If there was ever an award for the worst poetry to be used in an advertisement, surely the winner would be the example on page 6 of the July 6, 1915, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.
S of course is Soldier Sam
Who’s dreaming out in France
Of all the things he’d eat
If he but got the chance.
There’s one thing in particular
Would give him quite a treat,
It’s Bird’s Blancmange and Gooseberries
A dish that’s hard to beat.
Apart from being atrocious wording, the decision to mix the imagery of fighting soldiers with selling blancmange is entirely incongruous.
However, it’s all part of a pattern that can be seen from the moment the reader picks up the paper. For there on the front page is a simple exhortation:
Leicestershire Yeomanry: Wanted at once – 100 recruits. Apply at Headquarters, 67a Southgate Street, Leicester.
Above this advert is one from Market Harborough & District Laundry Co which boasts a ‘large open drying ground, plenty of soft water, no chemicals used with moderate prices and up-to-date ironers’.
To the side of the plea for more soldiers is one from Geo Green & Co selling tennis racquets with ‘special terms to clubs’ and below is an stud notice where Lydus 3, ‘a rich beautiful black-brown horse with tan muzzle’ is standing at Great Bowden.
And clearly the farming community is getting on with life as evidenced by the innovative devices used in the account of Mr W T Hayr’s success at the Royal Show in Nottingham.
For the first time in more than a year a news story is displayed across three columns rather than usual single column and there is also the largest picture the Advertiser has ever used – of some cows in front of Mr Hayr’s Tur Langton Manor farmhouse – certainly bigger than any of the few pictures used of the town’s soldiers.
There is very little news from Harborough soldiers at the Front although there are plenty of sanitised official stories from Russia, Gallipoli and the France issued through the Army’s Press Bureau.
However, one of the longest reports in the paper shows how everyone is getting on with life – but the war is never far away.
The great and the good of the town all attended an inaugural meeting of the Market Harborough War Workers, a branch of the St Marylebone War Hospital Supply Depot which looked after the wounded brought back from the fighting.
There were stirring, patriotic – and eloquent – words from chairman Mr C J Hancock. “During the last 12 months the Empire had been stirred to its very depths by this terrible war. The whole nation was united in this crisis in our national history, rich and poor, aristocracy and peasantry vied with each other in giving of their substance, their labour, their kindred, and their lives, and had but one thought – to do their best to bring this terrible war to a successful issue.”
And this gave Mr Hancock the opportunity to remind everyone of the virtuous work done by all and sundry in Market Harborough.
“Though a small town, Market Harborough had done magnificently. 2,000 soldiers had gone from this district – 800 from Market Harborough urban District and 1,200 from the neighbourhood.
Other successes included: collecting £1,000 for the Prince of Wales Fund, establishing a Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Society; taking in Belgian refugees and raising £500 to help them in addition to collecting furniture worth £150; and a Voluntary Aid Committee had collected nearly £300 and distributed 1,300 garments.
The aim of the Harborough War Workers was to have a central place where anyone could go to help make supplies like bandages or wooden splints for medics to use at the Front.
The audience was told: “You will find plenty of work to do, work which would be of very great value to their sick and wounded soldiers.”