Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club  



The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club in 1894

Though all the feedback I've had has been positive, there hasn't been very much of it – and I'd like to hear your opinion as to whether it's worthwhile me ploughing on with this enterprise. But there has, as I said earlier, been a bit of interest in 'rationals' and related matters. So here's another snippet on that before we turn to the Cycling Club itself. Last time I mentioned how at the end of July 1894 the Clarion had acquired a 'cycling correspondent' with a regular column – one Swiftsure – and I quoted a little piece about 'rationals' from his very first effort.

On the 18 August – amid reports of the emerging sport of cycle racing and so on he writes: -

'My correspondent also says that they have 'women cyclists' who
wear 'rationals' in Bradford (have they? Then I'm coming to Bradford
to see them) but no Clarion Cycle Club. This should be remedied
without delay.'

Quite so, so back to the CCC story.

The Clarion Postbag at this time was a sort of combined letters page and editorial put together by Blatchford himself on the basis of some of the correspondence received from readers. There had been fears among readers that the paper would be forced to close down. The week before, responding to a comment from Leonard Hall in the previous week's edition, which we will return to later, Blatchford had explained that the paper was just about getting by financially, though not able to pay its staff as much as it should. I think that the letter and Blatchford's response tells us a great deal about the relationship that had developed between the paper and at least some of its readers in the early days of the Clarion. On 9 June 1894 this appeared.

The following letter, which comes from the Birmingham Branch of the "Clarion" Cycling Club, may be taken as earnest of the many others sent in by our readers. It is worth noting that this letter, and another equally kind and thoughtful, from the Soho Co-operative Society, reached us before the statement of last week was in print.

Dear Nunquam and Comrades of the Clarion
We, the members of the Clarion Cycling Club have been pumping Leonard Hall during his visit to us as to the circulation of the Clarion, and are heartily sorry to hear that it is not what it should be, nor what we imagined. The news came as a great surprise, as many of us were under the impression that the Clarion was in a flourishing condition; and this, we believe is what is thought by hundreds of other Clarion readers.

We think that it is only fair to us all to make known the real state of affairs, so that each may put his shoulder to the wheel and take his share of making the Clarion safe.

The Clarion is not yours alone, but ours; and we should be allowed to have a hand in saving it. Its going down means personally an interest in life gone; socially as serious blow to our movement. And on these grounds and especially the latter, we ask, as comrades, to be allowed to take our part in its continuance.

Socialists are not very numerous in Birmingham, but 95 percent of them are Nunquamites, and with a few exceptions, all are Clarionettes. The majority of these, we feel certain, will gladly do their best when they learn the true state of affairs. And what is true of Birmingham is no doubt true of other places.

At any rate, give us a chance, and let us show we are comrades in the true sense of the word; for although none of the undersigned have ever met the Clarion staff personally, our sense of comradeship towards you is a vivid as though we meet each day. You will find hundreds of others the same. Put us on our mettle. The Clarion is too good to lose.

I omit the twelve signatures for prudential reasons.


Now, in answer to that manly and generous letter, and many others like it, I have to say that the Clarion is in no danger. Its position is quite safe and its future sound.

But it does not pay the staff a living wage.

As to offers of help, we cannot, of course, accept them. Our friends can do us no good nor do we mean to let them try. We offer our paper for a penny, on the basis of it being worth the money.

We do not ask, nor desire, anyone to buy the Clarion for the sake of the cause, nor for the sake of the staff, nor for anything else. We say, "If you do not think our paper is worth a penny to you do not buy it!' But we think that if you read it you ought to pay for it.

That is our position. We have put it plainly before the readers. We say that if all regular readers of the Clarion paid for the paper we should have double or treble our present circulation, and then we should get a fair wage and our readers get a better paper.


This last bit will seem a bit puzzling. What had alarmed the B'ham Clarion CC started a couple of weeks before [26 May] when Leonard Hall, reporting on Manchester and District, in the paper's 'Notes from the Front' wrote 'I am unpleasantly surprised to find that a number of I.L.P. clubs which owe their existence to Clarion propaganda are – by providing a club copy of this paper - having the incidental (and I am sure unconscious) effect of interfering with the same, as quite a number of ILPers appear to have contracted the simple habit of confining themselves to the use of the communal copy when they used to buy their own.' Blatchford himself was a lot less charitable. He concluded the piece I've quoted above 'I don't honestly think the Labour party are worth the trouble. Men who will try to read their own Labour papers without paying the writer his wages, do not promise to make very good socialists.'

Meaning of course the I L P – the Labour Party wasn't formed (as the Labour Representation Committee until 1900 and officially took on the name Labour Party in 1906.



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