Fred Firth's WWI letters

May 1916

May 2nd 1916 (Tuesday)

This letter is from Fred's sister Mary, and the Norman referred to is probably their brother. Pole Moor was a Baptist Chapel: other chapels mentioned in the letters are Sunny Bank (founded 1890) and Zion (probably Slaithwaite Zion founded 1886) – both were offshoots of Pole Moor - and Clough Head (Pole Moor chapel founded a school at Clough Head in 1876)*13. It appears that although Fred was involved with the Congregationalist church in Marsden, he also attended local Baptist services. The "Band of Hope" Mary refers to was a temperance organisation aimed at children.

Pinned-in cutting reads: FIRTH – SELLERS – April 27th, by license, at Almondbury Church, by the Rev. W. E. Charlton, Fred, son of the late Thomas Firth, Gatehead, Marsden, to Mary Louise, elder daughter of the late Thomas Sellers, Somerset Road, Huddersfield. This is presumably the marriage of Fred's uncle Fred Firth, who lived in Shepley, and it was registered between April and June 1916 at Huddersfield Vol. 9a p.523

Peel St.

May 2/16

Dear Fred,
I have not quite forgotten [you], although, no doubt you will think I have. I have just an hour to spare & so I thought I would write to you.
Well, for a beginning I am going to Suny Bank, on Sunday, that is, if it is fine. I do wish you were going with me. Our Norman does not seem to want to go, but he says he is going to Clough head, but of course, I shall go to both, I wanted Norman to go to Pole Moor with me on Sunday to the Choir Anniversary but he wouldn't go, & so you see I had to stop at home.
I have not been anywhere particular this Easter. I was in all day on the Monday with a bad cold, & so you see I could not go with Mrs Wilson. They called at Aunt Martha's, & she said, she had such a job to get Mary Emma away, & so they must have enjoyed themselves. I went to huddersfield on Easter Tuesday with Edith Pinder, & then again to the pictures on Saturday night & Lizzie Walton sat behind us, & so you [she] will see I
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am not quite fast to her. Edith seems such a nice girl, & I like to go with her, she is such a "tar", & she is without friend, like me.
Well, Fred where do you think I am going to to-night To the "band of hope." I have promised to play for Hannah Dransfield, who is singing, & so I shall have to go, but I think I shall have to start going, & I know it will just suit you.
I suppose you will know by this time about Goerge Dransfield. He is in the Northumberland Fusilliers & is stationed at Chelmsford in Essex, so Uncle Arthur tells me, & so he has sent for his violin, & so you see they will be having some music where he is.
Now, Fred, mother told me when she came home from Clipstone Camp, that you told her, Wilfred Hellawell was not quite teetotal. I do hope you have not started taking a drop, I has bothered me since, afraid that you might be led off. Do keep this in mind Fred but do not tell anyone about it. Grandpa is here just now, & he said that I had to give to me you his best respects, & hopes you will come back to look after the farm, he is so suited with everything
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Well, Fred I am afraid I shall have to stop now, because it is time to go to the Sunday School So Goodbye for the present, & keep your pecker up.
With love from all,

May? 1916 

This is another letter from Mary Alice Wilson, undated but apparently around May 1916. The "Gaurdian" (!!) referred to is almost certainly The Colne Valley Guardian.

