CLARION HISTORY 24

9 August 2019

The Clarion and the outbreak of war in 1914 Hilda Thompson’s ‘Spoilt Holiday’

I’m devoting this episode almost entirely to an account which appeared on the front page of the first wartime Clarion on 7 August 1914. It’s by Hilda Thompson, daughter of A.M.or Alex Thompson – aka ‘Dangle’ – who by that time was virtually editing the paper.

The outbreak of the First World War was traumatic for so many involved directly or indirectly. There had been wars – notably the Crimean War in the 1850s and the South African, or Boer War, in 1899-1902 as well as various ‘colonial’ conflicts. But there had not been a general European war which one way or another dragged everyone into it and was impossible to ignore for 99 years. Since the final defeat of Napoleon I at Waterloo.

I suspect pretty well everyone, at least in those countries most directly involved,suffered from some variety of trauma, if only intermittently, for the

rest of their lives. My mother was eight, going on nine, at beginning of August 1914. I’ve long believed that her worrying conviction that my brother and me would end up having to fight in a third world war reflected not only the fact that my Dad had been away in North Africa and Italy with the Eighth Army for much of the second conflict – and most of my early childhood – but also the unexpected shock of what happened at the beginning of the earlier war.

After 1914, and then reinforced in 1939 who could anticipate anything less awful? Fortunately, her fears never came to fruition – which is one of the many reasons I’ve always been a supporter of what is now the EU – in spite of its many shortcomings.

But first we need to remind ourselves of the chronology in order to understand Hilda’s piece better. The war had longer term origins – which are still very controversial – but what immediately triggered what has become known as the ‘July crisis’ was the murder of the archduke, Franz-Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, and his wife in Sarajevo on 28 June by a Serbian nationalist teenager, Gavrilo Princip. Sarejevo was the capital of Bosnia, once part of the Turkish empire but since the late 1870s

under Austrian-Hungarian occupation and since 1908 formally annexed by the Dual Monarchy. There’d recently been two Balkan Wars in 1912 and 1913. There had been a degree of ‘proxy warfare’ by the Great Powers, especially from those Balkan rivals Austria-Hungary and Russia. But while many anticipated a third Balkan conflict few believed it might escalate into a much wider European war.

For example in his book Inside the Left, published during the Second World War Fenner Brockway wrote

The war of 1914 came suddenly. Ten days before it started I spoke at Oldham and my audience thought I was an hysterical scaremonger when I said that we were near war.

Things seemed to quieten down a little in July following the assassination but the Austrian-Hungarian rulers were convinced that Serbia was responsible for the awful act and determined that the Serbs should be ‘taught a lesson’ They began shelling Belgrade, the Serbian capital, on 29 July. Russia mobilised in Serbia’s support and on 1 August Germany, Austria-Hungary’s ally, declared war on Russia on 1 August, invaded Belgium in order to attack Russia’s ally France, against which it declared war. on 3rd and Britain declared war against Germany on 4 August.

For me more than any other later or contemporary account it’s Hilda Thompson’s story that is the most unexpected, even rather shocking, evidence of how unprepared for the outbreak of war almost everyone in Britain was. The title of her piece was ‘A Spoilt Holiday.’ It began ‘We had intended making a tour of the Harz Mountains, partly on foot, partly by train; and our intention had been to stay at least a month.’ It is not quite clear who exactly the ‘we’ were, apart from Hilda herself, but they had left Liverpool Street station late on Thursday 30 July and arrived in Hannover at about 1.30 the following day. While having a meal in a café they became aware of people excitedly reading ‘printed bills’ that were being given out in the street.

These, it quickly became apparent, announced ‘the Kaiser’s decree for the immediate mobilisation of the army.’ Still undeterred, they bought train tickets for Hildesheim and continued their journey, though at the station ‘the disorganisation caused by war was already felt.’ Sometime after midday the next day, Saturday, 1 August, they were advised by the landlord of the place where they were staying to return home immediately. He was himself ‘under marching orders’

Reluctantly agreeing, they took a train back to the Hook of Holland hearing en route that Germany had declared war on Russia. They worried that they might be marooned in Germany with trains unable to cross the border into the Netherlands. But in spite of such fears they reached home safely. Of their attitude at the start of their aborted journey Hilda Thompson wrote, ‘There were rumours of war, as everyone knew but no one in England had taken the matter seriously, and we felt that the excitement would add to the pleasure of our trip.’

Ian

Next time. More from the Clarion on the outbreak of war in 1914.

