Clarion History 13: The First Easter Meet

16 November 2018

I included a number of extracts from the Clarion about the first Easter Meet at Ashbourne (near Dovedale) in the series I did a long time ago now but which still can be found via the blog if you follow the link to the old website.

What follows is just a small selection. First, here is ‘Swiftsure’ who presided over the weekly cycling column at that time – from the issue of 20 April 1895

Had there been more consultation beforehand between the various clubs interested, I feel sure the conference would have been more satisfactory.

But, however, a start has been made, and the formation of a National Clarion Cycling Club is a fact which, I believe will have far-reaching influence.

* * *

On behalf of the Birmingham Club, the “O’ Groomie O” gave a most interesting report of what their club has done since its formation, by the distribution of literature, and various other methods of scouting. And I must say that if every Clarion Club now formed were to do as much as this next season the cause of “Socialism” would be advanced in the country villages in a manner which is greatly needed

* * *

Before I leave the subject of the Ashbourne “meet” I should just like to say that the thanks of nearly everyone who went – and I believe they numbered nearly 200 – are due to Captain Atkinson of the Birmingham C.C.C for the indefatigable manner in which he looked after the visitors.

We all know that a Socialist who only does his duty requires and asks for no thanks, but all the same a true word of appreciation makes a man feel that his efforts are not thrown away.

There were several Sheffield cyclists at the “meet” and they expressed a wish for a “Clarion” C,C to be formed in Sheffield. Mr Jas. Ashurst, 29 Baker Street, Attercliffe, has offered to act as organiser in the first instance. Will all who are interested in the formation of such a club for Sheffield please communicate with him.

In the same issue A M Thompson (aka Dangle) was rather more fulsome.

No healthier or brighter force exists in all the movement than the ardent legion of young and lusty Scouts and Cyclists with whom we so pleasantly forgathered in the restful vale of the Dove. Their fervour, their intelligence, their readiness and resourceful of with (sic), their broad sympathy, and, above all, their kindly good humour, brought some of us who had presumed to think our services needful to were not wanted at all – except perhaps – as their disciples

* * * *

These men will serve. They formed the National Clarion Cycling Club at Ashbourne which is destined to make history.

Rather a lot of ‘men’ – but fortunately it didn’t stay that way for very long. Finally, for this edition, here is an account that throws light on how ‘Boots and Spurs’ – which came originally from one of Blatchford’s army tales – was first used in the cycling club. I’m not sure who the author was but it purports to tell the tale of the arrival at Ashbourne.

First we got oiled and blown up at Timberlake’s Repository.

“A great gent like you,” says Timberlake, when he saw my non-perisher tyres, “should have a better machine than this one.”
” A great gent like me,” I reply, ” Why, what sort of gent am I?” and Timberlake looked three ways for daylight and also scraped himself. “Well, ” he said, at last, with a critical air, “you look like a gent who could do with his portion.”

“You’ve guessed it at once,” said Whiffly and so we bestrid our wayward steeds, an after a brief halt at the “Buck in the Park” went in for records.

We got there, and, under the circumstances, we claim this as the greatest of cycling records. Cycling papers please copy.
Halfway is a village called Brailsford, with a contription. Ha! Ha! I need say no more.

It was a mile or two after this that Whifflly riding down a long steep hill with that sublime confidence which marketh the new beginner, lost control of his machine. Talk about Gilpin’s ride, it was nothing compared to Whiffly’s. He disappeared in a cloud of dust, out of which on the right-hand side a man and bicycle presentely turned double somersaults on the grass bank. Talk about De Quincey’s “Vision of Sudden Death”. In those cases where you are suddenly face to face with grim death, it is wonderful how coolly you philosophise.

“If Whiffly had fifty necks, ” I said to myself as he careered past, ” he’ll break every one of ’em this time.”

Instead of which, he was, beyond a few bruises, practically uninjured. It is unsafe to make predictions concerning him, he is such an unreliable person,

When I say practically uninjured I mean that the new knickerbockers were rent in twain. But we borrowed some string from a village blacksmith and tied ’em up behind a hedge. After which we smoked pipes on the grassy verge, and rode into Ashbourne, where we were welcomed by a knot of young fellows on the bridge with a cry of “Boots” to which we gave the Clarion countersign “Spurs –  and plenty of ’em.”


