Clarion History

11 The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club – a national link-up?

We’re still in 1894 -and indeed rather earlier in that year than last time. In trying to give an idea of how the Clarion developed and what it stood for; I want to tie in as far as I can something of the story of the CCC, using where possible some of the material I collected and put out in earlier newsletters some years ago. Two episodes back I used Tom Groom’s ‘Advance Birmingham’ letter which appeared in the paper at the end of April 1894. A month later the piece that follows appeared. It’s part of a report from ‘Manchester and District’ by Leonard Hall. Hall was a long-term ILP activist, probably best known later on, in 1910, as one of the authors of the ‘Green Manifesto’ (not an environmental tract, I’m afraid, but so called from the cover of the booklet). Its official name was Let Us Reform the Labour Party (yes, even then!). The story is told – I think I can allow myself a plug after all this hard work – in one of my chapters (the ‘political’ rather than ‘union’ ones) of Logie Barrow and Ian Bullock,Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement, 1880-1914, Cambridge University Press, 1996, now available in affordable paperback from CUP! I’m drawing on this a lot for other episodes of this ‘history’ But enough of this self-promotion – here’s Hall’s report from the end of May 1894

The latest and greatest ‘idea’ in the world is that of a National ‘Clarion’ Cycling Club with local centres. The electrical Tom Grooms and the oak-hearted Harry Atkinsons of Birmingham have the honour of inspiration but there is nothing ‘Brummagem’ about it. These neighbours of Joseph the Pneumatic have already a lively little society of ‘jiggers’ who wear in their caps a natty gilt badge consisting of a miniature bugle with the legend ‘Clarion’ in silver letters – all permanent wear and who not only enjoy themselves but spread the gospel by way of sticking I.L.P. labels and texts wheresoever they wander on wheels. Besides which they can lend a hand – or rather a voice – at struggling branch meetings in adjacent districts wherever occasion calls.
. . .
I.L.P. cyclists – and their name is now legion – all over the country can have the aforementioned emblems by applying to Comrade Chris Thompson, 253 Park Road, Hockley, Birmingham, who is the designer. And local societies that wish to fall in with the National ‘C’ C.C. should communicate with the same gentleman at once, as it is proposed to organise a great gathering of the clans later in the summer at some convenient centre – say Derbyshire.
. . .
By the way, why not have a great ‘Clarion’ picnic for all and sundry some August weekend, in some happy English valley, to which should come the faithful from the four corners of the world, on wheels, on legs, in trains, ye Bounder to preside over the revels and – er- the vittles.

Which, among much else, tells us about the origin of the Clarion silver badge.


Next Time       Hail Referendum! (no certainly not that one!)



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