The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s
54. The Ashbourne Meet 'smoker' and Sheol. The penultimate episode of of 'The Easter Meet. Evolution of the Cycle' from the Clarion, 20 April 1895
Like me you may not have previously come across Sheol. It seems that it was, according to parts of the Hebrew scriptures/Old Testament where all the dead went - 'good' and 'bad' alike. Hence, presumably, the attraction of the concept to some Clarionettes. If you look back to the very first episode (on the history page of our website) you'll see that Tom Groom (aka the O' Groomie O) was also Secretary of the Bond Street Labour Church in Birmingham - with my explanatory note. You get I think an idea of the religious radicalism which for some was part of the 'socialist revival' of the1890s. Blatchford's attack on organised religion in God and My Neighbour in 1903 shocked some people more than his socialism. The appearance of the banker in the second stanza of 'A Dream' seems quite contemporary, doesn't it, though they don't seem to be so keen on charitable good deeds (or deodands - see note after the extract) these days?
It would have done the Chief good if he could have attended a smoker that night [the night they arrived in Ashbourne for the Meet. I B] Then did the great souls of the O Groomie O, McAtkinson, and the Grand Old Garbut of Birmingham meet and fraternise with the indomitable Citizen, the Lone Scout, and others of Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford, Halifax, Hanley, Nottingham, and other towns also sent their contingent, and a right merry evening of good fellowship was spent.
I'm sorry to say that we can't find space to mention all the good fellows who gave us "turns" with singing and recitations with "point" and good workmanship. Mind you. Here's one, however, by friend Milner from Bradford Aboo (sic) as an example.
I dreamed a dream that after long hours of pain
And parting, I had died and lived again.
And floating somewhere - far beyond the skikes
Had found the guarded gates of Paradise
Where to the Angel of the Flaming Sword,
I showed my pass signed "Servant of the Lord"
"Enter," the Angel cried, "and have no fear
Friends of your Friend are always welcome here."
I bowed; the doors fled wide, I heard the singing
And saw the blest through golden ether winging
As thick as when an earthly sunbeam floats
Across the room, within it dance the moats
There was a banker, who from fraud-got store,
Had left a deodand to endow the poor;
The grim inquisitor, whose pious zeal
Showed heretics the flames he'd have them feel;
The gallows-houselled felon's care-worn wreath
For what are Hope and Charity to Faith?
But all of those who taught mankind to rise
Above the sordid world of woes and ties,
Of those by whom man's progress was begun
In love and wisdom I beheld not one.
My spirits sank, "Ah, sir, "with grief I cried,
"Have you no souls of the noble sort inside?
I dare not seek to live with such as these.
Where are Aurelius, Zeno, Socrates,
Spinoza, Galileo, Nunquam, where?"
The Angel answered, pointing downwards, "There!"
I turned and fluttered that way in affright
And reached at length a seen of softer light –
Where those I sought, and more with sober mien,
Were talking, active but serene.
"Nunquam" advanced, and , pointing to the door,
Said "Welcome, friend, to Sheol, Hell no more,
These souls you see, to friends of all their kind,
To make the most of evil, had no mind;
And truth to tell, had doubted from the first,
If there could be a region so accured.
Yet finding that in fact some things went ill,
Put forth their practised energy and skill,
Improved the climate, drained the lake of fire,
Talked to the fallen angels, trained the quire:
Put down bad language, stopt theology,
And made the agreeable Limbo that you see."
The O' Groomie O also read a paper dealing with the same subject - the conversion from a Birmingham point of view - of Sheol which was well received.
[After we sang 'The Red Flag' (all the verses!) at Sheila's funeral some people didn't seem to know the meaning of 'pelf' (let's hope because they've never indulged in it themselves) so perhaps I better explain that a 'deodand' is something forfeited or given to God. IB]
Next time - Easter Sunday at the Meet (and the'Beery Person' re-emerges)