Next Time – The General Election of 1895


The Next Ride: Sunday 11 November 2018

30 October 2018

Hassocks loop via Hurstpierpoint, Washbrooks Farm, Muddleswood, Twineham, Goddards Green

Please remember that sunset is at 16:19 so make sure that you have working cycle lights.   This is a delightfully simple 15 mile winter loop ride to lunch with an early coffee stop.

From Hassocks station we will make our way through Hurstpierpoint to Washbrook Farm for a coffee stop. Hopefully quieter than on the recce during half term when the noise from the small people was horrendous.

As it will be Remembrance Sunday and also the 100th anniversary of WWI, which ended a century ago in 1918 members may wish to observe a two minute silence at 11am hopefully we will reach the cafe by then.

Leave your bike outside the entrance, they charge to go round the farm but not to just use the cafe.

Leaving the cafe we will turn right and follow the B2117 across the A23 down to the Ginger Fox where we turn double right on Shaves Wood Lane and north via High Cross to Twineham.

There we turn right and follow Hickstead lane back to the A23 After crossing we find and follow Jobs Lane on the far left side of the roundabout. Before getting to Burgess Hill we cross the A2300 at Bishopstone lane and the final stretch to our lunch stop at The Sportsman Pub.

Then we follow the Cuckfield Road, turning off to pass Hurstpierpoint College then Hurst Wickham and back to Hurst Road and our return to Hassocks Station

Length: 15 miles and largely flat apart from the Hill to Hurstpierpoint from both directions, all paved surfaces.

Duration: 5 hours including stops

Meet: at Brighton station at 9:40 to catch the 10:08 train to Hassocks (Buy a return ticket to Hassocks)

Start: We will start the ride at 10:20 at Hassocks station (West side) for anyone arriving by car.

Return: from Hassocks about 15:30 (Frequent trains)

To help me book lunch please email me if you are coming.



The Last Ride. Tessa’s Report

30 October 2018

Clarion Ride Glynde to Berwick   28/10/18

Ten of us gathered at Brighton Station: Angela D, Chris, David, Graham, Jim, Nick, Prudence, Sikka, Tessa and Wendy.

Tessa had the interesting experience of her bike getting stuck in the middle of the double gates leading to the platform whilst chatting to the railway guard. No way would it allow him to open them and the only way was to lift the bike clear. Lucky it wasn’t an electric bike!

October 28, 2018: Glynde to Berwick

L-R Jim, Wendy, Prudence, David, Angela D, Sikka, Tessa, Chris, Graham. (Photo by Nick).

Setting off from Glynde we encountered our one and only ‘H…’ It was definitely more than an ‘Undulation’. We quickly arrived at Middle farm, our coffee stop via country lanes and a spell on the bike friendly pavement alongside the A27.

October 28, 2018: Glynde to Berwick

When coffee and second breakfasts had been consumed we set off on more country lanes fringed by cropped hedges and autumnal trees.

After Ripe we headed for Laughton, stopping for a moment to count ginger cats in a farmyard. The skies were full off swirling wind-driven clouds with a hint of rain.

We crossed the A2124 to ride along a byway through Laughton Common Wood. It was well-timed. Rain had become heavier but we were protected by overhanging trees.

October 28, 2018: Glynde to Berwick

By the time we reached Vert Wood where the track was wider and the trees less protective, the sun was out.

Crossing the A22 we continued on country lanes to Chiddingly and our lunch stop, the Six Bells.

Opinions of lunch were mixed, Angela being pleased she had eaten a hearty Cornish pasty at our coffee stop.

It rained during lunch so many decided to don their waterproof trousers. TherOctober 27, 2018: Glynde to Berwicke was much mirth at Wendy’s all-in-one waterproof trousers and overshoes which made her her look a clown about to enter a crime scene.

We stopped in Muddles Green at Farley’s Farm House to see an exhibition of Lee Miller’s recently found archive photographs, really varied and interesting.

The sun was low as we cycled the remaining miles to Berwick station along a mix of byways and lanes. Those really keen to catch the 15.55 train to Brighton raced ahead with directions from Graham. Others were delayed and did not get there in time. I believe they spent a convivial hour in the pub waiting for the next train?

