The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s
22. 'The Bounder in Brum' including the B'ham CCC's dinner
As I said last time 'The Bounder's' humour – what's so funny about the letter K? - has lasted less well than some of the other features of the early Clarion. The extracts below are from 8 November 1894. The Bounder was met in Birmingham by our old friend Tom Groom. The Bounder had been, you'll recall, drafted in as the Birmingham Clarion Cycling Club's president.
The O' Groomie took me straight off from New Street Station to the steam trams in Korporation Street. When the O' Groomie's courage failed him, the McAtkinson took his part of guide, philosopher and personal conductor on the coffin trams the engines of which yield a periodical aroma of soot and sulphur which reminds you of the Underground Railway
The Lady Clarionettes of Birmingham are the 'best looking' I have ever seen. I say this without prejudice and despite the fact that they fell upon me… like one woman, with an artillery of scissors with which they cut samples of my new trousers for the purpose of providing themselves frockks of the same material … they left me hardly a shred to be going on with. Fortunately, it was dark, and I walked in the middle of the crowd to the Arts Club the members of which are so fair minded and tolerant
The Birmingham Clarion Cycling Club dinner was a great funkshun, and a grand success. I had two helpings of muttom, and three plates of roast kapon. I also occupied the chair. I drank claret wine, and was introduced to two parsons. I likewise made a
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space prekludes a protracted description of my first appearance in presidential capacity. It is very arduous being a President.
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The C.C.C. had me on toast, so I return the kompiment. Musical honours please.
So here I give the toast sublime
Which aye shall live in deathless rhyme:
"The C.C.C. which none surpasses
For gradely chaps and bonny lasses.
With which I couple a graceful trio
And kind regards to the barley brio.
McAtkinson, when we must dub
The 'handsome Captain of the Club',
O' Groomie, the Clarion Scald,
The bold, the beautiful, the bald.
And last – hallo, there! Shades of Sherbet
The grand old, blond old double t Garbutt.
Tom Groom's report at the end of Swiftsure's 'Cycling Notes' was a shade less 'poetical' - and the spelling was better.
Birmingham Clarion Cycling Club
First Annual Dinner
It was a great function. The great function of the year. Eighty good Clarionettes and true – including fifteen from the Potteries C.C.C. – graced the gay and festive board. The Bounder from the chair beamed on the assembled company; the assembled company from the chairs variously beamed on the Bounder. The Bounder made the speech of the evening. He said, 'Bring in the dinner!' The process of assimilation began. A strong , healthy waiter was told off to attend to the President, and to him alone.
The dinner was great shakes, and moved by its various courses to the toasts. The Bounder's waiter was then wrapped up and sent home in a cab, and a clean one was brought in.
The 'Club' was enthusiastically toasted and replied to at some length. The company next proceeded to drink as much of the Bounder's health as was good for it. Then was toasted the visitors, and replied to by Labour Agitator Leonard Hall.
We had several more toasts to get through, but the President objected – said we had had enough of cackling – and put his foot down. I think the Board will agree with me that when the Bounder puts his foot down there is not much chance of going on. So the room was cleared for the 'smoker'. A really gorgeous programme drawn up and set down on paper by the club's artist was got through with considerable pleasure, including the very excellent glee by the Potteries C.C.C. After which we warbled 'Old Lang Syne' and then gat us to our respective homes – at least some of us did.
Altogether a most enjoyable function. The President presided in great style and his new trousers, which same do him credit. We shall look forward to his second coming with much joy.
THE O' GROOMIE O
[Leonard Hall was a well-known ILPer close to the Clarion and a personal friend of Blatchford. He is best remembered as one of the four authors – all members of the ILP's National Administrative Council - of what became known, from the colour of its cover, as 'The Green Manifesto' in 1910 - a tract entitled Let Us Reform the Labour Party. [Yes, even then!]
The 'Board' was of course the editorial board of the paper. A few years later in the midst of an intractable dispute Blatchford was to refer to it on at least one occasion as 'The Bored']
Next time – Swiftsure takes steps to create a Manchester CCC.