The Durham Hymns Review


Durham Cathedral was a fitting place for the première of The Durham Hymns on Saturday 16th July.  The piece has lyrics by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, set to music by composers Jessica Curry and Orlando Gough.  It was performed by the Centenary Choir and Brass Band with Voices of Hope.

The evening began with A Prelude on George Butterworth, a promising composer killed in 1916 while serving with the Durham Light Infantry, composed by Jonathan Bates, followed by an arrangement by Gough of ‘Steady Durhams Steady’.  Throughout the performance, readings by Charlie Hardwick and Phil Corbitt from poignant original letters, memoirs and official records from and about Durham men and women interspersed and led seamlessly into the singing. 

Duffy has written seven new poems and also gave permission for two other of her poems to be used, one in response to a Wilfred Owen poem (also used).  You could feel how words and phrases in the original records had inspired the new poems which then found different ways of expressing ‘songs of love within the setting of war’, as the programme says.

The programme includes all the words of the poems and information about the readings, beautifully illustrated by Stephen Raw.  A copy of the programme is now in the Reference Library at The Bowes Museum.

This work is a First World War commemoration project from the Northern Regional Brass Band Trust in partnership with Durham County Council.  Further performances are planned in Gateshead, Hartlepool, Sunderland and Ushaw College, supported by a community programme.

It was an inspiring evening, and the large appreciative audience clearly found it very moving.  I hope some of you will be able to experience it in the months to come.

By Judith Phillips

WW1 Book Group Review



Another fascinating selection of books! As 2016 marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, we started with Dr Gary Sheffield’s The Somme.  Sheffield offers an important reassessment, seeing it as a ‘qualified success’ because it relieved the pressure on the French at Verdun, ground down the strength and morale of the German Army and taught the British some valuable lessons.  As I’m writing this, I realise there is a 3-part programme about the Battle of the Somme on BBC2 starting Monday 18th July.

In contrast, The Wipers Times treats the war and the difficulties faced by soldiers with a touch of (very British) black humour.   You might have seen a dramatisation on BBC2 (Monday 11th July) about the newspaper and the men who produced it.  This book is a reprint of all the editions of this newspaper (and its successors) produced by soldiers in the trenches, including while serving on the Somme. 

Two books highlighted the emotional cost of the war.  Forgotten Lunatics of the Great War by Peter Barham deals with the contrasting medical and psychiatric services offered to officers and men as well as changes in public attitudes.  In The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War, Michael Roper looks at the importance to men at war of letters and news from family members.

A modern novel, The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear, uses letters to and from a newly-married couple as a main strand in the story.  The wife describes in loving detail the lovely meals she is preparing with her husband in mind, and he writes cheerful letters home from the trenches.  Both are writing lies to protect and support each other.  In On the Black Hill, Bruce Chatwin writes of a farming family torn apart when one twin son is exempted from conscription to work the farm and his twin brother refuses conscription because he is a conscientious objector. 

The final recommendation was The Case of Sergeant Grischa by Arnold Zweig who fought in the German army in France, Hungary and Serbia, and later became a pacifist and Communist.  The novel follows a Russian soldier on the Eastern front, captured by Austro-Hungarian forces, whose ultimate fate is largely decided by internal military politics. 

Our discussions, prompted by these books, ranged over German attitudes to the Somme, difficulties faced by men returning after the war, the importance of humour, and how little we know about ‘the enemy’. It might sound grim but it was fascinating and enlightening.  Why not come along and join us at the next meeting? You can bring along a book if you want, but you don’t have to.

The next meeting will be in Café Bowes in the museum at 2.30 on Monday 8th August.  Please note the change of date.

Asunder Review

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As audience and orchestra alike took their seats for Sunday’s performance of “Asunder” at Sunderland Empire Theatre, it seemed the perfect setting to step back in time, being a music hall of the era.

The performance was commissioned by 14-18NOW as part of their ongoing series of internationally recognised works including visual art and sculpture, theatre, film and performance. This evening’s show brought together a newly composed musical score by Tyneside’s musical luminaries Field Music and Warm Digits, performed live on stage with the Northern Sinfonia creating a deliciously rich soundtrack to accompany the filmic explorations of Esther Johnson.

Johnson’s film showed us a Sunderland of the past through archival footage from both the IWM and BFI – illustrating familiar narratives of the First World War with poignant clips of both the home front including men and women at work, families in their homes and the devastated streets in the aftermath of German zeppelin raids and exerts from the famous The Battle of The Somme documentary created in 1916, showing men at the front line both at rest and during combat. Offering a contrasting narrative of Sunderland today, the archival footage was interspersed with contemporary scenes – highlighting the architecture of the city as well as its lasting industry in terms of boat building, showing the cavernous spaces inside the dry docks.