Thank you Graham for a voyage of discovery along those lanes and byways.


Jim adds: Yes, we “lost” Nick and waited for him to catch up, but it turned out he was ahead of us! He could have caught the earlier train with Tessa et al., but gallantly waited for us to arrive before repairing to the pub. As we waited on the platform, we witnessed a lovely sunset. I’d like to thank Graham for finally introducing me to Farley’s, which I had heard of on an earlier ride but never managed to pinpoint. As well as Lee Miller they were also featuring an exhibition on space, time and relativity by Sir Roger Penrose, who is the cousin of Farley’s current owner, Antony Penrose, the son of Lee Miller. This was “right up my street” as I am currently studying the philosophy of relativity!  Sadly, both exhibitions were closing that day, and we had little time to tarry.

Berwick sunset


30 October 2018

30 October 2018

Dear All

We are now short of only two rides to complete the year –   25 November and 9 December. Best stick to short ones at this time of year, I think. Any offers? For many years I used to lead the last ride of the year – and I intended to offer it this year when my leg seemed like it was getting better. Perhaps next year. It was based on Berwick station with a lunch stop at the Yew Tree.  If anyone fancies taking it on I can provide full route details – but you’ll need to check trains nearer the time.


I had only two responses for my request for suggestions for dates to avoid other than the ones I mentioned. Sikka pointed out that pubs were usually full on Mothering Sunday (or Mothers’ Day) which makes things difficult. It turns out that in 2019 it is the same date – 31 March when BST begins . So I’ve gone for a fortnightly sequence which avoids that. The end of BST is not such a problem since if you forget to put your clock/watch back the worst thing that can happen is that you turn up an hour early for the ride – which is a lot better than turning up an hour late when the clocks go forward and being puzzled that no-one else is there and then realising they’ve departed an hour earlier.

The London-Brighton ride is always a problem because while some people often want to take part it is in any case impossible to get a train to anywhere from Brighton. So I’ve had to leave a 3 week rather than a fortnight gap in June (The BHF ride is on16 June next year). Jim thinks it’s best to avoid Pride weekend. Next year it’s on 3 and 4 August so rather than lose another summer ride I’m suggesting we have rides on two consecutive weeks in July 21 and 28 . This makes up for the 3 week gap in June. It’s not an ideal solution it will mean letting everyone know the details of the second July one more quickly than usual. If anyone can think of a better idea please let me know.

With that proviso and a request to check out the dates yourself and tell me if I’ve got anything wrong here are the ones I’m proposing for 2019. We still have plenty of time to make changes.

13, 27 January; 10, 24 February; 10, 24 March; 7, 21 April; 5,19 May; 2, 24 June; 7, 21, 28 July; 18 August; 12, 15, 29 September; 10, 24 November; 8 December

We can have our traditional little New Year’s ride on Wednesday 2 January – to avoid the crowds. I hope I will be able to do it (fingers crossed!) but I’ll be there one way or another anyway.

Latest on Julian

Jim has been to see him and I spoke to him on the phone on Sunday. He’s had a bit of as setback during the last few days – some new physio exercises seem to have left him with a ‘frozen’ leg.   Let’s hope it proves a very temporary problem.

Mitre Meeting – a message from Graham. Jim and Wendy

All members are invited to meet together at The Mitre Pub, Baker Street at 8pm on Wednesday 7th November 2018

A chance for members to come in from the cold and get together for a general social and discuss rides during the dark months of December, January and February.

There will be opportunities to share ideas on:

  • Possible rides (Anyone got a ride they’re planning?  Which date?)
  • Share ideas for Spring and Autumn weekend rides
  • Discuss use of Google Group
  • Express opinions on ride length, difficulty, start times and trains
  • Discuss ideas to increase active membership
  • In discussing these points, we may want to consider that this year
    • Of 36 members only half ride
    • Of 36 members less than a quarter ride on a regular basis
    • The average active group is less than 7
    • Only 4 individuals or pairs lead rides on a regular basis


Christmas Lunch – a message from Angela

Hello Clarionistas,

Yes, it’s that time of year again when I ask you to choose from a Xmas Menu and I will do my best not to get muddled as I did last year.