S.E. is allright she has won her Tre. at the night school

1 Peel Street

Dear Fred/
I am sorry I have not written befor this, but you know it is coming a very busy time for us, the shop bell is always ringing but nobodys says "right" Mr Dyson is very busy with his chickens, Old Tom is as nazzy as ever he was & Billy is going home this week end for good I think his uncle & his Mother have it between them so his Mother has asked to have him discharged, of course it makes it rather awkyard you see he was just getting useful Jim seems to be the only right man we have, I dersay they will be finding me a Call of war if things does not alter he is advert for a man but they seem to be all in Karki Charlie's wife has been in this morning she says Frank is on Salisbury Plain he & Charlie were going to spend last Sat. afternoon together. G.H. has just sent the Anniv*14 Hymns to print to Lenny Halstead's Mr Roberts would not quote him a price he said they would be much more this time than last, so he rung Lenny up & he promised to do them cheaper than Mr Roberts did them last time, I hope you will be here for the Anniv Day. Annie told us last night the teachers had a meeting about a band again yesterday but she told them she would give nothing & she told them G.H.
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would not go collecting for more they have seen Linthwaite Band advertising in the Gaurdian I think our own band Sec. wrote about a month since he said a good few of them was in the army & about 50 came under the Compulsion Bill so he said they would be a one man band soon, he wanted to know if Sammy had joined yet, Sammy got his papers last week he told me the war would soon be over now he was going to kill every man he saw after that, yes. H & J went to West vale on the car on Sunday it was beautiful we got back for tea, H.E., A. & I went to Oldham the other Sat (E.E. E.K.) we had a time we took Annie into Tommy-field*15 seeking a new hat H.E. said we should not take her home unless she bought one so Annie had to do has she was told we did wish G.H. & you had been with us. Annie was very sore about spending her money you see Joe Kaye has got his papers to join the Army & I think she will be saving up to buy him a waistlet watch for a present, Mr & Mrs Sam Whitehead has come back from Matlock they have been there three weeks I think they are both feeling better they brought us a boiling of nettles back we had nettles & bacon to supper on Friday night Mr Whitehead came down & cooked them they were very nice you know Fred when we used
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to have fries & peas on Friday nights I wish we were all having them every Friday again My word Fred we have got some buxom lasses down the back now I am sure you would not think about going to Hey Leighs if you was her they are lodging with Mrs Law & working at Mill Company Oh I forgot to tell you Annie nearly made it up with Mr Dyson Oldham Manager they would make a nice couple don't you think so. I have just broken off to read your letter it has just come by the Afternoon post, I am more sorry than ever Fred I have not written before, but I will try & write every week after this I have told You about the Fatty cakes he nearly ran me up the steps instead of you I think your Mother is looking very well considering you know Fred she is bound to feel lost without you & I think it rests with you to send her some cheerful letters to keep her going because she will think if you are keeping up well she will try, I think she is doing very well she went down to Slaithwaite on Sunday with Cooper, Mary, & Norman went as well Mary told me they got 32£ at the Annis. Mr Dyson is talking about sending you a page but I think you will have plenty with Annie & misen this time & I will gog his memory in a day & two, my father & mother & Aunt Emma are all keeping well, Mother & I are going to Pole on Tues. doing the grave up so I hope it will be nice I wish you were home again to go to all the Anniversarys it is Zion on Sunday Pole sunday after West Slaithwaite on Sunday I bet you would like to go there how are you going on with the Daylight Saving Bill*16 Mr. Dyson has gone worse. he misses his letters on Sunday morning 9 oclock nearly this morning I must thank you for a second letter Annie is sending you an Epistle, from your friend M.A.W.

May 8th 1916 (Monday) 

The following letter is from Fred's cousin Jessie Isobel Firth; in the 1911 census she was aged 13 and living with her parents, Samuel and Elizabeth Firth at Crow Hill, Marsden (Samuel was woollen manufacturer at Cellar's Clough Mills). Isobel's reference to the "new aunt Molly" presumably refers to their uncle Fred Firth's marriage to Mary Louise Sellers (see cutting attached to letter from Mary Firth, above).