As narrators to the performance, the audience had the instantly recognizable voice of Kate Adie and Alun Armstrong to guide us through the potted history of Sunderland’s Great War – eschewing exerts from the Sunderland Chronicle and other local press. Playing to the locals – football took a central feature revealing the story of Conscientious Objector Norman Gaudie, one of the famous “Richmond Sixteen” (whose graffiti can still be seen on the walls of Richmond Castle where they were kept awaiting trial).

Perhaps more surprisingly was the revelation of the Blyth Spartan Ladies Football Team who maintained a dominion on the football league throughout the war years – with star player Bella Raey scoring 133 goals in one season. Though with all the progress that was seemingly made for women’s rights – it was a shock to hear that the FA banned women’s football after the war.

In summary, the performance provided a unique insight into Sunderland’s local war stories, the melding of sight and sound bringing a heightened sense of emotion to each new aspect uncovered. I would hope that there will be the chance of future performances or showing around the region.

By Rupert Philbrick

Reflections on John Kirkpatrick’s ‘Tunes from the Trenches’


John Kirkpatrick, a Radio 2 Folk Awards Musician of the Year, appeared at The Witham in Barnard Castle on Friday 8th July.  And what an entertaining evening it turned out to be!  John told me he had accumulated so many songs from both the First and Second World Wars that it seemed right to put them together in a show (and on disc). 

Working with a button accordion and a couple of anglo concertinas (and a variety of headgear including his father’s Royal Navy cap from the Second World War), he covered an incredible range of songs, interspersed with occasional monologues and readings – I particularly loved a piece about the Army order allowing men not to grow moustaches during the First World War. 

There were well-known songs such as ‘A Long Way to Tipperary’, ‘Good bye-ee’, ‘The Siegfried Line’, ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’, ‘Wish Me Luck’ (several of them were sung in both world wars and the audience readily joined in the choruses).  John also sang several soldiers’ versions of these and other songs – very funny and usually quite rude!  The tongue-twister ‘Sister Susie Sewing Shirts’, especially with a verse sung by her young brother with a lisp, was amazing.  Did you know that many of the First World War songs were devised as marching tunes because the regimental bands didn’t immediately go to war?

But many of the songs were less well-known and a revelation.  I had never come across the songs about rationing and food control or about the American Colonel (who can’t relax with the local women because of his rank) or the possible benefits of the blackout to young lovers.   The American song aimed at keeping the country neutral and out of the conflict in Europe was very touching, although John pointed out that it became unacceptable to sing it once the US was involved. Several songs were based on the foot-soldier’s generally unfavourable view of military hierarchy and the drudgery of military life (including one by Ewan McColl). 

Lloyd George’s restrictions on drinking hours during the First World War (still largely with us) and the production of the weaker ‘government ale’ came in for some stick from soldiers, as did Tickler’s plum and apple jam which turned up in more than one song.  The ingenuity of soldiers in taking well-known tunes and setting new words to them, as well as adapting the words of familiar songs, was brilliant, especially when you really got to hear the words and appreciate the cleverness of the adaptations.

John had spent the afternoon working with Cream Tees, a band of young musicians from Teesdale, and joined them to sing ‘Goodbye–ee‘ which they had only learned that day.   The youngsters played and sang music they had been learning as part of the M@HoT (Music at the Heart of Teesdale) First World War project ‘Always Remembered’ .  Several of these multi-talented young people also performed an intricate and colourful longsword dance as part of Teesdale Longsword team.  The audience thoroughly enjoyed their contribution at the beginning of the evening.

Throughout the evening the audience responded to the range of John’s songs and stories – funny, rude, clever, sad – and John’s encore ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ was a fitting end to a very enjoyable evening.

Judith Phillips


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A request for help…

Penny Wang is currently a second-year student at Newcastle University and in need of some help with her summer research project (supported by Newcastle University’s Vacation Scholarship Scheme) on women, diaspora, and leisure in the Northeast during the First World War.

Penny is looking at three diasporic communities: Belgian, Italian, and Chinese.  She has found a good amount of information on the Belgians already, but would greatly appreciate any leads on any of these communities.  

If anyone feels they can contribute to Penny’s research, or offer help in any way, please contact her directly at:

WW1 Book Group

The WW1 Book Group will have its second meeting on Friday 17 June at 2.30 in the Café Lounge in the Museum.

Bring a book you’d like to recommend or just come and hear about other people’s choices.