It will once again be at The Hummingbird Restaurant at Shoreham Airport because it is one of very few venues that do not ask for a deposit from everybody which, in the past, has made things very complicated. Also, I think that most people were happy with the food last year. It will be on Friday 14th December, 12.30 for 1pm.  I have provisionally booked for 15-20 people.

The restaurant has asked that the group choose from either the two course or the three course menu ‘on block’ as they feel they cannot deal with some people having two courses whilst others have three. So, I am going to propose that the group opts to choose from the two course menu. I do hope that is OK with everybody.

Please let me know by the 1st December if you would like to come and let me know your menu choice.(see attachment) The Hummingbird needs to have a firm idea of numbers by the 1st in order to plan their seating, so I am having to say that if I don’t hear from you by the 1st, I’m afraid that you will not be able to opt in after that date.

Look forward to hearing from you.

My email address is:

Since replies to me about the Xmas Lunch will be in November, I’m afraid that I will not be able to acknowledge by return email your menu choices as, up until the 25th November, I shall be in a country where I will not be able to use the internet very easily, if at all, (China). Sorry about that. Will respond to your emails when I get back.

Love – Angela xx

Graham’s report on Thursday ‘Rehab’ programme

A very successful sunny day, Shoreham to Stan’s Bike Sack via Steyning and Ashurst and back  via the Downslink.  Anne, Chris, David, Prudence, Richard and Sikka.   Lots of new shiny chains and gears on show. Only one member complained of having a screw loose. Luckily turned out to be a real one.  Photo on Flickr


When sending in ride reports please include the date in the title – otherwise it gets listed along with other ‘ride report’s way down in my eccentric inbox. And I might miss it. Thanks

Usual episode of Clarion history at the end of the newsletter. I realise not everyone is equally interested in the history of the Clarion – but I know that some are. If anyone would like more info or more explanation about anything I mention in this series just send me an email.


Clarion History 12

30 October 2018

Hail Referendum!

Unless you’ve read the book I mentioned last time – or even more unlikely my UoS thesis on which it was largely based – you may be unaware how much advocacy there was of ‘direct democracy’ (Or what the Swiss would call ‘semi-direct democracy’; apparently for them you have to meet face-to-face in large field for it to count as ‘direct’.) It didn’t begin with the Clarion but the paper was an enthusiastic supporter of the ‘initiative and referendum’   The initiative meant that a certain (pretty large) number of people could demand and bring about a referendum on anything they wanted to

When the Social-Democratic Federation- the first modern socialist organisation in Britain at national level – was formed in 1884 it included as the second point in its programme ‘Legislation by the people in such wise that no project of law should become binding till accepted by the majority of the people’ while the next point demanded ‘The People to decide on Peace and War.’ All of which meant having a lot of referendums – even when there was no threat of war. The ‘peace and war’ point was something, incidentally, that Justice the SDF weekly reminded readers about both at the beginning of what was then called the Boer War and again in 1914.   As we will see in a moment  the referendum and initiative was also taken up -enthusiastically -by the Clarion

This enthusiasm for direct legislation was far from out of step with what was supported by other socialist parties of the time. In 1904 R.C K. Ensor – the future author of England 1870-1914 – published Modern Socialism, as set forth by Socialists in their speeches , Writings and Programmes. It ran through at least three editions before the outbreak of war in 1914 and showed, for example, that, like the SDF, the German SPD, the Austrian Social Democrats and the now united French socialists all included the referendum and initiative in their programmes.

In the case of the Clarion it was Alex Thompson (aka ‘Dangle’), rather than Blatchford, who took the lead -or at least did most of the work. But during the 1894 debate on ‘Real Democracy’ – which I gave a snapshot of in the 9th episode of this series – Blatchford wrote that the would ‘put the people into the place of the House of Peers so that every measure of importance should, after passing the House of Parliament, be referred to the nation for refusal or acceptance.’ This was very like the SDF’s second demand which I’ve already mentioned.

The following week – we’re at the end of 1894 and the start of 1895 – Thompson went much further and suggested that a system of direct legislation ‘would absolutely annihilate Parliament and the whole tribe of politicians.’ Always a popular cry. He went on to explain that during a recent visit to Paris he had met up with the prominent French socialist Jean Allemane. As a child – his parents were a 19th century equivalent of ‘strolling players’ who worked throughout Europe and Thompson always said that his first language was German – Thompson had been in Paris during the Paris Commune and the ‘Bloody Week’ that followed. Allemane had commanded the Communards’ barricade in the street where the Thompsons lived. During the 1894 visit Allemane had explained that he wanted every citizen to have the right ‘either to vote upon the law proposals of others or to initiate laws himself.’

