreshments and cigarettes were handed round to the men given by the kindness of Mr Renwick.


It falls to the lot of few men to be shot through the head and live to tell the tale, but such has been the experience of Capt. W.P. Gill, of Ashville, Ripon, son of the late Mr John Gill and Mrs Gill, of Ripon, who has just been decorated with the Grand Military Cross by the King at Buckingham Palace, for gallantry and distinguished service on the field. Captain Gill is a son-in-law of Mr Joseph Reay, auctioneer, Morpeth.

Captain Gill has had other exciting experiences during the war. He went out to France with the D.L.I. in April, 1915, and had charge of a machine-gun section at the second battle of Ypres, which was sent out to repel the German advance after their first gas attack. Advancing a distance of 400 yards in front of the British first-line trenches, Captain Gill and his men took up a position on which the Germans advanced in mass formation, but they were obliged to retire under the well-directed fire of the machine-gun. On this occasion he was wounded in the foot.

On the reorganisation of the battalion he was given command of two double companies, with whom he led the counter-attack against the second German gas attack on Whit-Monday, 1915. He led the men into the Hooge trenches, which he held until relieved, though he was suffering from gas poisoning, which necessitated his removal to hospital. For his conduct on this occasion he was promoted on the field to the rank of Captain.


Sir,— I read in the “Herald” the other week Sergt. Carmen’s letter asking where our party was that left Morpeth on Sept. 3rd, 1914. Well, we are scattered about, some with one battalion and some with another.

I went with the 14th N.F. (Pioneers) to France. I was severely wounded at Loos, receiving two fractured arms and two fractured ribs, right side. I have now been in hospital six months, and I am at present at Eaton Hall, the residence of the Duke of Westminster, where under the direction of Lady Arthur Grosvenor we receive every care and attention that is possible for our welfare and recovery. I expect to be here about 2 months yet.

With best regards to all friends, Yours, etc.,

(18870) Sergt. R. JEWITT,

14th Batt., N.F. (Pioneers)

Eaton Hall, Chester.

P.S.— Though in hospital, I am instructing the Chester Volunteer Batt. as far as my wounds will allow.


The last of the above sewing meetings, until further notice, was held on April 13th. Tea was kindly given by Mrs Percy Kilby, Thorpe Avenue, and realised £1 17s 3d.

The hon. treasurer, Mrs Atkinson, Well Bank, has to acknowledge with many thanks the sum of £3 6s., proceeds of two concerts at Pegswood, arranged by Miss Annie Walton, under the supervision of Miss Baptie; £1 from Mrs R.J. Carr for sale of dolls; a donation of 10/6 from Miss Cooper, Olympia Hill; and socks from Mrs Drysdale, Mrs Wright, Mrs Hills.

Bales have been sent off this week to the 12th Northumberland Fusiliers, the 7th N.F., the King’s Royal Rifles (B.B. Battalion), and the French Armies before Verdun.


The monthly meeting of the Morpeth Town Council was held on Tuesday evening. In the absence of the Mayor the chair was taken by Ald. S.W. Brown.

It was reported that the Town Clerk had submitted invitations to the Mayor and himself to attend meetings on war savings at Newcastle on behalf of the Council, to which the committee recommended no objection.

War Rents Allowances — The sub-committee appointed for the purpose, presented their report of the result of their inquiries into circumstances of those tenants of the Council’s workmen dwellings who were being allowed their rents, and the matter having been fully discussed the committee agreed to recommend that no change be made, and that the thanks of the Council be given to the sub-committee for their investigation and report.— The report was adopted.

War Damage Committee — The committee recommended that the Council join in the memorial now being promoted in view of inducing the Government to undertake all liability for damage done.— This was adopted.


The Commandant of the Red Cross Hospital acknowledges the following gifts:— Mrs Cecil Perceval, eggs; Miss Pringle, Tritlington, eggs; Miss Adamson, Cambo, eggs; Mr Jennings, eggs; Miss Macdowall, fruit; Mrs T. Simpson, bread-cutter; Mrs Tweedy, tickets for concert and books; Mrs Harding, tickets for concert; Mrs Tate, bread; Mrs J. Simpson, cake; Lieut. McLaren, two pairs scissors.

The hospital is much in need of socks and face flannels.


ROBINSON.— Killed in action in France, on 27th March, Ralph, third and dearly loved son of John and Margaret Ann Robinson, Embleton South Farm.

RUSSELL.— Killed in France, March 31st, aged 35, Private Peter Russell, 6,249, Machine Gun Section, beloved husband of Willia Russell, Chapel Row, Choppington.— For King and country he did his best, may God grant him eternal rest.— Deeply mourned by his wife and child.


Our authorities are urging us to employ more women on the farm, and set free more men for the army.

