Keighley Mayoress features in exam question

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Then Mayoress of Keighley, Mrs Cecil Sharpe Then Mayoress of Keighley, Mrs Cecil Sharpe

A former Keighley Mayoress’s attack on “able-bodied young men” who decided to remain in Yorkshire rather than fight in the First World War has formed part of thousands of students’ summer exams.

When they sat their AS-level history papers, students in the Bradford district saw Keighley get a mention in a question about public support for the war.

One of the sources they had to use was part of a speech from September 1915 by then Mayoress of Keighley, Mrs Cecil Sharpe.

It was from a recruiting rally, and the sharp-tongued civic leader criticised all the healthy young men in Yorkshire who had yet to join up.

The speech was aimed at the thousands of men living in Keighley who worked in the town’s factories, and happened at a time when the British Army was desperate for volunteers.

The excerpt says: “I can assure all those Yorkshiremen who stay at home that they will get nothing like the welcome, when the struggle is over, that will be given by the girls to those who have been to war.

“When I see an able-bodied, well-built young man walking about the streets enjoying life, I am ashamed of him.”

Her speech was one of the examples students had to use in their essays on how much the public supported the war effort, and was accompanied by other sources that were less favourable of the war.

Mrs Sharpe was the sister of William Anderton Brigg, who was Mayor from 1912 to 1916.

A bachelor, Mr Brigg chose his sister to be his consort, and although being from Darley Dale in Derbyshire meant she was not always at his side, and there are few local records of her, she stepped up for large events in Keighley such as this recruitment rally.

Local historian Ian Dewhirst said: “She seemed a very forceful woman, that’s my impression of her.

“By 1915 there was talk of how the Army was going to fill its ranks. It was really having to push for another wave of volunteers.”

The exam was on conflict and change in 19th and 20th century Britain.

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