War and Cuckfield: the town celebrates the Relief of Mafeking

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 22 May 1900


CUCKFIELD. The town of Cuckfield may be old-fashioned, and a casual passer-by might move in its streets and think to himself that the place is lacking in life but let an occasion of interest arise, and the inhabitants come forth like bees from a hive. The good people of Cuckfield, whatever may be said of other Englishmen, do not take their pleasures sadly. They do nothing by halves; they throw themselves with as much heart and soul into their enjoyments as they do their work. Other towns may boast of their loyalty. Cuckfield says little, but when it comes to showing it does much. As soon as it was known that the relief of Mafeking was near at hand, a meeting was called on Friday evening at the Talbot Hotel for the purpose of doing something to celebrate the event. It was recognised that it would be hardly wise to waste a lot of money on empty show, and therefore it was decided to raise as large a sum as possible in aid of Lady Snagge's Mafeking Trip to the Sea Fund (2) which was started at the suggestion of gallant Colonel Baden-Powell himself. Several pounds were collected in the room, and the following Committee was appointed to carry out the wishes of the meeting:— Mr. F. Hounsell, Mr. Hubert Bates, Mr. L. F. Gibb (Secretary and Collector).


On Saturday morning Cuckfieldians woke up to find that Mafeking had been relieved, a royal salute being given on the bugle from the highest available point of the Church steeple by Mr. F. Hounsell Jun. Of course, everybody was naturally delighted, and householders lost no time in proclaiming their enthusiasm by displaying from every point of vantage flags and bunting, and sentiments of a kindly and patriotic character regarding the hero of Mafeking and also Lord Roberts. (1)

The scene when all was completed was most pleasing. From the steeple of Parish Church waved the Royal Standard, and the Church bell rang merrily forth. The Town Band, in the afternoon, played several appropriate selections, and while the people’s hearts were thrilled with joy, Mr. Gibb was energetically appealing to their pockets, and before the day closed he had collected about £40. [We learn to-day that the amount now exceeds £52]. That's practical patriotism! A praiseworthy feature in connection with the demonstration was that the people did not forget Him without Whose help they have learnt they could do nothing. At seven o'clock there was a service of thanksgiving in the Church conducted by the Rev. Canon Cooper. The National Anthem was sung with great fervour. Afterwards there was torchlight procession, and very imposing it was. The torches were prepared by Messrs. Avery, Brookshaw and Bleach, while the firework display, which pleased immensely, was superintended by Mr. E. Morfee. The procession started from the “Talbot” about half-past eight, and proceeded to the open space in front of the “Rose and Crown Inn” where “God save the Queen" was voiced, and the people listened to the Band, and admired the firing off of rockets.


Whiteman's Green was next visited by the procession, after which it made its way back along the full length of the High Street to the King’s Head Hotel, turning back to the “Talbot”, which was very nicely illuminated. At 9.30 there was a torchlight tattoo, and bearing in mind how hastily the young men taking part had to be coached as to the different movements, they are to be warmly praised for the able way in which they acquitted themselves. Their instructors were Sergeant.-Instructor James and Mr. W. Brookshaw. The Band played while the tattoo was in progress, and at the close all concerned were rewarded with applause. Another very good hit was Mr. Sam Dalton's exhibition, outside the White Hart Inn, of limelight views of Her Majesty the Queen and officers at the front. It was indeed a novelty not to be overlooked. (3)


There was a little speech-making after the tattoo. On the portico of the Talbot Hotel there came Mr. C. H. Waugh, carrying the Union Jack, Major Maberly, J.P., Mr. Walter Lloyd, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Lyon. Mr. Lloyd was the spokesman. At the commencement he stated that Major Maberly should have made the speech, but was unable to, owing to his throat not being in condition for addressing so large a crowd. He (the speaker) I felt unequal to the task, but he thought there would be no man with soul so dead but who could manage to say a few words on an occasion like that—an occasion which would live in the annals and history of the country for all time. (Loud applause). They had all been watching for months past the gallant conduct of Colonel Baden-Powell—(Loud applause)—and the rest of our fellow countrymen - Englishmen, Englishwomen and children, although bred in the colonies and other parts of Empire where Queen’s flag flies. (Load applause). They had endured hunger, thirst, illness, suffering, and misery, not to mention desperate attacks by the foe, not for any gain of their own. but for Queen and country. (Loud cheers). It was a very small thing perhaps to meet together to do honour to these noble heroes, but it must be a source of the greatest comfort to both Queen and country to know that such gallant hearts, such gallant men, women and children existed. (Applause). Not a foot of ground had been lost. Thousands of miles from the base operations, this gallant band had been attacked and besieged by a most determined and stubborn foe. Now, at last, the little town had been relieved. The whole Orange Free State would be ours for ever—(Loud applause)—and by the deeds of the British Army and our gallant Volunteers the whole of the Transvaal would soon be ours, and we had to see that arrangements were made that our Queen would never be insulted again by such attacks as had been made upon her in that part of the Empire. The speaker congratulated those who had organised such a splendid demonstration at few hours' notice, particularly mentioning Sergeant James. (Applause). Admirable discipline and good order had been shown, and everything had been carried through without any hitch. He hoped when another occasion for national rejoicing came along, they would have the same enthusiasm, the same patriotism, and the same organisation, and that he should there to witness it, (Loud applause). Cheers were then called for Baden-Powell and the people of Mafeking, for Lord Roberts, and for "Every Private in the British Army." Cheers were also given for Major and Mr. Walter Lloyd. The National Anthem ended the proceedings. Coloured fires and torches splendidly illuminated the scene, and the whole demonstration was a credit to Cuckfield's patriotism. The inmates of the Workhouse were not forgotten in the general festivities, for Mr. F. D. Parker, of Petlands, Haywards Heath, kindly sent up for distribution 16 gallons of ale, six dozens of ginger beer and quantity of sweets.


(1) The Siege of Mafeking was a 217-day siege battle for the town of Mafeking (now called Mahikeng) in South Africa during the Second Boer War from October 1899 to May 1900. The siege received considerable attention as Lord Edward Cecil, the son of the British Prime Minister, was in the besieged town. The siege turned the British commander, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, into a national hero. The Relief of Mafeking (the lifting of the siege), while of little military significance, was a morale boost for the struggling British.


(2) The Times 18th May 1900

Lady Snagge writes :- We have learnt from Colonel Baden-Powell himself, in his message last week, that the best way of showing our sympathy with the women and children of Mafeking would be to provide them with funds for “a trip to the sea” after their long want of fresh air and many other privations. If any will send contributions towards this object to the manager, Union Bank of London, Charing-cross branch, London, for Lady Snagge’s Mafeking “Trip to the Sea” Fund, the sum subscribed will be published and the amount sent by telegram to “B.-P.” when the news of the relief is received.


(3) Limelight (also known as Drummond light or calcium light) is a type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls. An intense illumination is created when an oxyhydrogen flame is directed at a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide), which can be heated to 4,662 °F (2,572 °C) before melting. The light is produced by a combination of incandescence and candoluminescence. Although it has long since been replaced by electric lighting, the term has nonetheless survived, as someone in the public eye is still said to be "in the limelight". The actual lights are called "limes", a term which has been transferred to electrical equivalents




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