Crow Hill
May 8th 1916

Dear Fred
I expect when you get this letter from me, you'll have a fit (I hope you don't) and think I've gone mad, because I've taken it into my head to write to you. Anyhow I don't suppose you'll mind getting a letter. I know I always looked forward to the post, and I felt very disappointed if I didn't get a letter when I was at school. Perhaps you don't know that I've left now. I'm going in solely for piano now. I am going to begin lessons at the Hudfl'd College of Music shortly. Of course I'm going to take warbling lessons as well, and also I'm going to try & learn how to book-keep, type and shorthand.
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Well, it's rotten weather here. It has rained for four days. I believe I could swim on the flags now, but I'm going to refrain from doing so, as I had a bath on Sat. you will be pleased to know. Spring cleaning is in great evidence here. We are heaved out of every possible corner, so you are lucky to be out of it, for I called at your house the other day, and your mother was washing the house floor, and your dog was parading over the clean part, and your mother said gentle words of rebuke to it in a mild tone of voice (I don't think) We (mother & I) went to chapel yesterday, My, it was a poor turn out. It was Communion and there were 13 there, I don't know what the place is coming to. We were out at 11.25, and mother was out and up home (and it takes her over ten
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minutes to walk home) at 12 o'clock. The lads said the prayers at a speed of something like 100 miles an hour, and the singing oh my hat _____ It beareth not to be mentioned. Only Mrs George Mellor was across the aisle and she nearly drove me mad (That is between you and me, you know) I told mother I shouldn't ever go in the morning again, and I told her I shouldn't go regularly, and I shan't. However I promised her I wouldn't stop off altogether. I suppose you know that I've had an operation on my nose and throat. I had adenoids and tonsils. I didn't know that I cultivated such reptiles, but is seems I did. I went into a Nursing Home in Colwyn Bay and had it done. I am quite al- [Third page ends here]

right again now, and I'm very glad the reptiles are no more. I havn't written to Thomas Shaw so don't tell him you've heard from me or he might be mad, I don't expect he'd want to hear from me though in any case. What do you think of the new aunt Molly? You'd get a slight shock when you knew didn't you? We had Walter up the other day, something went wrong with the water, and we hadn't any. It is alright now though. Yours is the fourth letter this morning and I've two more to write so I must stop.
Hoping your keeping quite
fit and cheerful
With love

P.S. I'll buck mother up and make her write, though she hasn't forgotten you.

May 25th/29th 1916 (Thursday/Monday) 

The following two letters were in an envelope addressed to Pri. Fred Firth, 5th Reserve D of W.W.R.R., No 3 Lines No 30 Hut, Clipstone Camp, Notts. They are from Ann G. Bamforth and Lizzie Bamforth, who in the 1911 census were aged 33 and assisting their father James in his confectioner's business at 7 Peel St.

7 Peel St,
May 25th/16

Well Fred, we received your letter a few days since and were glad to hear from you again and we were very pleased to find the photo for us as well, your Mary had showed us theirs one morning and we thought then we should like one but we didn't like to ask for one, for we didn't know whether you would have many, we think it is good and like you, but you are looking a bit serious, but you seem to have got the state chair and all complete for the time being. You asked about the school well we keep doing as well as we can, we seem very short of teachers on my day, I have taken another class with mine in the morning for a few times now, we keep doing fairly well in the chapel, he hasn't sent them out again that I know of, we could do very well with you to help us with those little tars, that little ginger Goodman and a few more like him, I had him the other Sunday but I don't want him again yet. I wish you could hear the 
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variations we get on the organ sometimes from F. Sykes, we had quite a mix the other Sunday night with that hymn (Angels of Jesus) it wasn't the old tune, but one that we have sung many a time and the choir would have managed alright, but he didn't seem to play two verses alike, and when he played it over he put such flourishes in that made people look at one another and wonder what what*17 sort of a tune we were going to have and the Rev Ben. didn't know whether to sit or stand to it, but he finished off with saying the last verse please, there were lots saying after that he ought to go where the other lads have gone but he seems to think he settled for good and there's a lot that doesn't seem to like it. We are going to Zion Anniversary next Sunday for a change, yes I think ours are chosen and G.H. seems to think they will be a nice lot. I hope you will be able to manage for then if you don't get here before you must have a try, it seems a long time since we saw you. We are sending you a small parcel with your folks and we hope you will enjoy it if there is any you don't like you must tell us, we thought the fruit drops would be nice this warm weather so hoping you are still in the best of health and spirits. keep smiling. yours respectfully
A.G. Bamforth