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CLARION HISTORY 23

11 July 2019

 – The Socialist Unity conference of 1911 and the formation of the British Socialist Party.

In the previous episode I wrote about Victor Grayson’s success as an ‘Independent Socialist’ in the Colne Valley by-election of 1907 and how he was taken up by the Clarion becoming part of their editorial team. Whether or not he was paid for this work I don’t know, but given that his brief stint as an MP took place (just) before the introduction of payment of MPs in 1911 he may have been.

By this time the Labour Party’s contingent in the Commons had grown to around 40 – partly as a result of the miners’ unions deciding to instruct their existing or prospective former ‘LibLab’ MPs to transfer their support from the Liberals to Labour. Of course this did little to change the mind-set of such MPs and a common complaint was that they only spoke in parliamentary debates when something that affected their union was at issue. Certainly all the leading figures, Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald, Philip Snowden and – by far the best of the lot in my view – Fred Jowett, were all ILPers who in all the cases just mentioned were founder members and -apart from their parliamentary duties active mainly in the ILP. Bear in mind that until the new 1918 Labour Party constitution there were no constituency parties and the way most people expressed their Labour commitment was by participating in the local ILP. Please also note that contrary to the impression given by some accounts the Labour Party didn’t have a formal leader until the early 1920s.

As ever in Left wing parties expectations and ambitions of Labour Party members greatly exceeded what it was possible to accomplish with what was still a small contingent of MPs – or so most of the leadership of the ILP which also doubled as the Labour leadership argued. But discontent continued with the Clarion very much taking part in this. The cause célèbre of 1910 was the publication of a pamphlet, known as ‘the green manifesto’ from the colour of its cover, with the title Let Us Reform the Labour Party. It was by four members of the ILP’s national body, its National Administrative Council or NAC.

What the ‘manifesto’ denounced, like so many ILPers in later years, as ‘Reformism’ then amounted to supporting the Liberal Government – the last one to date – in return for some concessions on matters of special interest to – largely – the unions. The manifestists wanted this abandoned in favour of Jowett’s policy of ‘voting on the merits of the question …regardless of consequences ‘ – what later became known as the famous ‘Bradford Policy’

This the four authors of Let Us Reform the Labour Party grandiloquently labelled ‘Revolutionist’ which even many who agreed with their general argumentative thrust thought a bit of an over-statement.

Unfortunately from the standpoint of getting their arguments seriously considered the authors made the fatal error of referring to themselves as members of the NAC – which they were,of course – on the title page of the pamphlet. The result was that their opponents in the ILP were able to divert the argument – what is known today as the ‘dead cat strategy’ – away from the substance of the issues to a debate lasting for many weeks on the democratic propriety, or lack thereof, of seeming to claim NAC approval when that body hadn’t even discussed, let along approved, the publication of the document. One of the authors, Leonard Hall, who often wrote for the Clarion, should have known better since only the year before he had made a big fuss and vehemently protested against the ILP putting out Keir Hardie’s My Confession of Faith in the Labour Alliance as an official publication of the ILP. The ILP’s official paper Labour Leader still somewhat resented by those who ran the Clarion, took the lead in expressing indignation with the manifestists while the Clarion did what it could to defend them and get the debate back onto the issues of substance

The scene was now set for the Unity Conference of 1911. The Social-Democratic Federation (always, please note, with a hyphen) had been the original organisation in the ‘Socialist Revival’ of the early 1880s. It had changed its name from ‘Federation’ to ‘Party’ in 1907 As we saw in an earlier episode of this series (16) the SDF in the ’90s had been keen to unite with the ILP and form a united socialist party. This had been thwarted largely by Hardie and the ILP leadership. As noted last time the SDF had made the fatal mistake of taking a ‘purist’ line and leaving the LRC in 1901. The new party formed in 1911 did not agree to affiliate to Labour until 1914

This party was the British Socialist Party (BSP) formed at the Unity Conference in 1911. In retrospect this was the second big mistake of the Social-Democrats. Most ILP branches did not join the new BSP though some did as did a lot of – mainly – younger people inspired by the the syndicalism advocated by the likes of Tom Mann and to a lesser extent by the ‘direct action’ of the militant suffragettes. As things turned out the BSP not only failed to unite the entire Left but from the start there were serious divisions within it over the attitude of what often called itself the ‘Old Guard of the SDF’ and many of the most active of the new recruits . Most of this was focussed on Hyndman, the virtual leader of the SDF since its very beginnings and his warnings about ‘the German menace.’ Once the war started the division between those who called themselves ‘internationalist’ and those who took the label ‘Pro-Ally’ and supported the war as a necessary evil naturally increased leading to a split in 1916. The majority of the BSP – the ‘internationalists’ – eventually formed the main ingredient of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920 while the ‘Old Guard’ became the most unequivocally opposed to the Bolsheviks of the entire British Left But I’m shooting on too far ahead.

