John Dilley, experienced journalist and De Montfort University lecturer, is conducting research into how local and national newspapers covered the First World War. This blog focuses on one aspect of that research, local Leicestershire newspaper, the Market Harborough Advertiser, which is the forerunner of today’s Harborough Mail. This blog will carry a weekly digest in real-time of what was making news in the Advertiser in 1914. This week’s edition was published on June 02, 1914.
June 02, 1914
The outbreak of World War One was just two months away but in the first week of June 1914 the Market Harborough Advertiser gave no hint of impending doom.
In fact one article told the story of a cinema manageress from Northampton who had inherited £100,000 – ‘a considerable fortune’ – from her German uncle. Readers were told she was relocating to Dresden and there was no suggestion of animosity.
This was not just a local newspaper approach: the Daily Telegraph of June 2, 1914, concentrated mostly on Whitsuntide holiday celebrations. Both publications did report the latest on the accidental sinking of the Empress of Ireland in Canada although the Market Harborough Advertiser, quite rightly, talked about the fear of local casualties among the 100-plus who were missing.
The only political issues touched upon related to the controversial parliamentary proposals for Home Rule in Ireland. This, of course, later led to conflict and bloodshed which is still reverberating today.
The readers, however, were treated to a diet of what we today catalogue as a tabloid obsession with death and sex. The front page was mainly taken up with huge adverts aimed directly at the Market Harborough farming community but a couple of very small stories were squeezed onto the bottom of the page including news of a motorcyclist dying at the Isle of Man TT races.
On page 2 there was an extended extract from a crime thriller book called At Dead of Night, a tale of blackmail and murder. There were also stories about a bridegroom who slit his throat four days after his wedding because of money worries; a six-year-old boy who fell from a moving train; five people injured in a ‘motor omnibus’ accident; and a perhaps less important incident when a plumber fell off a ladder and sustained nothing more than ‘a severe shaking’.
There were even some fairly racy headlines: SEX FRIENDSHIP and WILD WOMEN (both very misleading as they were about fairly mundane Suffragette meetings in Leicester). There was also an incredibly bizarre story from Russia, no less, relating the ‘serio-comic accounts’ to restrain a four-ton rogue elephant by poisoning it with ‘orange, cake and vodka’.
Another of today’s tabloid obsessions – the health study – was also well covered. Readers were given a dizzying array of advice that included: ‘onions are good for earache’; ‘spinach is good for your complexion’; and fruit can help ‘purify the blood and counteract the disadvantages of a liberal flesh diet’.
Sport was also reported liberally, in particular the fortunes of Market Harborough Town Football Club, who were celebrating coming fourth in their first season in the Northants League. However, they faced similar problems to some 21st century clubs – debt and the anger of supporters. And, of course, it could have all gone so much better ‘but for the injuries to players, especially the injury to our centre half just at the time that we were going so strongly’.
Reports from magistrates’ court took up a large slice of the back page including the story of three young labourers who damaged a fence by the railway in Great Bowden. They claimed they were merely ‘going to pick some violets’ and had not damaged the fence. They were given ‘a lenient sentence’ by being ordered to each pay 5 shillings costs.
And if readers had any leisure time left after perusing the eight packed pages of the Advertiser they could take up a recommendation on page 4 and go to the County Electric Cinema which was showing a number of films including a comedy entitled Whitewashing the Ceiling.