John's real-time WW1 blog: Bring us your bones, bring us bones and help beat the hated Hun

John Dilley
John Dilley

July 9, 1918...

If you cannot fight you can still help to beat the Huns – by taking your waste bones to The Rag Shop, screams an advert on the front page of the July 9, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The advert calling for old bones and waste paper

The advert calling for old bones and waste paper

Apparently, there are ‘record prices for bones’ according to J Tompkin, who runs the shop on King’s Road, Market Harborough.

He is also looking for waste paper which has ‘Government fixed prices’ and he urges readers to also bring ‘any other waste’ too.

The advert, of course, is not aimed at serial killers – the bones are from joints of meat – lamb or beef. The cuts would have been roasted and then the bones boiled clean for soup – and sold on to the ‘rag and bone’ man.

The bones were burnt into a powder and then used as fertilizer – in fact, it is thought the origin of the word bonfire is ‘bone fire’.

The appeal is yet another indication that life on the Home Front is getting better.

In fact, the four-page Advertiser is so jam-packed with adverts from shop owners vying for business there is little room for editorial.

The editor even takes up three lines of his precious space to apologise to his readers: “Owing to pressure on our space we are compelled to hold over our Notes of the Week and reports of several meetings.”

There are more details about the forthcoming Market Harborough Aeroplane Week which was announced with some fanfare in last week’s edition of the Advertiser.

And there is news of other campaigns – the Need for Nurses Week and Baby Week, both in Northamptonshire; a sale of work at the Convent of the Nativity in aid of the Raw Material Fund; and the Car and Cycle Carnival on July 20 in aid the town’s Territorial Christmas Fund.

Not surprisingly, it appears to be all quiet on the battlefront with no stories about local men being involved in fighting. However, there is one poignant classified advert from the Pritchard family of Leicester Lane, Great Bowden.

Father, mother, brothers and sisters have paid hard-earned cash to remember 23-year-old Sergeant James Pritchard who was killed in action a year ago. His story is told in the July 10, 1917 , edition of the Advertiser.

The in memoriam notice is accompanied by a short poem which brings a tear to the eye even 100 years later.

He is gone, but not forgotten,

And as dawns another year,

In our lonely hours of thinking,

Thoughts of him are always near.

Yet again we hope to meet him,

When our days on earth are fled,

And in Heaven we hope to greet him,

Where no farewell tears are shed.

And finally, there is a reminder about the new list of voters under the Representation of the People Act which has just been published in preparation for an expected election at the end of the year.

It is, of course, the first time that some women have got the vote and there is a passing reference to this historic act with the advice that ‘any person who is desirous of voting should see that his or her name is on the list’.

But the Advertiser just skates over this huge change in the law that so many women fought for and instead concentrates on reminding Army or Navy servicemen over the age of 19 to make sure they are on the list as ‘the New Act is to very largely increase the number of electors’.

- This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.

- My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.
- Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.