Books that have been recommended for the next meeting:



“Her Privates We”

By Frederic Manning


“The Officers Ward”

By Marc Dugain


“Voices from the Great War”

Collection of quotes put together by Peter Vansittart


“The Last Great War; British Society and the First World War”

By Adrian Gregory


“Blighty; British Society in the Era of the Great War”

By Gerard J DeGroot


In 1918, food rationing was introduced by the British Government and a Committee set up to look at ways to utilise natural resources due to crop failures in the same year.

Rural schools were encouraged to ‘employ their children in the gathering of blackberries during school hours’ for a Government jam making scheme. Local food control committees were appointed to take in all the blackberries collected, with some schools in Britain collecting over 2000 lbs during the weeks they were picking.

It was estimated at the time that the British Forces were consuming 1.5 million pounds of jam a day across the various parts of the world where they were involved in conflict. As well as being a food source, the jam was considered to be valuable for its high vitamin content.

Within Teesdale, the Head Teacher for Lynesack CofE Mixed and Infants School recorded their blackberry picking activities in the School Log Book.

He writes on Wednesday 11th September 1918 that under the ‘Gathering of Blackberries Scheme’, thirty-one of the older children were taken out of school that afternoon to go blackberry gathering. He also records the same children again being taken out of school to pick fruit for two further afternoons the following week.

There is no record of payments in the School Log Book for Lynesack, but in other areas of the country, Head Teachers received cheques from the Government in payment for their blackberry crops, and the money was shared out among the pupils who had harvested the blackberries.

Interestingly, the humble blackberry features in letters home written by Reverend Canon Cyril Lomax, Army Chaplain with the 8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. Towards the final stages of the Battle of the Somme, he writes on the 7th September 1916 that among the devastation he had witnessed, one simple pleasure came to him in the form of blackberrying.

“The other day the doctor and I went out to gather blackberries to make what our miner cook calls a pudden. It is one of the contrasts of war. Overhead, balloons and planes; the incessant thud and thunder of the evening strafe; and the quiet hedge”

And while two years separated those blackberry collections on the Somme, and in Lynesack, it was still an activity that connected those serving the war effort, be they chaplains or children.

By Jane Wilson

WW1 Project Workshops

We ran two free workshops last week at the museum.  The first one, in the morning, looked at using online finding aids to identify records that might be useful for the project and where to find them.  Under the guidance of Jane Wilson, one of the project’s volunteers, we had hands-on sessions using the online catalogues for Durham Record Office and The National Archives.  Both produced good results – even introducing us to potentially-useful records we hadn’t known existed!

The afternoon session concentrated on doing family history-style research which can add so much more information about the men and women identified on the Roll of Honour on the project’s website (  Sometimes all we have is a surname, initials and the location of a war memorial, or a name mentioned in the Teesdale Mercury.  Experienced family history researchers Ann Hughes, Carol Hutchinson and June Parkin helped us through various online sources to military and civil records, including some only available through Ancestry (which we hope will be available in the near future for project volunteers to use in the museum).  We were able to add information to the several database entries on the Roll of Honour, as well as seeing how to use a range of online sources.

We plan to repeat the workshops in early August (date to be confirmed) when they will be open to current and potential volunteers.  By having hands-on sessions, aided by experienced volunteers, we hope to encourage people to see how they can enhance the Roll of Honour entries, investigate the stories behind some of the Teesdale men and women who served in the First World War, and gain skills and confidence in doing family history research.

 If you are interested in helping the project in any way, please email us at or use the contact facility on the project website (see above).  We’d also love to hear from you if you have any information or memorabilia about Teesdale and its people during the First World War.

Judith Phillips, Research Advisor to the project

The Battle of Jutland


Last week saw centenary commemorations of the Battle of Jutland (31st May – 1st June 1916).  This sea battle, fought in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark, was a very important battle.  It was a material victory for the German High Seas fleet because they had fewer losses (2551 men) than the British (6094).  However, it was a strategic victory for the British Grand Fleet which maintained its blockade of German ports and control of the North Sea. 

Given that Teesdale is quite a long way from the sea, it is interesting to see that several Teesdale men served in the Royal Navy during the First World War as volunteers or regulars before conscription largely removed any choice of service.  Research by volunteers with The Bowes Museum’s First World War Commemorative Project is finding Teesdale men serving in the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy.  We’d love to hear from anyone who has information or memorabilia about Teesdale’s connection with the navies during the war.

Kevin Richardson’s book ‘Evenwood Remembers’ records three men from Evenwood who lost their lives at the Battle of Jutland. 