It is strange that we do not hear more about the farm work that women do in Scotland and the North of England, where practically all the work is done by females, excepting only the horse-work, while some of that even is done by them. We have had the spectacle of a committee of ladies going over to France to inspect the methods of working there on farms as carried out by the women, girls, and children, so that they could tell us how it was all done, while all the time they could have seen it done much better within the limits of the British Islands.

Those people, however, who think that it can be done quite easily anywhere are making a big mistake. A woman, even a country-woman who had never been accustomed to this sort of thing is a very unpromising subject to work with.

To begin with, women’s dress is quite unsuited to the fields or farmyards, while many are actually afraid of cows and live stock. Further, there is the lack of physique and heridity; where women have always been workers, each is a descendant of generations of workers, has been accustomed to work from childhood and has physical strength to do work — all of which conditions are wanting in the amateurs.

The worst trouble of all is the weather; we have had two months of rain, snow and frost, just when we specially wanted it fine to get the seed in, and if any farmer has had women in his employment there will have been absolutely nothing for them to do, because one cannot send them out to do odd jobs in bad weather as one can with men. It is the weather that is the crux of the whole matter and our public advisers and mentors do not seem to have the remotest idea of the influence on this on farm operations. The work on a farm is seasonal and the great majority of farmers depended on casual labour when needed in the past, because there is not remunerative work to be done when the weather is adverse.


The Northumberland Miners’ Lodges are being invited to vote on the question as to whether the association should again refrain from holding its summer picnic this year, as it did last year.

A circular, accompanying the voting paper, issued from Burt Hall, Newcastle, states:— It seems that if the reasons for not observing our annual gala day were good last year, they are much more so now. The war still goes on; sorrow, because of the loss of dear ones at the front, has entered many more homes since twelve months ago; anxiety as to the safety of large numbers of others is gnawing at our heart strings, and added to this is the uncertainty as to what is to be the end of it all.

“Because of these things anything of a gala or festive day is out of the question; and so fas as the discussion of political or other questions on which there may be grave differences of opinion concerned, our annual picnic platform is not the best place to do this, as the tendency is the division rather than unity in our ranks.

The votes are returnable to Burt Hall on or before Saturday, 22nd inst.


A second concert in aid of the Red Cross and Soldiers’ Fund was held on Tuesday night in the Institute, Pegswood, by children attending St James’ and the Council Schools (Morpeth). This was in response to the children’s fine performance a fortnight ago, when the Pegsworthians, delighted with the entertainment given by the youngsters, evinced a desire to have then back again.

There was a crowded attendance, including a fair sprinkling of lads in khaki, and all greatly enjoyed the evening, the songs and dances being particularly charming.

Mr Charlton (cemetery supt.) again presided on the occasion, remarking on the pleasure it gave him in welcoming Morpeth children back again. Great credit, he said, was due to the promoters and those who had had the training of the children — Mrs Walton and Miss Baptie (Morpeth).

During an interval in the programme, Mr Charlton eulogised the noble work of the Red Cross, and the heroic devotion to their duty of the nurses, who had greatly lessened the burdens of our gallant lads in every possible manner, illustrating this with a touching story of hospital life which had come to his notice.

This is the third effort of the children, the first being at Morpeth, the result of which has been that a handsome sum has been given to the objects above-mentioned.

At the close, Mr Charlton called for cheers for the little artistes, which were given vociferously.

Miss Baptie, Miss McManus, and Miss E Whittle were the accompanists.


Sir,— I have pleasure in acknowledging receipt of £3 10s. from Miss E Brewis of Swarland, being the result of a whist drive and dance held at Mr J. Yeaman’s house.

Through Miss Brewis’s kindness I have been able to send of the following “comforts”:— 1,000 cigarettes, watches, carriage candles, 1½ gross chocolate bars, chewing gum, writing paper and envelopes, biscuits, sardines, assorted pastes, etc.

On behalf of the “boys,” I wish to thank Miss Brewis, Mr John Yeaman, and all who in any way assisted in making the whist drive and dance such a success.

No doubt Miss Brewis will hear from the trenches when the comforts arrive.— Yours, etc.,


St James’ Terrace, Morpeth,

April 12th, 1916.


The National Egg Collection begs to acknowledge with grateful thanks the receipt from Belsay of 397 eggs since February 7th to April 3rd; total since May of 2,817.

Eggs are urgently needed in thousands, and any assistance that can be given will be a real national service. Eggs, or donations with which to buy some will be received by Mr C. Snowball, Belsay; Mrs Richley, Highlander Inn; Miss Clark, Stamfordham; or Wilkinson’s, Bankfoot, Belsay.

The donors are Mrs Potts, Broadlaw; Mrs R. Bell, Kirkley; Mrs Richley, Highlander Inn; Miss Meek, Nun Hill; Mrs Thomas, Bolam; Mill Hall, Bounder House; Mrs Nixon, Hunt Law; Mrs Milvain, Black Heddon; Mrs Carmichael, Black Heddon; Mrs Leiper, Bygate; Mrs Wilkinson, Bankfoot; Miss D. Clark, Stamfordham; Mr C. Snowball, Belsay; Mrs Walton, Trewick; Mrs Clennell, Belsay.

