Bygone news: 12 Feb 1916 – The Macclesfield Courier

News from the Macclesfield Courier of 12th February 1916.

Commercial Classes for Women – Opening of new Gas Plant – Macclesfield man’s success in Australia – Our Soldiers in Bedford – Cheshire Prisoners of War



By J Child, Instructor to the Macclesfield Commercial Training Classes for Women

The step taken by the Macclesfield Higher Education Committee in organising a course of Commercial Training for women is a very important one and will, it is hoped, be instrumental in freeing many men for the war. One great difficulty hitherto has been to get all the men required for the Army without crippling Industry and Commerce, the efficient maintenance of which is necessary to provide the sinews of war. Every woman who can be efficiently trained to take the place of a man will help to shorten the period of the war. Although the time allotted for the Course is limited to seven or eight weeks, I think I can say, with some degree of confidence, that… the women attending the classes… will be fitted to take their places in business houses.

The subjects beign taught cover a wide range, and though it will not be possible to accomplish in a two months’ course what can be done in a six or twelve months’ course, the students will have a practical working knowledge of many things, and will be quite at home in any business office, whether as shorthand writers, typewriters, book-keepers, or in any other capacity. It will be realised, that trained on the intensive method adopted int he course, the women can, with confidence, go out each to replace one man.

The withdrawal of thousands of men from business centres is causing a shortage in the supply of male labour in commercial establishments; but such schemes as that which the Macclesfield Higher Education Committee have started at the Technical School for the commercial education of women and girls will go a very long way to put this right. In the more laborious occupations it is not to be expected that women can do a great deal; but we already see them employed on the railways as carriage cleaners, ticket collectors; on the tramways in cities like Manchester as ticket collectors and guards; as lift women in large offices, warehouses and works, as taxi and van drivers, and in many other ways.

What I am particularly interested in, however, is training women and girls to take the place of men in offices, banks, etc., and after my brief experience with the women and girls attending the classes at the Macclesfield Technical School, I have every confidence that after their course of training they will acquit themselves with satisfaction to their employers and credit to themselves… Women and girls who come forward in this way are doing their share to help to win the war.



On Wednesday afternoon, after the monthly meeting of the Gas Committee of the Corporation,the members, together with a number of the other members of the Council, paid a visit to the Gasworks, where the Chairman (Alderman J R Isherwood) formally opened the new carburretted water gas plant.

Alderman Isherwood opened the door of the turbine engine-house and started the plant. They then adjourned to the elevated platform where all the control levers are assembled, and there the Chairman opened the valves which supplied the steam and the oil, and the process of making gas by the new method was commenced. As he opened the valves Alderman Isherwood declared the new plant duly opened, and expressed the hope that it would be a success. He said that great credit was due to Messrs. Humphrey and Glasgow for the work they had done, as everything had gone on without a hitch, and the plant at that very moment was making gas at the rate of a thousand feet per minute.



Mr T Horobin, who holds a responsible official position in a governmental department of the Commonwealth of Australia,… and is the eldest son of Mr Peter Horobin, of Crompton Road, Macclesfield, is achieving distinction there which does him credit. Soon after settling in Melbourne, Mr Horobin was struck with the climatic and natural resources of the country for the rearing of silk-worms, and… advocated the adoption of a scheme which he prepared… A Sericultural Association was formed… The movement has made rapid progress, as becomes a go-ahead country.

A pleasing further innovation is the formation some years ago of a Macclesfield Society by Mr Horobin, which undertakes to meet incoming vessels which are carrying natives of this town and to welcome and find them work if necessary.



The Vicar of Macclesfield (Rev H E Stevens, M.A.) had this week paid a visit to Bedford , where many of the Macclesfield men are stationed, and he writes the following account of his experiences:

In days before the war the chief merit of Bedford was its unrivalled advantages for secondary education at small expense… therefore retired officers and widows made the place their home, and the town became a rendezvous for those who sought polite society in pleasant surroundings not far from London.

Today the aspect of the old-fashioned streets is no longer placid, for the tramp of soldiers and the rumble of military wagons goes on throughout the day. Men in khaki are everywhere, and they seem to come from every quarter of Great Britain. …7th Cheshire men have been located in Bedford for a long time and there are still a good number there. Many of these are Macclesfield lads… Quartermaster-Sergeant McCoy…welcomed me at the station and did all he could to make the visit pleasant. First we watched the men at work, and every open space seemed to be utilised for the purpose. In one place the click of the rifle was heard, but no detonation, as sparing use is made of cartridges owing to needs at the front.


