The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s: 164. Tom Groom’s “Cyclorama” 

(from The Clarion, 21 August 1914)

If any single person could claim to have created the Clarion CC it was Tom Groom who is still commemorated by the annual award at the Easter Meet of a trophy named after him. In the very first episode in this series of extracts – back on 4 February 2008 – I reproduced the letter from the paper from 28 April 1894 in which he describes the first tour of his newly-formed Clarion Cycling Club in Birmingham.

By 1914 things had moved on enormously.  Groom was the first president of the CCC and had a regular feature called “Cyclorama” in the paper. Quite separately, reports from the local CCCs appeared – now much briefer than the ones from 18 years or so earlier which I’ve been featuring. You filled in a standard card and sent it in.  There would be about 60  reports each week.

What follows is from Tom Groom’s “Cyclorama” of 21 August 1914, it’s too long to reproduce the whole thing but I hope my editing gives a reasonable impression of its contents.

Here’s how it starts:

The war.  Nothing but the war. From Slush Lane to Worcester, from Worcester to Hereford and back again to Slush Lane, one heard nothing but war talk.

He stops at a “wayside inn” and joins locals on the bench outside listening to the peaceful sound of the reaping machine in the field opposite – and talking about the war

Serious talk, too.  There was none of that empty blether that one heard when the war was a few thousand miles off.  There were tales of horses commandeered whilst taking produce to market, of waggons* left on the roadside to take their chance of being hauled away, of men called from reaping to take their places in the ranks, of villages almost depleted as reservists and recruits had marched away.

And this was only the beginning. The big fight was yet to come, and the fear of what might happen kept the talk in a serious vein.

*                     *                 *                     *

I finished my ale and rode on to Hereford.  A lovely ride and over ground that I know full well.  In the narrow lanes the talk of war seemed absurd, so peaceful and quiet was everything…

War! Ridiculous!  Yet there were two million men rushing to cut each other’s throats, and the devil alone knows why.

*                     *                 *                     *

In Hereford the movement was quicker. The ‘Terriers’** were marching through the city and men and lads were joining in the march.  The C.C.C must get itself in readiness. When the worst is over and the men get back, it will be our work to enforce the morals of the occasion. So many ‘impossibilities’ have become possible in these last few weeks, and we must draw the attention of the workers to them.

It is, or was ‘impossible’ to interfere with the law of supply and demand, yet the Government stepped in to interfere with scare prices for food being forced on the nation. “Impossible” to take over the food supply of the nation, yet the ‘impossible’ becomes possible by a mere Order in Council.  “Impossible” to manage industries nationally, yet at an hour’s notice the railways are in charge of the Government.  So many ‘impossibilities’ become possible, and the moral needs driving home

*                     *                 *                     *

I rode home and landed at our pub in time to hear the last words of the oracle; ‘Tell ‘ee what it is, George. We’m got to fight for our country whether we’m like or no. An’ if it ain’t our country as you says, well it be damned nigh time that it be.  But we’m got to fight.’

Which sentiments I wish to endorse, and more also.

Next time: Back to 1896

*That’s his spelling. More often “wagons” today.  But note  the Waggon and Horses opposite the Dome in Church Street 

** = Territorial Army  – which had replaced the less ‘professional’ Volunteers a few years previously as part of Haldane’s army reforms.

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