The Clarion Cycling Club took part in the Unity Conference of 1911. In the 1930s when E Archbold completed the history of the SDF by H W Lee, its long-time general secretary, he included this passage about the conference.

Tom Groom, of the National Clarion Cycling Club, said that he and those who thought with him were anxious to avoid the use of phrases which might mean a great deal to those who used them, but had another meaning to others. Many people were not clear as to what “class war” in the resolution meant, and he did not recognise it exactly.

I need hardly say that Groom got very little support for this proposition. Later after the First World War had broken out he reflected on the failure from the Clarion standpoint of all the political organisations it had supported

          Some of us once joined the I.L.P. and thought that that was the movement. But the I.L.P. joined the Labour Party and the Labour Party joined the Liberals; so we came out. Then

         we joined the B.S.P, and thought that this was the Movement right enough. But the B.S.P. headed straight for the morass of politics, wasted a lot of time in ‘perfecting the irregular

          verb,’ passed a lot of impossible resolutions; and we came out of that.

Groom then went on to give a succinct summary of the distinctly Clarion approach to socialism. .The work of ‘the Movement’ was ‘to convert thousands and then still thousands more’ to a desire to live in a socialist society.. ’When that desire is great enough the professional politician will supply the goods, whether he calls himself Liberal, Tory or Labour Man. Our work is to create that desire.’

Ian                                                                 Next time. The Clarion and the outbreak of war in 1914


Clarion History 22

27 June 2019

CLARION HISTORY 22 – The Labour Party and Victor Grayson

As I pointed out in an earlier episode about the 1895 election – a disaster from the socialist and especially ILP point of view with even Hardie losing his seat – the only way forward seemed more than ever to be Keir Hardie’s notion of a ‘Labour Alliance.’ This meant the political Left – above all the ILP itself – working with the – previously largely Liberal-supporting – trade unions. The socialist groups operated on a shoe-string. Relatively speaking the unions were well-off.

The eventual outcome of this strategy was the formation in 1900 of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) By no means all the unions took part – the miners, with their exceptional degree of influence and control in mining areas – remained LibLab supporting until after the 1906 general election which, aided by a not very transparent deal with the Liberals, gave Labour a parliamentary foothold. The official name was changed to Labour Party – a title already often used informally.

The Clarion approach was basically that of converting as many people as possible to socialism. The politics, which would probably be messy and sometimes not too admirable, could, the paper often implied, be left to take care of itself . The big issue of the time was whether Labour should explicitly commit itself to socialism rather than just pursuing the not very clearly defined working-class interests that the term ‘Labour’ implied. The oldest British socialist organisation, the Social-Democratic Federation (SDF) left the LRC after a year, frustrated by the failure to make a socialist commitment. This, it was later recognised by most SDFers, was perhaps the biggest mistake the SDF made. But that’s another story. What of the Clarion?

The attitude of the Clarion can perhaps best be illustrated by an editorial in the paper in March 1903 which asked:

If avowed Socialists are going to water down their principles and programmes for the sake of the fleshpots of Independent Labourism, what will be the difference between such conduct and that of the Liberal-Labour man who waters down his Labourism in order to gain the sops thrown by the Liberal Party?

Clarion confidence in Labour got, if anything, worse as time went on. Then in 1907 came something which gave those who demanded a more forthright attitude and approach great encouragement – actually rather more than would be justified by later events. When Sir James Kitson, the Liberal MP who had represented the constituency of Colne Valley since 1892 was ‘elevated’ to the peerage as Baron Airedale the local Liberals selected Philip Bright – son of the famous radical free trader John Bright – as the prospective replacement. The local ILP selected the 27 year old Victor Grayson.

So far, so good. But there was a snag. Colne Valley was part of the deal with the Liberals. Labour would not run a candidate there in return for being given a clear field in other constituencies. So the national executive committee of the Labour Party refused to endorse Grayson’s candidature.. The Colne Valley Labour League (C. V Socialist League the following year) supported Grayson as an Independent Socialist candidate. Much to most people’s surprise he won though with a percentage of the vote and a majority not unlike that of Labour in the recent Peterborough by-election.