The billets were the next point of interest, and it was rather a revelation to find large houses in good residential districts taken over by the War Office. The luxuries of even a humble home were absent; carpets and curtains are useless in camp life, so they are not necessary in buildings used by men in training for war. The arrangements for cooking seemed rather primitive: both oven and range were in the yard, and made of dried mud and iron, in which food is well-cooked, even though it be sometimes smoky. The bedrooms were as simple as mere men could make them. A bag of straw laid on planks raised two inches above the floor with three good blankets for warmth soon draws off a tired man to sleep. Indeed it is rumoured that when furlough comes, under, rather than on, the bed assures sleep at home.

Great praise is due to the residents of Bedford for the splendid way in which they have treated the strangers within their gates.I had the pleasure of an interview with Mr W Machin, Hon Secretary of the Borough Recreation Committee for the Troops, which has done a magnificent work. No less than 1,120 workers have been enrolled in connection with this organisation; they are distinguished by a special badge. There are 11 halls, institutes or clubs set apart for recreation and refreshment, of these the largest are The Corn Exchange and the YMCA Huts… I found the favourite place for the Macclesfield lads was the Bunyan Canteen – the reason being that food is cheap and good, while it is served by lady workers at tables without having to be fetched from a counter.

The recreation Committee during the past year organised 1,342 entertainments, one of the great features being sacred concerts on Sunday evenings, which in addition to church services help the soldier to spend his rest-day in a suitable manner. This same body organised great Christmas feasts for the men. These were splendidly carried out, and so much appreciated, that in the graphic language of one who was there – “Buttons were flying off all over the hall.” The Secretary mentioned with pleasure the contribution of £19 12s. sent for the entertainment by the Mayor of Macclesifeld from the fund he raised. ANother excellent work undertaken by the Committee is the washing and mending of sodliers’ clothing: druing the year no fewer than 30,408 articles were washed at small cost, and 20,000 garments repaired free of charge.


Bedford has excellent public baths, but they are insufficient for the troops, so teh Committee has arranged with private residents to lend their bathrooms for soldiers use. Thus nearly 150 men per week get the luxury of a thorough tubbing without anyone knocking at the door to tell them to hurry up. The tickets for this privilege are given out with care, and so kind are some of the hosts and hostesses that the bather is given a meal and even allowed to write on the family notepaper.

Hospitality to strangers could scarcely go further… So excellent does the War Office consider the organisation that an offer was made to subsidise it. But Bedford agreed that its people should carry on the work at their own charge and relieve the National Exchequer.

My guides for the evening were Privates Bullock and Norbury, who took me to the YMCA hut, where the authorities had kindly granted a corner for Macclesfield friends to gather… between 40 and 50 belonging to every parish in our town gathered for an introduction adn talk. More than one remarked that they wouldn’t mind exchanging Bedford for the breezes of Buxton Road and the cheeriness of Chestergate. Several men who would have joined us… were prevented by military duties, and the evenings cannot be reckoned on by any as exempt from work.

Next morning I went to see the ground where bayonet exercise is practised, but though sacks hung suspended in the air, no men came to charge them so an attack had to be imagined. The time for departure soon came, and one left the town with pleasant recollections, not the least being that of knowing that the Macclesfield lads were cared for by the Bedford people.



We have been asked by Mrs Close-Brooks, Chairman of the above board, to again draw the attention of the public to the fact that the postcards received from the recipients of her parcels are displayed int he vestibule of the Town Hall, for everyone to see, on the left-hand mantelpiece; they are changed weekly. All the men write regularly, some more often than others, but all say the parcels arrive in excellent condition. The following are some of the latest extracts –

“Many thanks for the parcels, which I received quite safe; the parcels were nos 19 and 20, which were all in good condition, and I must say I thank you and all the workers of the Society” – Pte J Slater.

At Christmas time a letter and card (presented by Mr Till, bearing local views) was sent to each man; the following is an acknowledgement –

“Dear Friends, in answer to your most welcome letter and card, which I am exceedingly proud of, as I can now look at the church any time. I must tell you I have received your parcels, nos 17 and 18, which I am very pleased to say was as good as if only been packed the day before” – Pte J Slater.

“Dear Miss, I received your present today, suit of clothes and parcel of food. I do not know how to thank you for your kindness, but it is so nice to see a parcel come so regular. I always know the day to expect it, and I work in the parade office, to make things better. I am pleased to say I am keeping in good health” – Col-Sergt R Hall.

“Dear Miss, I am receiving all your parcels. I thank you all very much. As regards food parcels, they are alright. I always look forward to them every week, and I always enjoy them” – Pte J F Brocklehurst.

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