WW1: Midlothian Remembers

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The Advertiser returns with its regular series remembering the months in the lead up to the start of World War 1 in 1914.

This week one hundred years ago, the outbreak of World War 1 was only 60 days away. Even sooner than that, in just a month Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand would be assassinated during a royal tour in Sarajevo to spark a military chain-reaction that led to the deaths of up to 10 million brave soldiers by 1918.

During May 1914 in Midlothian, however, residents had their minds cast on a host of other local issues. Politics was the talk of the town in Penicuik: “Labour Party- Mr Andrew Young, Edinburgh, addressed an open-air meeting in the High Street on Sunday evening under the auspices of the local branch of the I.L.P. (Independent Labour Party).”

Another political issue was also on the agenda for Penicuik: “Votes for Women: On Tuesday evening a meeting was held in the High Street under the auspices of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Two lady speakers from Edinburgh has a most respectful hearing, and one or two questions were asked. About 100 people attended.”

An epidemic had struck Roslin: “EPIDEMIC- That fiend, ‘the fever,’ is once more an undesirable element in the health of the district. Already quite a number of young folks have had to be removed. It is most annoying that ‘the fever’ should visit the district at almost regular intervals and surely some special reasons must be the cause of the recurring trouble.”

Bonnyrigg received praise in the papers: “It is a feather in the cap of Bonnyrigg Town Council that the Sanitary Inspectors of the East and West of Scotland should think their sewage purifications works of significant importance to visit them specially.”

And Lasswade locals had their minds set on trade issues: “Free Trade Union Campaign- An open-air meeting was held at Eskside, Lasswade, on Tuesday evening. Mr J. Morrison delivered a very lucid address entitled “The Case for Free Trade” to quite a fair audience. Questions were invited.”

Meanwhile in Gorebridge, pigeon racing was apparently ever-popular: “District Homing Society- The above society held their second old birds’ race on Saturday last from Barbon, a distance of 113 miles. Result: 1. Murray and Dinwoodie, velocity: 794 yards per minute.”

In the national column, all the talk was of the Home Rule issue, which would’ve given Ireland separate governing powers: “The disorder of last week was not renewed when the House of Commons resumed consideration of the Home Rule Bill on Monday. The Prime Minister afterwards summed up the position of the government in asking for the third reading of the bill.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be long before the 60 days were up and Austria would declare war on Serbia to begin The Great War. By then, hobbies like pigeon racing and public speeches would all have to be abandoned as Britain mobilised for the war effort.

If you have any anecdotes, memories, or thoughts from the time, then get involved here.