  • Tyneside Z/4043 Able Seaman John Wren was lost at sea 31 May 1916 when aboard HMS Black Prince and is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial. He was 23 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood.
  • J/43920 Ordinary Seaman William Carrick was killed in action 1 June 1916 serving aboard HMS Ardent and is buried at Farsund Cemetery, Norway. He is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial, the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood and the Memorial Plaque in the Workmen’s Club.
  • J/43919 Ordinary Seaman Andrew Lynas was killed in action 1 June 1916 serving aboard HMS Ardent. He was lost at sea and is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.   He was 20 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial, the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood and the Memorial Plaque in the Workmen’s Club.

A memorial service for the three men lost at the Battle of Jutland, and for Private J.H. Raine who was killed in France, was held at St Paul’s Church, Evenwood on 11th June, 1916.

Kevin also records that another Evenwood man, William Purdy, aboard H.M.S. Maidstone, was involved in the battle but, as his ship was in the main fleet, its involvement was mainly in the pursuit after the battle.

Kevin and his team are transferring information about men from St. Helen’s Auckland, West Auckland, Etherley/Toft Hill, Evenwood, Cockfield, Butterknowle, Copley and Woodland to a website

If you have any information or memorabilia about Teesdale men and women who served in the armed forces or as nurses, or who were affected by the war, we’d love to hear from you.  You can contact us through the project website, by emailing, by post to The Bowes Museum or by telephoning 01833 690606 ext. 208 (answerphone).

The VAD Carter Sisters of Barnard Castle


Alice Eleanor Carter and her sister Eva Gertrude were found on the Branard Castle Absent Voters list for 1918.  This is what we discovered when we dug a little deeper…

Alice Eleanor was born in 1878 in Barnard Castle and Eva Gertrude in 1887, two of the ten children of George and Mabel Carter. George Carter was a Surveyor living at 42, Horsemarket, who by the 1891 Census had also started selling ale and porter. George Carter died in 1906 and his widow carried on the business as a mineral water manufacturer. Two sons, Henry and George took over the drinks business as the Carter Brothers.

In 1939, the Carter family were still occupying 42, Horsemarket and running a haulage and removal business.  Eva and Alice both joined the General Service VAD in January 1918.  Alice Eleanor served in the 73rd General Hospital in Trouville, France, as a waitress. She probably worked in the medical staff mess. After the armistice, she was transferred to the General Service VAD Hospital in Nottingham Place, London until July 1919. She received her Victory and British War Medals in 1920. Alice never married and at her death, aged 80 in 1958, was living at 3,Wood Street, Barnard Castle.  The beneficiaries in her will were her widowed twin sister Florence May Boyd and her sister Mabel, who was married to Robert Brown, a retired farmer.  Eva Gertrude was sent to the 59 General Field Hospital in St. Omer, France. This was known as the Northern General Hospital and a major centre for treating the wounded. As the front moved forward, this field hospital transferred to Rouen. Eva was also a waitress, and her pay rate was £26 per annum.  

When the war on the western front came to an end, she was sent to Addington Park War Hospital in Croydon. This hospital specialised in the treatment of typhoid and dysentery. She continued her waitress work until her discharge in April 1919 and in 1920 received her Victory and British War Medals.

In 1921 Eva emigrated to Canada, sailing on the S.S. ‘Megantic’ from Liverpool to Quebec, to take up employment as a housemaid at a school in Brockville, on the St. Lawrence river in Ontario. This was a government sponsored scheme and she arrived in Canada with £10. Perhaps Eva saw little prospect of marriage after the loss of so many men in the war and few employment opportunities. No doubt her wartime experiences away from her market town home, had given her a sense of adventure.


 The Voluntary Aid Detachment was formed in 1909 to serve the Territorial Army but was greatly expanded in 1914 as women responded to the war effort and became known as VAD’s. It is a misconception that all VAD’s were nurses. By September 1915 there was a need to release men for military duties by using women in a broad range of roles including orderlies, dispensers, cooks, domestics, drivers and clerks. 

In 1917, with the pressure to release even more men, the potential of women was recognised by the formation of the Womens Auxillary Army Corps, although still restricted to what was deemed ‘women’s work’.

On the home front, many women were now working in munitions factories and had replaced men in  numerous occupations. These jobs were well paid and it became increasingly difficult to recruit VAD’s. In November 1917 an appeal for more VAD’s went out offering the same rates of pay as W.A.A.C.’s. These non-nursing volunteers were called General Service VAD’s. and this is when the Carter sisters of Barnard Castle entered the service.

By June Parkin, volunteer

We would like to find out more about Teesdale people who were involved in the First World War in any way.  For more information on The Bowes Museum’s WWI project, or to volunteer, go to or telephone 01833 690606 ext. 208 (answerphone).