1916, 27 May – Batley News

Here is this week’s round-up of pieces from the Batley News relating to St Mary’s parishioners. As usual I have put in bold the names of those connected to the parish who served with the military. And, as ever, the spelling and punctuation matches that of the newspaper.

Batley St Mary of the Angels R.C. Church – Photo by Jane Roberts

Sims McQuinn played an unusual role in the 1st/4th KOYLI Gala Day as reported in this week’s paper:

Gala Day Behind the Lines.

The local Territorials (1st/4th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry) held their Battalion Sports on Thursday, May 11th “somewhere in France.” The day was rather gloomy, but kept fine. The sport provided was excellent, and some exciting finishes were witnessed.

Excellent arrangements were made by the Committee, under the chairmanship of the Quartermaster, Lieut. H. G. Stickler, and for the thirsty ones “biere Anglaise” was provided, and it was evident from the display of buckets that some of them had not tasted anything like this since last they were in “Blighty.” Remarks were often heard— “a drop of good stuff this, lads,” and the barrel did not last long.

A comic couple also evoked much amusement, and roars of laughter went round the ground when the artistes appeared in their get-ups. Private Sims McQuinn, attired as a Mademoiselle Francaise, even down to the ——, had a good make-up. Private G. E. Sanderson played the part of Monsieur, with a civilian suit about 100 years old, judged by the cut. A long-tailed coat down below the knees, and a top hat which had evidently seen better days, completed the picture.

The race of the comic couple caused great amusement – especially when the lady commenced to disrobe and run a 100 yards attired in lace lingerie of a Mademoiselle Francaise. The mademoiselle, who gave her fiancé some start, would have won, but was hampered by the lace somewhat…..

There was bad news for the family of Michael Rourke (Groark on the St Mary’s War Memorial):

Wanted to Have It Out With the Germans.
How Cross Bank Gallant Died.

A pathetic and prolonged story attaches to news received concerning Pte. Michael Rourke, Royal Scots Fusiliers, of 15, North Street, Cross Bank, who, after being described missing for 11 months, has been officially reported killed.

Deceased, who leaves a wife and four children, was one of four soldier brothers. He served many years in the Army, and went through the Boer War. Called up on the outbreak of the present war as a National Reservist, he went out very early, and in November 1914 was invalided home with rheumatism. He went out again, however, and was eventually reported missing.

Before the war he was a willeyer at Messrs. Chas. Robinson and Co.’s mill, and was connected with St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.

It was last June that Mrs. Rourke received intimation that her husband was missing. From some of his comrades she elicited the information that on June 16th, 1915, the British captured four lines of German trenches, and Pte. Rourke took part in the charge, without being hurt.

The same day, however, the Germans made a heavy counter-attack and re-captured three of the lines, and one of the deceased soldier’s friends said he saw Rourke lying wounded in one of the ones, but was unable to help him to safety.

Mrs. Rourke made several enquiries through neutral countries, in the hope that news of him would be obtained.

A short time ago she observed in a Sunday paper an advertisement inserted by a Chesterfield lady, enquiring for news of the latter’s husband, who was in the same regiment and was missing from the same day as Pte. Rourke. Mrs. Rourke immediately communicated with the lady sympathising and saying that she was in the same predicament. The lady sent the name and address of a soldier who gave her news of her husband, and she hoped he would know something of the Cross Bank soldier. Mrs. Rourke wrote the soldier, Pte. Harry Thomson, who replied:-

“Just a few lines in answer to your letter, which I received this morning, asking news of your husband. I am very sorry to tell you that your husband, Pte. Michael Rourke, was killed on the 16th of June, 1915. He was slightly wounded at the same time as myself. I wanted him to go back to the dressing station and get looked after there, but he would not hear of it and wanted to go on and ‘have it out with the Germans’ as he put it. We went on together for about 20 yards, when he fell with a bullet through the head. He never spoke after. I managed to get him and some more of our killed and wounded back later on, and he was buried behind our firing line.

“I am very sorry to have to tell you the sad news, but it is best to know the truth. The regiment lost heavily that morning, but the R.S.F.’s did their part well. This is the second time I have been wounded, but I am doing well.”

Mrs. Rourke forwarded the above letter to the War Office, and on Monday received the following answer:- “Madam, —With reference to your enquiry concerning 6095 Pte. Michael Rourke, Royal Scots Fusiliers, I am directed to inform you that nothing further having been received relative to the soldier, who has been missing since the 16th June, 1915, the Army Council have regretfully been constrained to conclude that he is dead and that his death took place on the 16th of June, 1915, or since. I am to express the sympathy of the Army Council with the relatives of the deceased. C. F. Watherston.”

General sympathy will be expressed with Mrs. Rourke, who is left with four children.

Michael Rourke (Groark)

In school news:

Mrs. Bleaze, temporary teacher in St. Mary’s R.C. Boys’ School, has been transferred pro tem. to the Girls’ Department.

The Death Notices contained the following of parish interest:

RYAN. —On the 20th inst., aged 75 years, Bridget Ryan, 104, New Street

There was a write-up of the Empire Day pageant in which Batley schoolchildren across all Batley Education Committee schools participated.