Grayson was not a great success as an MP, attending the Commons only rarely, and he lost his seat to the Liberals in 1910. Meanwhile he had become part of the Clarion editorial team and wrote numerous articles for the paper. He later mysteriously disappeared in 1920 and his subsequent fate is unknown and has led to much speculation. Was he murdered or did he take on another identity? Those have been among the various speculations’

Grayson probably had relatively little to contribute except ardour for the cause though that’s always imporant. But he provided a symbol of the discontent of socialists with the Labour Party which has endured now for well over a century. The Clarion shared this discontent. Yet the fact that an inexperienced and virtually unknown man in his ‘twenties could become an overnight hero – and to some on the Left a legend for generations to come – on the basis of a narrow victory in a by-election and less than three years as an MP, must give pause for those – at the time and since – who dismiss the importance of electoral politics altogether.

Nor did the Clarion view of Labour get much better in 1910. Its suspicion of the party and union leaderships is well-reflected in its reaction to the publication of the autobiography of John Wilson a miners’ MP who remained a Liberal. Given that Labour Leader was the title of the ILP’s weekly and the Clarion’s rival the reaction of the to Wilson’s Memoirs of a Labour Leader can be seen as covering a much wider field than the author of the autobiography himself. The reaction was a bit Pavlovian.

Not to have been a Labour Leader and not to have written the story of your life, or have it written for you, argues a very commonplace character in these early twentieth century times. In the days of our youth the rewards for good conduct at Sunday School took the form of literature of the ‘Long Cabin to the White House’ class. Today the budding youth of the greatest Empire feeds its aspirations on ‘From Workshop to Westminster,’ ‘From Butcher’s Bench to Parliamentary Bar’, ‘From Cab Rank to Cabinet Rank’. Or some other impossible jumping of place to fame and glory.

Given all this it is not surprising that the following year, 1911, the Clarion supported, and indeed the Clarion Cycling Club took an active part in, one final pre-1914 effort at ‘socialist unity’ outside the Labour Party.

Ian


Clarion History 21

14 June 2019

Blatchford alienates two very different groups of readers

Until the late 1890s Blatchford had been supported pretty uncritically by most readers of the paper. But then, first with the outbreak of the South African (or Boer) War in 1899 and later with his attacks on organised religion and belief in his books God and my Neighbour in 1903 and Not Guilty: A defence of the Bottom Dog two years later he upset two rather different sets of readers.

The war, which lasted from 1899 to 1902, was opposed by most of the Left – including the Liberals and above all Lloyd George who came to national prominence at this time as an opponent of the war. Blatchford’s socialist allies in the Social-Democratic Federation were particularly active in opposing the war.

There were a number of factors which led to this apart from simply an opposition to war in general though that certainly played an important part.

That the, apparently mighty, British Empire was waging war against two small republics – Transvaal and the Orange Free State – naturally led to sympathy for the underdogs. The suspicion – not without supportive evidence – that designs on the gold and diamond mines of South Africa played an important role was another factor. Later on Emily Hobhouse’s exposure of conditions in the concentration camps set up by the British added to what for many was already a scandalous war.

Most people have probably heard of the famous nationalistic celebrations following the lifting of the siege of Mafeking, but less well known are the violent attacks by supporters of the war on anti-war meetings including those of W T Stead’s Stop the War Committee. Stead was one of the founders of investigative journalism who would later be one of the most prominent figures to go down on the Titanic. The Manchester Guardian was another outspoken opponent of the war.

Blatchford, of course, had spent some of his most formative years in the army and – as would later be the case in 1914 – found it impossible to do other than support a war in which British soldiers were involved – often with fatal results.

This position of supporting the war alienated quite a few readers of the Clarion as one would anticipate. Then a few years later, his atheistic writings brought a lot of criticism from those who still adhered to some form of religious belief.

Blatchford introduced God and my Neighbour like this:

I was not perverted by an Infidel book. I had not read one when I wavered first in my allegiance to the orthodoxies. I was set doubting by a religious book written to prove the “Verity of Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead.” But as a child I was thoughtful, and asked myself questions, as many children do, which the Churches would find it hard to answer to-day.

 

Both Blatchford and the Clarion survived these controversial episodes. But there is little doubt that his appeal was at least temporally dented.

Next – The Labour Party and Victor Grayson


Our predecessor The original Brighton Clarion

15 April 2019

After the last newsletter I received an email from Ken Wells reminding me that he had been a member of the old Brighton Clarion.

