From the Darlington & Stockton Times of…

December 8, 1917

“THERE was a very limited supply of butter in Ripon market on Thursday, the demand greatly exceeding the supply,” reported the D&S of 100 years ago. “In several instances, farmers were stopped nearly a mile from the city by purchasers who had learned by experience the difficulty of securing butter in the open market.”

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This wasn’t the only hardship caused by war. In fact, the paper makes grim reading because column after column is filled with news of men who weren’t coming home.

For example, John Wrightson of Middleton Tyas had just lost his second grandson of the year, 2nd Lt Wrightson Myers suffering what his commanding officer described as “very bad luck” to be struck on the head by a shell while on a night raid.

And Cpl Edwin Young who had joined up at the outbreak of war in Northallerton with his friends from Darlington Grammar School. He had immediately been injured in the “first diabolical use of gas” in April 1915 in which he suffered “a nasty poisoned shrapnel wound”. He recovered, returned to the front, his old wound reopened and he was hospitalised for three more months. He returned once more to the trenches where he was hit on the head by a shell after he’d shared a cheery cup of tea with an officer.

And Capt James Shirley of the Army Veterinary Corps who had left his Bedale practice to fight. The French had just given him an award for saving their horses from an infectious disease, and he’d just written a “graphic description” of a big push at Cambrai to his wife and four children. “He said it was a magnificent sight to see over 100 tanks go into action,” said the D&S. “He and some others were told to sleep in a German dug-out but as it was filled with 27 enemy dead…they preferred to sleep outside.”

The next letter home was from his servant, informing the family that “he has had as good a burial as we could possibly give him”.

The family may have been gratified that the D&S printed a long obituary about “Capt Shirley”, although the Bedale war memorial and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission both refer to him as “Capt Sherley”. He was 51, and his youngest child was 10.

And there is a long report of the fall of Brig-Gen Roland Bradford, the Darlington VC winner who at 25 was the youngest of his exalted rank in British Army history. The D&S said that in the post of Wednesday, December 5, his mother Amy, in Milbank Road, had received a field postcard from his saying he was quite well but the same post brought notes from brother officers telling her that he’d been killed by “a chance shell” on November 30.

In fact, poor Amy must have been overwhelmed by the number of letters from top brass paying tribute to her son. A major-general wrote after the funeral, saying: “It is no exaggeration to say we all loved your boy. He was so gull of life, so full of all the qualities that go to making what he was m, a leader of men…

“I know how empty words of grief must sound to you in your grief but I, too, have lost my only boy in this war, so that I can claim community of sorrow with you.”

He concluded: “PS. He cannot have suffered at all, and must have been killed instantaneously. He is buried at Hermies.”

December 10, 1967

TODAY, banks are closing faster than pubs, but 50 years ago, the D&S carried a little note saying how 50 people had attended the opening of a new branch of the York County Trustees Savings Bank in College Square, Stokesley.

The Marquis of Normanby, no less, gave a speech about how the bank was the oldest in Yorkshire and had just celebrated its 151st anniversary, and after a luncheon at the town hall, Alderman JT Fletcher, chairman of the county council “expressed hope that the two employees at the new branch, which cost £7,000, would enjoy a satisfactory and rewarding service for the good of the community”.

December 7, 1867

THE best story from 150 years ago in the D&S concerns Isabella Briggs who had been summoned before Durham County Magistrates accused of assaulting her sister-in-law, Sarah Clark.

Mrs Clark said that Isabella had approached her and asked for a bill. As Mrs Clark searched for the piece of paper, “the defendant drew from her pocket a darning needle with which she inflicted a wound on the complainant’s arm.

“Defendant then hurried out of the house, remarking as she did so: ‘There, I am satisfied now. I have drawn blood of her and she will bewitch me no more.’”

For this attempt to end the sorcery that was clearly bedevilling her, Isabella was fined five shillings and costs.