September 15, 1916

Long before the advent of the internet, news from around the world would have arrived in the Ashbourne Telegraph’s Market Place offices by ‘wire’ – the modern technology of the day which gave the paper its name.

But readers hungry for news from the front of fellow townsmen would have been disappointed this week 100 years ago.

Page 3, the first main editorial page in the paper, included war-related items, but none with a Derbyshire link. The most eye-catching headline: ‘Nine Soldier Brothers – Eight Killed or Missing, One Wounded’ introduced the story of the Restorick family of Birmingham. The surviving brother, the youngest, had been severely injured by shrapnel on July 15th and had been invalided out of the service. All the brothers had served with different regiments.

There was also the tale of two Canadian soldiers who died in separate bathrooms at a military hospital due to gas fumes, a pilot killed in an air accident in the East of England, a memorial to nurse Edith Cavell being unveiled in Norwich, the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement that interest of War Savings Certificates would be exempt from tax, and news that an elderly couple in Cornwall who had been taken into the workhouse and asylum had hidden a ‘miser’s hoard’ of £1,000 in sovereigns and half sovereigns.

In fact the only local news item on the first four pages was a short report about the Duchess of Devonshire paying a visit to Ashbourne’s Red Cross Hospital in her role as President of the Derbyshire branch of the Red Cross Society.

“Her Grace spoke a few words of encouragement to the patients and assured the staff how greatly their devoted services were valued.”

The Notes and Comments column urges all shopkeepers in Ashbourne to follow the example of some of their counterparts in closing at 7pm, observing that lighting regulations made it a folly to keep shops open longer than necessary.

“It would be much mores satisfactory if there was a unanimous decision on this point, as much confusion would be avoided besides a considerable saving effected.”

The columnist also noted that military tribunals were having to make some very difficult decisions as pressure continued to get more men to join the army.

“Men who have passed middle life have had to abandon their work and engage in the greater work of defending their country.”

There was evidence of this on the following page where two lengthy lists of tribunal decisions were published. Among the cases heard by Ashbourne Urban Tribunal was that of 40-year-old Frederick Arthur Johnson, a grocer’s assistant working for Smedley Bros and Mellor. The tribunal heard that Johnson, who had been with the firm for 16 years was a member of the Territorials and had been mobilised in August 1914. He spent 13 months in the firing line in France but had been discharged having completed his time in service.

“Mr Mellor said there were three partners in the firm and each of them had sent every son they had.”

The tribunal agreed Johnson had a good case and he was exempted until his 41st birthday.

The paper’s village paragraphs reported the death of Sergeant Arthur Footitt, a native of Matlock Bath killed in action in France. Footitt, whose sister Mrs T Harrison lived in Tissington, had previously been a police officer in Leeds and had joined the 13th Yorkshire regiment in November of 1915.

The only other war-related local news was the report of an ‘impressive memorial service’ held at Norbury Church in honour of Colonel Clowes, who had been killed on active service and three Norbury Hall employees who had fallen in action: Private Samways, Private Frank Riddle and Private Fred Bould.

  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great Warblog
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