4,000 Batley Scholars Parade
Picturesque and Impressive Incidents

A picturesque and successful celebration of Empire Day took place in Batley on Wednesday, when 4,000 scholars from all the schools under the regime of Batley Education Committee marched from their various institutions to the Market Place, and had a happy hour. It was unquestionably impressive, and would serve to deepen in the minds of young and old alike the importance of the British Empire and the need to uphold its world-wide unity. The spirit of the whole affair was captivatingly pleasant, and a source of pleasure who suggested and organised it. A local gentleman with 40 years’ experience of America said it reminded him of Independence Day celebrations in the States – a tribute in itself; for America persists in fastening in the child-mind the importance of its own nation, by gigantic rallies and rousing addresses.

The weather was a helpful factor in the Batley affair, for the warm weather was tempered by a refreshing breeze. The scholars seemed to fill the space between the Town Hall and the Baths like an Army formed up in battalions; but there was not a monotone in the colour. The affair was more like a massed assembly of all the Whitsuntide Treat parties. Girls were in their gala dresses, with variations such as Britannia with her crown and tripod, Dorothy Vardens1 in plenty; and others in garlanded raiment that suggested Morris Dancers and school concerts. Then there were Boy Scouts, Boys’ Brigade members, little lads in khaki, one boy in tartan kilties, and other variations which all added a popular touch to the scene.

The big assembly afforded a most agreeable spectacle to observers from vantage points at the Town Hall, the Library, the Post Office, the Technical Schools, and other buildings that overlook the Market Place; and the very atmosphere felt charged with just the spirit of the occasion – the bond of unity not only amongst those assembled, but with Britain “at home” and overseas.

Civic recognition was given to the affair. The Mayor (Councillor B. Turner), and the Town Clerk (Mr. J. H. Craik), led by the Mace-Bearer (Mr. J. Warden), marched from the Town Hall to the Library, and were accompanied by the Rev. F. E. Lowe (Vicar of Batley, and Mayor’s Chaplain), the Rev. J. S., Walker (curate), Alderman J. Whitaker (Deputy Mayor), Alderman H. North, Alderman F. Priestley, Dr. Broughton, County Councillor E. Talbot, Councillors E. Bruce, W. Fenton, J. Summers, and O. Asquith, Mr. Ephraim Hirst, Mr. W. J. Ineson, the Mayoress (Mrs. B. Turner), Mr. G. R. H. Danby (Director of Education), and others. Inspector G. Ripley and the police were on duty, but the big crowd of onlookers was easy to handle as were the multitudes of children in the care of masters, mistresses, and teachers.

From the Library steps the Mayor addressed the great assembly, after prayer by the Vicar. His Worship pointed out that the celebration was part of a world-wide affair, but he thought none could be more picturesque and enthusiastic than the one in Batley. (Hear, hear.) It would afford pleasant reflection and recollection for everyone, especially to the young people, who in their older years would remember that day as a notable one during the greatest war in history. There had been useful instruction in the schools during the week as to what the Empire meant, and its glory and immensity. Possessions ought to be marked by ideals of goodness that would glorify mankind and before the war no nation was so free in its constitution and idealism as Britain. Batley children were taught not to be smart and clever in the worst sense of the word, but to be able and efficient, loyal and good, and on those qualities could be built a really successful and happy Empire.

The Mayor took the opportunity to ask the children not to bother their parents too much for money for picture shows and shops “where sweets are sold unduly,” and especially to avoid picture palaces where something good was not taught. There was a danger in the country that pictures at some establishments were making school boys and girls worse than they would otherwise be. (Hear, hear.)

Alderman H. North hoped the spirit of that assembly would encourage the children to play a bigger and more important part in the great Empire – an Empire marked by nobility of character. That nobility depended on the individual members, and the object of school teaching was not merely to give ordinary lessons, but to cultivate true manhood and womanhood.

County Councillor Ed. Talbot addressed the crowd as “sons and daughters of the Empire,” and said they were present to recognise the one-ness of Empire. In a time of need the country’s resources were being strained, but not exhausted. The help of men and women, of kind and of produce – gifts of all and every kind, from snow-covered hills and the tropics – were being supplied for the Empire in the Great War; and that crowd of scholars was me[?] to pay homage to its King and to salute the emblem of the Empire’s unity.

Three cheers were given for the King and Queen, three for the Mayor and Mayoress, and the National Anthem was sung in a manner that was truly impressive, for the stirring music seemed to roll like waves from end to end of the Market Place.

The Mayor and his party walked back to the Town Hall, where a Union Jack fluttered in the breeze, and the 4,000 children as they marched past saluted the good old flag, then went their several ways.

Thus ended the formal celebration – and a memorable one; but it was not the end of the celebration, for the Mayor told the teachers to give the youngsters a holiday in the afternoon, so that they continued to remember Empire Day, in divers informal ways.

Finally for this week a young Harry Durkin was hit by a car:

A motor-car and a four-year-old child collided on Bradford Road on Saturday while a fire was in progress at Bulrush Mills. The youngster, Harry Durkin, son of John Durkin, mill-hand, 40, Victoria Street, Carlinghow, was amongst the crowd that gazed on the outbreak. The car was driven by John Arthur Box, of 24, Wellington Street, and the child fell in the collision, but at the Hospital showed no signs of injury, and there was no apparent cause to detain it.

1. A style of hat.