December 15, 1916

In mid November 1916 the Ashbourne Telegraph carried the photographs of five brothers, sons of Mr and Mrs Brown of Union Street, who were all serving in the army. This week the paper announced the death of one of those sons.

Private Jack Brown, of the Sherwood Foresters had only been at the front in France for a few weeks when he met his death, leaving a young widow.

Brown, it was reported, had been a popular member of Ashbourne Town Football Club, with whom he had played for several years. Before enlisting he had been an attendant at the Empire cinema.

Ironically the regular editorial round-up of shows at the Empire, on the same page, was headlined: Battle of the Somme next week.

“For the first programme next week the great war picture ‘The Battle of the Somme’ will be produced, showing the actual pictures, taken under fire, of our brave lads in the fighting line.”

Keep Calm and Carry On was the slogan adopted in a government motivational poster in 1939 and popularised 70 years later; with Christmas approaching there was a similar message to readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph in 1916.

JH Henstock the publisher of the Telegraph also traded from Market Place as a ‘Bookseller, Stationer and Fancy Goods Dealer’.

The ‘Xmas Presents’ promoted in a large advertisement on the front page included: ‘Toys and Games in Great Variety’ shoppers were promised a ‘Special Show of these Goods’.

Also promoted were leather goods including, writing cases, tourist cases, ladies’ and gentlemen’s dressing cases, cigar and cigarette cases, confession albums military brushes, patience sets and music cases, together with mirrors, brushes combs, scissors and knives, brass ink and letter stands, photo frames and trinket boxes.

“In selecting the Stock, every care has been made in combining the Useful with the Ornamental, at the same time securing the best value which was to be obtained. An early visit is respectfully solicited. Al goods are new and fresh, and comprise the leading Novelties of the season.”

The row over the proposed purchase of the Hall Hotel for use as an isolation hospital continued with the announcement that an extraordinary meeting of the Urban Council had been called by the chairman at which it was announced that a Local Government Board Inspector had been appointed to visit the hotel and the council. Councillors Bamford, Edge and Kennedy were appointed to represent the council and detail the opposition to the scheme.

Elsewhere in the paper there was a lengthy, almost verbatim report of the council’s monthly meeting at which the subject of the hospital was debated at length.

Among other, national, news items was a paragraph headed ‘Third Christmas in Hospital’ which told of a soldier who had been wounded in 1914.

“He was wounded early in the war and has since undergone no less than 82 operations. His friends say he is the most cheerful and certainly the most loquacious man in the place.”

The paper shortage, which was responsible for the Ashbourne Telegraph cutting pagination from first eight pages to six, then in recent weeks to four, was affecting other publications too. It was announced that all ‘illustrated monthly magazines’ would increase in price to 7d from the February editions. “An agreement to this effect has been signed by the proprietors of the Strand, Pearson’s, Windsor’s, London, Wide World Magazine Woman at Home, Nash’s and Royal.”

The paper continued its tradition of publishing light -hearted ‘news’ to entertain readers.

“The wangles of soldiers to get round the Censor are sometimes meritorious, but this from an ASC [Army Service Corps] man must be nearly a record, says the Daily News: ‘Dear Mary, The Censor won’t let me say where I am, but it is the capital of France’.”

  • My fellow researcher and former 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 War blog
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