The 1893 Congress of the Socialist International, held in Zurich, had endorsed the idea of the referendum and initiative and the time must have seem propitious for Thompson to take up the issue. Perhaps the fact that the Fabians had been the main opponents of this helped push things on. They were not popular in either the Clarion or the SDF. They were seen – not without a smidgeon of justification – as advocates of bureaucracy

The result of Dangle’s labours was the pamphlet Hail Referendum! The Shortest Way to Democracy. Blatchford fully supported this and in the summer of 1896 expressed, like Thompson had, his distrust of politicians – even radical ones. He suggested that the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution had come about because of ‘gangs of elected scoundrels’ and had been ‘the price “the people” paid for their folly in delegating their public duties to the rascals who made the most noise.’

Thompson went on to write two more pamphlets on this subject – both preceded by several Clarion articles – The Referendum and Initiative in Practice which took a very positive view of the Swiss experience with the initiative and referendum– was published in 1899 and The Only Way to Democracy a year later at the start of the new century.

I’d better leave it there although there was considerable debate about these issues right up to the outbreak of war in 1914. Anyone wishing to read arguments against ‘direct legislation’ from this period should have a look at the best ones – in my opinion – made by Clifford D Sharpe in 1911 in Fabian Tract No 155 The Case Against the Referendum.

Next Time   The First Easter Meet 1895


The Next Ride

14 October 2018

Sunday 28 October 2018:

Glynde to Berwick via Ripe, Laughton, Chiddingly and Muddles Green

*** Please email Graham if you are coming (see below) ***

This ride welcomes all those clarionistas who remembered to put their alarm clocks back 1 hour on the Saturday.

Also please remember that sunset is at 16:42 so make sure that you have working cycle lights. We will need to keep to schedule to make the 15:55 train back in daylight.

This is a delightful and easy 18 mile ride down some lovely quite and largely flat lanes and byways which should provide some amazing autumn colours. I believe the last version of the ride was done by Sue in Nov 2011

From Glynde station we will make our way to Middle Farm, following the cycle path on the north side of the A27 for coffee at the café there.

Then from the farm car park we follow a quite lane north east to Ripe where we turn left towards Laughton via church lane. Turning right onto the Lewes Road at Laughton we pass the Roebuck inn and then turn left onto a track leading into Laughton common wood and then Vert wood (This track is wide and flat with a better surface than much of the downslink).

Emerging a mile and a half later we cross the A22 and curve round to Chiddingly and our lunch stop at the Six Bells pub. This pub has lots of atmosphere and could well have a Jazz band playing depending on what time we arrive.

After lunch we go the short distance to Muddles green where we will call in at Farleys House and Gallery where there is an exhibition on of unseen images from the Lee Miller Archives and The Penrose Collection.

Then we cross the A22 again and follow a long straight byway-lane-byway for 3 miles ending to the east of Chalvington. From there it is a short spin to Berwick station.

Length: 18 miles and largely flat including about 3 miles on byways.

Duration: 6 hours including stops

Meet: at Brighton station at 9:40 to catch the 10:05 train to Glynde (Buy a return ticket to Berwick) Start: We will start the ride at 10:30 at Glynde station for anyone arriving by car.

Return: from Berwick at 15:55 (last train in daylight)

Warning : on the 28th there are no London bound trains and as a consequence Southern have lengthened the Glynde train to 8 carriages which is too long for the platform. Please check the signs and only get on I think the front four Carriages.

To help me book lunch please email me if you are coming.




14 October 2018

14 October 2018

Dear All

It’s always unfortunate when a ride has to be cancelled – but it’s no fun getting soaked while pretending you’re enjoying yourself. I’m sure Jim did the right thing in cancelling this morning in the light of the forecast.

Graham has switched the dates for the next two rides . We’re just looking for offers for 25 November and 9 December now.