The date of the next despatch is April 17th.


At a meeting of the Northumberland Insurance Committee held at the Moothall, Newcastle, last Friday, the report of the Finance Committee showed a balance of £9,999 15s 7d in hand, and it was not proposed to make any recommendation for further payments to the Commissioners.

The Medical Benefit Sub-Committee made reference to a complaint regarding inconvenience caused to insured persons residing in Hexham and the surrounding district by the closing of the chemists’ shops at 6pm. It was recommended that consideration of the matter be deferred until a report had been received from the Pharmaceutical Committee, who were holding an inquiry.

This would be dealt with in connection with a similar complaint made against Alnwick chemists, and it was thought that an arrangement should be made for one of them keeping his place open for out-of-the way times.

The Clerk revorted to the Sub-Committee that he had communicated with the military representative of each tribunal in the county requesting them to postpone the consideration of any cases of chemists requested to appear, until the joint sub-committees had made investigation, and also that in the cases of two chemists residing in Blyth and Hexham he had been informed that instructions had been issued to the recruiting officers not to call those men up.

It was recommended that a sub-committee consisting of Mr F.E. Schofield and the Clerk of the committee be appointed to act on behalf of the Insurance Committee.


Under the auspices of the above league, successful meetings have been held at Ashington and Blyth, when addresses were delivered by Messrs J.W. Laws and James Clare, representatives of the League for this district.

The speakers contended that the recent speech of the German Chancellor indicated that Britain’s blocade was producing unmistakable results in the economic condition of Germany.

The speakers also referred to the growing efficiency of our anti-aircraft services and said that while there might be a need for a more ample service, the Government was doing all that lay in its power to develop this form of our national defence. In a very short time it would be almost suicidal for any Zeppelin to approach our coast.

At each meeting the speakers received an attentive hearing, and the following resolution was carried with acclamation:— ”That all present at this meeting desire to place on record their unanswering determination to use all the possible means at their disposal to support the Governments of the Allied nations in carrying on the war until peace has been restored by the unconditional surrender of the enemy, and thus for all time crush the arrogant military despotism of the German Empire, with which she is now seeking to dominate the world.”


A new call to both group men and conscripts was issued by proclamation on Saturday.

The call affects single men, attested and unattested, of the age of 18 years. Commencing on May 10, they will be required to report for training and service at home until they attain the age of 19 years.

Previously only those men in the group and class affected were called who had reached 19 years since August 15 last, but the new order applies to all, thus completing the calling up of single men.


Under the auspices of the Independent Methodist Church, Ashington, on Saturday, a tea and concert was provided for the wounded soldiers residing in the district, and the proceedings passed off very successfully.

At the concert the chair was occupied by Mr F.L. Booth, who was supported on the platform by Mr W.S. Pattison (chairman of the U.D. Council), Mrs Booth, and Miss Galloway, the two latter representing the local V.A.D.

A splendid programme of music was submitted by Bell’s Quartette party from Bebside. Following the concert there was a public meeting at which Mr Ruddick presided, whilst an address was delivered by Mr A. Foreman.

Saturday’s proceedings closed with a well-attended supper. On Sunday anniversary services at the church were conducted by Mr Foreman.


A letter was read from Councillor Hogg asking to be relieved from membership of the Council as he was on military service.— The Chairman, Mr Walton, Mr Young, and others expressed their admiration of Councillor Hogg, and moved that his seat remain vacant.— The motion was unanimously agreed to.


A large audience assembled in the Wesleyan Church Hall, Newbiggin on Monday night to hear Staff-Sergt. Instructor W.H. Mason, D.C.M., give a lecture on the “Heroes of Mons.”

Sergt. Mason went out with the original British Expeditionary Force, and was in charge of a scouting party which was the first of the British Army to come into contact with the Germans. His account of his experience at Mons helped the audience to understand the awful conditions under which the heroic British soldiers were forced to make their magnificent retreat from Mons.

The lecture was thrilling, interesting and instructive. The modesty of the lecturer forbade him narrating the circumstances under which he won his D.C.M. and gained the recognition of the French Government.

Capt. D.L. Prestage made an excellent chairman. The Rev. Frederick E. Watson appealed for £5 to be divided between the Prisoners of War in Germany Fund and Mr A.C. Pearson’s Fund for Blind Soldiers. The collection amounted to £3 19s, and with a donation of £1 1s from Miss Longstaff, making a total of £5. Mr Watson is sending £3 15s to the Prisoners of War Fund and £1 10s to Mr Pearson’s Fund.


Private R. Wood, Amble, of the Durham Light Infantry, begs to acknowledge the receipt of a parcel from the Amble Working Party, for which he tenders his sincere thanks.