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Harrison and Harrison organ makers

Historic Durham business appealed to Military Tribunal

When conscription was introduced in 1916 local military tribunals were set up to hear the cases of men who objected to serving the armed forces. Some of these cases involved conscientious objectors; men who refused to fight on religious, political or moral grounds. However, other men came before the Tribunal to argue that they should be exempt due to familial, financial or business grounds. Often employers would appear before the Tribunal to make the case for their employees. Just such a case was reported in the Durham Advertiser newspaper. H S Harrison, owner of the organ makers, Harrison and Harrison, made the case for his company to be spared from further conscriptions to the army:

Durham County Advertiser, 7 July 1916
Durham City Tribunal

Mr H S Harrison appealed for the exemption of 13 employees at the organ factory in Hawthorn Terrace.

The Mayor: How many men have you left?

Mr Harrison: Thirty-eight altogether, including these 13. We had close on a hundred when the war broke out. Since our last application we have released four for the army and one has been stolen. The man went to Sunderland for medical examination, and they collared him. He was not even given time to say good-bye to his wife and children.

The Mayor: There won’t be the same number of organs made now as there was before the war?

Mr Harrison: We have less work, but very much less men to do the work we have in hand. It is a very serious thing or I would not have been here today. It goes very much against the grain to have to ask for men to be kept away from the fighting.

A painter and two of the apprentices were exempted for one month, and the others three months, with the exception of one employee engaged on a Newfoundland contract, who was exempted for eight month.

25 August 1916
Durham City Tribunal

Organ Factory Employees

Mr H S Harrison made application on behalf of three employees, one resident at the Baths, one in Aldin Grange, and the other in Claypath. He stated that before the war broke out the factory employed 93 hands, and now they were left with only 33. Twenty-seven men had actually joined the forces apart from others in munitions, etc. Fourteen of the apprentices he had when the war broke out had been released. In fact, every apprentice of military age was told he ought to go, and was induced to go, The time had now come when he felt he must come to the Tribunal and ask that no more of his men should be taken.

It was decided to adjourn the present applications until September 30th, in order that all Mr Harrison’s cases might be dealt with at once.

Harrison and Harrison website, home page:

Founded: 1861

Civil Parish: Durham

Contributed by Durham County Record Office

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