The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s
16. More from Bradford and the Potteries – reports from TANDEM, the Bradford Clarion Scouts and CLINCHER
Appearing in the same issue – 6 October 1894 – as the report in the last circular from the Liverpool Clarion CC was this one from Bradford. 'Swiftsure' does the introductions as usual.
Bradford cyclists have been rousing Barnsley where another Clarion C.C. is being started, twelve cyclists having already given their names for the purpose
'The Bradford Clarion Cycling Club had a most enjoyable run to Barnsley on Sunday last, where arriving late through a breakdown on the road, they found an enthusiastic audience waiting their arrival. Comrade Pattinson presiding and Tom Taylor addressing the meeting, after which Comrade Marks explained the objects of the Clarion Cycling Scouts and said a few words on the coming elections. Twenty riders turned up.
Next Sunday, Engineer Hotel at 2pm for Ravensthorpe'
Meanwhile, in the Postbag – conducted by Blatchford (alias Nunquam) an explanatory letter appeared.
This is the first report of the Bradford Corps of Clarion Scouts. In the first place, the distributors have distributed nearly 14,000 leaflets and handbills in Bradford and in the outlying wards which are to be contested at the November election by I.L.P. men. The Cycling Corps are doing good work in outlying villages; your leaflet on Ben Pickard and the I.L.P having surprised the colliers. We are at present trying to arrange for them to speak for about half an hour at their calling places, By-the-way the Clarion Cycling Club Corps in Bradford are really the Scout Cyclists, 22 out of 25 members being on the Scouts Register.
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Now back to 'Swiftsure's page. After TANDEM'S report this appeared:-
The Potteries Clarion CC send me their report as follows:
'To follow in the trail of the "O Groomie O" I beg to offer a few remarks about the season of 1894. Our club was very late in starting, and for this reason many who would have otherwise joined postponed doing so until next season.
Our initial runs were better attended than the others, Of course, the most interesting events of the season have been the meeting and fraternising with our Birmingham comrades at Rugely, Dolgelly, and Lichfield.
The chief work done has been the distribution of Clarion literature, the actual conversion of a few Clarionettes, and the booming of the Clarion. We hope to wind up the season by attending the big social in Brum, where, if reports be true, we shall be able to do homage to his most worshipful the Bounder, the ultima thule of this or any other age.
For this auspicious occasion some of our members are forming a glee party, Let this be an instruction to Birmingham, for they give a dreadful note of preparation. They that have ears to hear, let them put some wool in!
We shall be glad to fall in with any arrangements for meet of C.C.Cs next Easter, and hope to have a more brilliant report next year
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A Note on Bradford
Back then – when it meant something – Bradford socialists often reminded people from other places that the town was the 'birthplace of the ILP'. One important forerunner of the new party was the Bradford Labour Union, founded in 1891. Blatchford, while still working as leader writer on the Manchester-based Sunday Chronicle was adopted as its prospective parliamentary candidate, which may have cost him his job or at least contributed to his departure – and the subsequent founding of the Clarion.
When a libel action in the new paper's earliest days threatened its existence Blatchford withdrew from his candidature – and never stood for elected office again. The founding conference of the ILP took place there in 1893. Back in the early 1970s, Mrs Davies, who seemed to be one of the very few Labour Party members in Rottingdean, told me that her first memory was of being taken as a tiny child onto the stage at the meeting that adopted her father Ben Tillett as parliamentary candidate soon after that. She claimed to have been conceived during the great London Dock Strike of 1889 which first brought her father to fame.
My all-time favourite MP, Fred Jowett – 'Jowett of Bradford' - gave a wonderful description of Bradford in the 1890s which appeared as a preface to Fenner Brockway's biography. A Fenner Brockway, Socialism over Sixty Years. The Life of Jowett of Bradford, 1864-1943 (1946)
Next time – an unusual event in Manchester