Quite early on – soon after the current version started back in 2004 – we tried to find out as much as we could about our predecessor. In one of our newsletters, then known as a circular, that 1 April, I reported as follows:

As a result of the piece that Adam Trimingham put in the Argus the other week I had a call from Brian Hutton. Brian is the paper’s long time cycling correspondent and may be known to some of you (He was a member of a Brighton section of the Club in the later 1940s. Apparently the leading figure was Wally Newman, a local Labour councillor, who I’ve certainly heard of and I’m sure so have some of you Most of the members, though, like Brian himself, tended later to concentrate their efforts with other local clubs like the Brighton Mitre.

Brian actually became a member of the new B&H Clarion, although he was not able to cycle any longer. Sadly, he is no longer with us – Sue and I attended his funeral a few years ago – but happily, as already indicated, Ken certainly is. Below is a piece he wrote for us back in the day. You’ll find much more, with some photos, including one of Dave Gravett who some of us will remember from when he attended early Christmas ‘do’s’ (and the old Brighton Jazz Club)) if you go to the blog, click on the the link to the old website and then on ‘history’ In the meantime here are some of Ken’s recollections.

Ken Wells recalls the Clarion in the late 1940s

I was a member from early 1948 to 1949, when I left to join the Prestonville Nomads, I have been in Brighton Mitre since Prestonville Nomads ended in 1968, and am currently treasurer and official for Sussex CRL.

Unfortunately, I do not have any results from that period, but I remember riding an SCA 25 in September 1948, when Clarion had quite a good team, and several club events. Principal rider was Mike Moreton, another rider for Clarion in that event, and second team counter was Brian James, also a Mitre member who lives at Bracknell. He may have records. Mike Moreton left shortly after to join the Brighton and Hove Wheelers, he is no longer in the district. A few more names of 1948-1949 members, but I have no idea of their whereabouts.

Derek Payne who joined B & H Wheelers later and emigrated to Canada, Derek? Howson, Derek Grover, Brian James. Derek Marsh, who was club captain in 1948
Also ? Bush (cannot remember his first name), Len Blackman, Mike and Pat Moreton.

Pat joined the Prestonville when I did, and Mike Joined B & H wheelers shortlybefore being called up on National Service. National Service was the cause of a lot of people giving up cycling after being posted to distant shores with no bike. Mike was Sussex Pursuit champion and won several other championships in Wheelers colours, Clarion the team prize in an SCA 25 in Sept 48, which was my first 25, Mike did a 1-1 Brian James did a 1-4 in his first 25, I cannot remember who the third team counter was. It was not me.’

Brian, who is still in touch with Ken, adds a few more names though he’s not sure whether or not all of them actually joined the Clarion Ivan Kettley, ‘Faz’ Farrell, Derek Cover,]

At Easter 1948, what was, I think my second club run, was to Herne Hill for the Good Friday meeting at which Reg Harris was due to compete. (He did not owing to being injured in a car crash.) The run went on to a youth Hostel tour into Kent. I joined in as there was a vacancy, without letting my parents know. This caused a certain amount of alarm, as this was before wide availability of telephones, before I turned up on Monday evening. Club runs to Herne Hill were a common occurrence, Sunday runs were well attended: 20-30 attendance usual. In those days if you wanted to go anywhere, you just got on the bike and went. No cars and no money for train fares.

We also rode to Southampton Track and back to see Mike Moreton ride in an event (140 miles round trip).

One other small nugget of news, when I joined the RAF for national service in 1951, one of the standard questions was “Are you a member of a political party or cycling club”. Clarion was regarded as a political party.

Ken


How we started back in 2004

26 March 2019

We began in February 2004. Here’s the minutes of our inaugural meeting
_____________________________________________________________________________

Minutes of the inaugural meeting of the prospective Brighton and Hove Section of the National Clarion Cycling Club.

February 2004

Taking Part   Ian Bullock, Joyce Edmond-Smith, Ed Furey

It was agreed

  1. to form a Brighton and Hove Section
  2. to adopt the draft constitution as circulated and amended.
  3. to apply to affiliate to the National Clarion Cycling Club.
  4. that until the 2005 AGM – or an EGM called by the Management Committee prior to that – Ed Furey would act as Chair, Ian Bullock would act as Secretary and as Joyce Edmond-Smith Treasurer.
  5. that until otherwise determined the membership fee would be simply the national subscription as determined by the national conference. (currently £4 p. a)

————————————————————————————-

Weather wise we could hardly have chosen a worst time to get going.   At this stage we hadn’t decided what day of the week we might go for as is evident from this message I sent out a little later. Some of it’s no longer intelligible -if it ever was!