sankey. (494)*18

7 Peel St,
May 29th

Dear Friend You ought to have had this letter before now, but it has been waiting for me, & we set off to Zion yesterday so it did not get any further but I thought I would try & do a bit this morning, well, we had a very good time both afternoon & evening & they got £28 - 2s - 3d & they seemed to think it very good. Mr Rutherford read the roll of Honour, but in a very different way to what it is read at our place, when it happens to be read, he read the names out & then asked all the Congregation to bow in Silent Prayer it was very impressive & you know Fred we don't forget our own Lads. Mrs Wilson tells us you are expecting to go away before very long but I hope you will get a good leave before you go & we hope & pray that you will be spared to come back amongst us for it feels something wanting without you. Cooper keeps trying to keep things bright, he keep singing early in the morning
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it feels to do one good to hear him, he came in the shop the other week, he very often asks if we have had a letter from our Fred, but this time he asked if we had had a Photo he said, we have, but I think he looks a bit home sick quite old fashioned he said it, but I think it is very good & we thank you very much for it. I expect Mrs Wilson will have told how busy they are with the Chickens we went down Sat morning to see them roll over on to the flannel. I daresay if you had been here you would have had a hand in it. Your Mother told me you had got your parcel & I am sure you are very welcome to our small contribution, she seems to be doing very well but she misses you very much. but I think I shall have to conclude for this time. Father & Nellie sends wishes to be remembered to you so with best wishes for your welfare I remain
yours respectfully
L. Bamforth

May 30th 1916 (Tuesday)

The following is another letter from Fred's sister Mary.

19 Peel St,
Nr Hudd.
May 30/16

Dear Fred,
We received your letter this morning, or I ought to say, Thomas did, but, of course, we all read it.
I have just finished my work for to-day, & it is only about eleven o'clock. I am really waiting for the end of the month, & then, as you know, I shall be busy enough then.
Father has got the work at the Co-operative Stores, & he has just gone to see Mr. Berry about something belonging to it now. I think the business is going on very satisfactory at present. I have started cutting glass, but I notice the first panes I cut for a customer have come back, so there must be something wrong with them, so I don't sound to be progressing very favourably, do I?
We have just had a "mother's meeting" & Mrs Battye has been down, & she says that Frank Calverly is going signalling in the Mary, Mrs Battye also says he will be on the "bridge with the Captain", & she says she won't be sorry if he falls off.
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Well, Fred, if you are coming on your last leave, I should think they will let you have more leave than from Saturday to Sunday. It is scarcely worth coming far. You must write & let us know, how much they are allowing you, & what time you will get here, etc, & then I shall be able to tell Mrs. Wilson, & we will have a "beano".
I am still going about with Edith Pinder a bit, I was up there last night, I stayed with her while she looked after the shop, & we all going to the pictures to-night if all's well, & so you see we aren't doing so bad.
Father stopped harry France week before last, but he came again last night, & father set him on again.
I suppose you will know that it is Pole Anniversary on Sunday, I do wish you could come & go with me for I have no one to go with, Norman says he won't go, & so it looks like staying at home. I have not been able to get a Clough head hymn-sheet yet, & I should like to know what sort of hymns they are having. I suppose they are having a Congregational Minister from Stainland to preach, & Aunt [Martha] says she has heard they liked him at Pole once when was there, & so it sounds as though it will be very nice 
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Mother received your letter Sunday morning as she was going to the station, & so she let them read it at Longlands. She also says I have to tell you that she will write you to-morrow.
I am enclosing a letter we received from Aunt Mary, but you must let us have it back as soon as you have read it.
I hear Ernest is coming home on Thursday, but of course, I don't know wether it is true or not. I have also heard that Ben Firth has got his papers, & not before it was time, either, I say.
I am sending you these few chocolates "All bid, i-chung", as our Cooper used to say, & I hope you will think of me & enjoy them.
I think I will close now,
With Best Love from all