I’m sending this out two days earlier than usual – it gives everyone maximum time to look at the next ride. If anyone was planning to send a report for this newsletter I will send it out separately – if I get it, of course!


In the next newsletter I’m planning to include the possible dates for rides in 2019 so that if I’ve got it wrong you can put me right. I always try to avoid rides at the beginning and end of BST 31 March and 27 October in 2019 – especially the first where there’s always the danger that someone will turn for the start of the ride only to find everyone else has left an hour before – and the London-Brighton Bike Ride on 16 June. If anyone can think of any other dates we should avoid please let me know at once.

In Case You Missed It

Just now and then you get a message that makes you feel that in our very small scale and modest way we are doing something worthwhile as well as enjoying ourselves. If you’re in the google group (see below if you’re not) you will already have seen this – but it’s not something I would want anyone to miss. Haven’t yet checked with Fred and Jim – can we take up Emily’s suggestion?   And would a report based on this be a good idea for the proposed Christmas Boots and Spurs. Let me know what you think

My name is Rachel Walters, and I just wanted to let you know how much my daughter Emily enjoyed your page, . She just recently learned to ride a bicycle at the end of the summer, and has been really hooked on it since! Her birthday was over the weekend, and we finally got her her own, as she’d been learning on a bike we borrowed from my sister’s kids who are a few years older. Needless to say she was ecstatic!

Emily has been spending her computer/free time reading about biking safety, tips, and upkeep- And that is how she came across your page- She called me over quite a few times to point out things she was learning, and I mentioned that it might be nice to send you a quick thank you note- Emily thought that it’d be great to share another article about basic bike maintenance,– as well! I thought it was a neat article, and was hoping you’d be able to include it on your page? I’d love to show her that she could contribute another helpful biking article- she’d be thrilled!

I’m proud of her for being so proactive about learning more about safety and upkeep for her new bike! Thanks again for providing such cool and helpful resources for bike enthusiasts new and old! Hope you enjoy the article Emily wanted to share, and if you end up being able to include it, please let me know so I can tell her! Have a great day and hope to speak again soon!

Denis Pye Memorial

Denis, the author of Fellowship is Life: The Story of the Clarion Cycling Club which I strongly recommend to anyone without a copy, sadly died earlier this year. I’ve recently had a letter from Charles Jepson of the ‘1895 Clarion’ about a plan to remember him with a memorial bench at the Clarion House – run by the Nelson ILP Clarion Society – at Roughlee and asking for donations. I met Denis a couple of times early in the century – and I’ve visited the Clarion House. I’ve sent a small donation; should you want to do the same, send a cheque made out to NCCC1895 to Wendy Pye at 34 Temple Road, Halliwell, Bolton BL1 3LT

Google Group

As I mentioned last time it’s good to see so much useful discussion in the google-group. If you’re not in it do join   It’s on the web page:

Graham’s ‘Rehab’ programme

Good to hear that Graham’s great idea of short rides on Thursdays is starting to work. If it keeps up long enough I hope to be able to join in at some point. I’ve recently had X rays of my left knee and hip which has shown degree of arthritis and I’m waiting to hear from the orthopaedic folk to see what I should do next. I may have to follow Sean’s example.

Until yesterday I hadn’t been on the bike since before the fall I had in August which resulted in six stitches in my nose. I’d been having a bit of trouble getting on and off the bike before then and the fall -although it had nothing to do with that – just shook my confidence. But I managed a tiny ride on the seafront yesterday and I’m hoping – leg etc permitting – to gradually work up; from there and perhaps join the rehab group.

Good to hear also that the Mitre meeting was so productive of good ideas

Re: Good News for Bury Clarion

After my reference to the success of Simon Yates in the Vuelta I had a message from our old friend and keen reader of our ride reports Peter Roscoe. He writes:

Pleasing to see you mention me in relation to the Yates brothers. I liked the bit about keeping chips warm – I’m always dismayed on holiday when the meal plates have not been warmed properly. There must be a market for plates that can be kept warm during a meal.i.e. battery heated.

Bury Clarion are enjoying some glorious years. I managed to be relieved of Secretary, Treasurer and Membership Secretary at this year’s AGM. At 84 I have some personal affairs to sort out.

I was baffled for half a second by the reference to chips – then I remembered Nick’s report. Peter really does read our ride reports!