———————————————————————————————-

‘Boots’ to you all!

INAUGURAL RUN! a gentle canter down the Cuckoo Trail

God, I feel like Eisenhower trying to find a chink in the weather to launch D-Day!

I’m now tied up this week except Friday. I was going to suggest that as a possibility.

The Brighton weather forecast (from OnlineWeather.com) is OK in terms of temperature for a nice change and maybe we could risk ‘light showers’   But it’s very windy.

Unfortunately the following week doesn’t look that good either – especially as regards wind. Monday 22 looks the best though

Of course by the time we get there the whole thing may have changed quite dramatically.

I’m game if you are – for any of these dates. Send your e mails to everyone to speed the process up, and if you’re going to the start by train please make enquiries and let us know what time to meet at the start of the trail.

The next month for me – as things stand at the moment – now goes like this

  1. This week. Can only make Friday19 and away that weekend (20/21 March)
  2. 22nd – 27th OK any day Not Sunday 28th
  3. OK Monday 29 – Thurs 1 April (!) Away for just over a week starting Friday 2nd

[I appreciate Ed that you’re still in the process of getting your bike sorted and may not be able to join us – which is a shame, but I know you want us to press ahead.]

Ian
___________________________________________________________________________

Eventually we did get going early in April. But the weather was still pretty atrocious as you can see from my account of our first ride
___________________________________________________________________________

Inaugural Ride 10 April – The Cuckoo Trail

Three of us managed the ‘inaugural ride’ in the end – Joyce, our newest member Sheila Schaffer who some of you at least also know. (We’re now up to 7 with about as many more prospective joiners)

The weather was awful – cold, wet and windy and the Golden Martlet pub where we’d reckoned on having a break was covered in scaffolding and closed – but having survived World War II we were not going to let a spot of rain deter us. In spite of the weather we had an enjoyable day – and thanks largely to Joyce thoughtfully bringing a flask of hot soup we survived.

We decided that for the moment – and subject to general agreement – we’d reckon on having a ride every other Sunday and have sketched out plans for a couple of nice easy-peasie little ones of no more than 23 miles at the most for the next two.   Ian

 

 

 

 


Clarion History 20: GUSTAV HOLST AND THE CLARION

27 February 2019

In his history of the Clarion CC, Fellowship is Life (pp 49-50) the late Denis Pye mentions that the young Gustav Holst – the composer best remembered for The Planets – was involved with the Clarion. He was also a formidable cyclist – though whether he ever actually rode with the Clarion CC we don’t (or at least I don’t) know.

Below are some information and extracts from his biographers – Holst’s daughter, Imogen Holst’s Gustav Holst. A Biography 2nd ed 1969and Michael Short’s Gustav Holst. The Man and His Music OUP 1990

Before he moved to London, Holst lived in Cheltenham:

…he would sometimes walk or cycle the 97 miles from London to Cheltenham with his trombone slung on his back. Occasionally he would take the opportunity of practising the instrument while resting during the journey, to the astonishment of the farmers on whose land he sat. [Short p 22]

Holst was asthmatic and Short speculates that he got interested in cycling via articles in the Cheltenham music magazine The Minim, which also ‘carried pieces on socialism.’ (p 29)

In London he joined the Hammersmith Socialist Society – whose leading figure and ‘guru’ was William Morris – and formed the Hammersmith Socialist Choir where he met Isobel his future wife.

He was also occasionally to be seen perched on a cart playing a harmonium, while being dragged round the streets of Hammersmith by a group of enthusiastic distributors of socialist propaganda.’ (Short p 30)

He included his own song ‘Two Brown Eyes’ in a ‘Grand Evening Concert’ by the Hammersmith Socialist Choir concert in Feb 1898. The 2nd movement of his ‘Cotswold Symphony’ (July 1900) was an elegy to the memory of William Morris. In 1908 , according to Imogen Holst, ( p 32) he was ill and ordered by his doctor to take a holiday in a warm climate. So he went cycling in the Algerian desert!

And according to Short (p 84) in the following summer of 1909 he cycled to Steyning to stay with friends and – riding with no headgear – fainted with heat exhaustion. He was persuaded to take the train back. Doesn’t it seem amazing that he could survive the heat of the Sahara – only to be floored by the weather in West Sussex?

Ian

Series to be resumed…