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.

At the end of May in 1914, the world would soon be at war. Archduke Franz Ferdinand would be assassinated in June, an event which would signal the political coming and goings that would eventually lead to Britain entering The Great War in August.

Midlothian residents, however, weren’t to know. The Midlothian Journal of a century ago instead reported on a variety of other issues affecting local communities.

The local news in Penicuik was spurred on by good weather: “By the kindness of Mr and Mrs Alexander Cowan of Vallyfield House, the gardens of Woodslee and Valleyfield were thrown open to the public on Sunday afternoon, when, with favourable weather, a large number of people took advantage of the privilege and too considerable interest in the fine collection of Alpine and other plants.”

Workers at the Roslin gunpowder mills, who would soon be working tirelessly for the war effort, were reported on: “The employees at the Gunpowder Mills and a few friends are to have their annual outing, and will leave tomorrow morning by rail en route for Stirling, where they expect to spend the greater part of Sunday.”

The Rifle Club were given a mention in the Pathead column: “The top scorers last Saturday were A. Jeffrey, W. Bain, J.Herriot, D. Bennie and J. Ritchie.”

The success of a Midlothian woman was also given a section in the papers: “Congratulations to Miss Jeanie Couston, Musselburgh, on her brilliant University career and her appointment in the Higher Grade School of Insch at a commencing salary of £85 per year. From his boyhood her father, Parish Councillor Couston, while giving every attention to his business, has taken a considerable interest in literary work.”

The Women’s Liberal Association was news in Newtongrange: “A picnic in connection with this association as held on Saturday afternoon at the Camps, and a very pleasant time was spent by the large company in sports and dancing, the music for the latter being provided by Messers Duncan and Crawford.”

The Midothian also chose to report on the political state of Midlothian: “Mr J.C. Haig and other speakers are doing excellent work in Midlothian, and it is pleasant to notice that they are keeping Free Trade well to the front. One of the political forces of the past fortnight has been the Unionist claim that North-East Derbyshire was a victory for Tariff Reform and the Unionist Policy in Ireland.”

They also devoted some space to the influence of America: “American Press Methods- the growing adoption of American methods in London journalism, owing to the fierceness of competition, is very much deplored by all who have a regard for the honoured traditions of the British Press.”

In just a month or two, none of the above would matter. Great Britain would send soldiers to the western front and in Midlothian, local news would divert to one of the bloodiest conflicts in history.

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