John’s WWI blog: War shared the news with Magna Carta

Former Harborough Mail editor John Dilley with a copy of the 1914 Market Harborough Advertiser. '(MAIL PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER)
Former Harborough Mail editor John Dilley with a copy of the 1914 Market Harborough Advertiser. '(MAIL PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER)

June 22, 1915: Many of the headlines in the past week of 2015 have concerned the 800th Magna Carta anniversary celebrations – and there was a similar focus one hundred years ago in the June 22, 1915, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

However, the Advertiser laments the lack of interest shown by the public but decides it is quite understandable.

“Four copies of the Magna Carta still exist...but is the public interested in them?

“On this anniversary in particular, when the nation is engaged in a life and death struggle abroad for the safety of the great edifice which has been built upon the privileges...the barons exacted from a worthless monarch, does it know where they are to express any wish to see them? An answer, it is to be feared, must be given in the negative.”

The story is one of the longest in this edition, not surprising as the trend in the Advertiser is acknowledge the war but also give equal space to the Home Front.

In fact, advertising is increasing so much that the regular front page spot claimed by the town’s cinema for the past year has been taken by other tradesmen clearly ready and able to pay the top prices required for the newspaper cover. The County Electric Cinema has now moved to a clearly identifiable – and regular – spot on the back page.

There is news of local men injured or killed in the fighting. Last week’s report of the death of Private H Whittle of Bowling Green Place, Market Harborough, is followed up with a photograph of him in uniform. However, there is no interview with the wife he left behind, or indeed any other family or friends.

There is a report of Medbourne vicar’s son having died in the Dardanelles. The Rev T K B Nevison was told his 24-year-old 2nd Lieutenant son Humphrey was wounded shortly after arriving at Gallipoli and died three days later of his wounds.

This will not be a good omen for the parents of Private E Orringe, whose parents live in Logan Street, Market Harborough.

A letter from his captain, the Rev Bernard Uffen states that Pte Orringe has been shot in the side: “The wound is serious but it is hoped he will recover. Do not be over-anxious. The skill of surgeons now is such as to give every confidence and I am hoping you will see him in Harborough again.”

These are relatively short accounts and so is the call-to-arms advertisement on the back page which simply reads: “Leicestershire Yeomanry. Wanted at once – 100 recruits. Apply at Headquarters, 67a, Southgate Street, Leicester.”

However, this week’s edition does include many updates of the war, mainly sourced from the War Office. One from the official press office under the byline ‘Eye-witness’ – which national newspaper reporters dubbed ‘Eye-wash’ because the reports were so sanitised – calls it ‘A quiet week’. The account reads: “Last week ended as quietly as it had begun.”

There is one other story of interest buried in the ‘Local news column’ – and not only to the gardeners and farmers of 1915 but to those in the 21st century too.

“Six degrees of frost on the eve of Midsummer! Verily the seasons are out of joint,” says the story. “This year the lack of rain has been the chief trouble until the night of June 18 when without warning, 6 or 7 degrees of frost visited our town and district and put paid to the potatoes, kidney beans, vegetable marrows etc with a vengeance.”

The story concludes: “Truly the lot of the gardener is by no means a happy one, frost at Midsummer makes him more than sad, it makes him almost wicked.”