The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club in 1894
The picnic idea gains support, Clarion Scouts, and 'Bewicke' writes from Newcastle
You may recall that near the end of May 1894, Leonard Hall had suggested 'why not have a great 'Clarion' picnic for all and sundry some August weekend, in some happy English valley, to which should come the faithful from the four corners of the world, on wheels, on legs, in trains,' On 16 June readers heard once more from the Birmingham Clarion Cycling Club. 'Mr C. J. Thompson, hon. sec.' wrote as follows (and Blatchford replied):-
Re. Clarion picnic suggested by Leonard Hall. I have received many letters from all parts north of Birmingham. The general opinion seems to be that it would be a great success and would do good.
Our committee wish me to ask you to carry out the idea, if possible and make the following suggestion, that we meet at Ashbourne, in Derbyshire, on the third Saturday in August, which is a general holiday in the North.
This project shall receive our distinguished consideration as soon as that commodity is fit for use. At present it is slightly out of repair, having been engaged in a serious business encounter on the Blackpool sands.
Meanwhile, also in Birmingham, the CCC or some of them, were already engaged in a parallel and overlapping exercise in launching the 'Clarion Scouts' (bear in mind this is more than a decade before Baden Powell so the word 'scout' would have probably suggested Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill, or such like acting as an army 'scout' in the Wild West or in other exciting and challenging environment.] The man who was to become synonymous with Clarion cycling over the next decades appeared also in this context. On 7 July 'Notes from the Front reported the inaugural meeting, with 50 present, of the 'Nunquam Scouts' – 'The orders from the commanding officer were read out by Tom Groom.'
Then at the end of July (28 July) 'Bewicke' wrote to the paper as follows:-
I am an ardent cyclist and have long desired to organise a Clarion C.C. I mentioned the matter some months ago to a prominent Socialist here, who promised to bring the matter forward at the next meeting of the Independent Labour party. This, however, I now find he has not done, and I write to ask whether you will be good enough to mention the subject in the Clarion, requesting all Clarionettes in Newcastle who are cyclists, and who are in favour of the idea, to communicate with me with the purpose of getting the affair started as soon as possible. I am aware it is somewhat late in the season to commence a cycling club, but still, there is no harm in doing so, as we will be all better prepared for next season.
The principal objects of the club will be to visit outlying districts and scatter Clarions and Socialistic literature among the mining and agricultural population; and if we have any good speakers amongst us, deliver address on Labour and social questions.
I shall be glad if secretaries of existing cycling clubs will favour me with rules and other particulars they may deem helpful.
In conclusion, allow me to thank you and the other members of your staff for the glorious revolution the Clarion has effected in me. I now have a purpose in life and my heart yearns to relieve and mitigate the intense poverty and misery existing round about me. Words are inadequate to express all I owe to you. Before reading your paper I was a rank Tory and Sunday school teacher.
Splendid stuff, eh? Next time – The Clarion CC continues to spread and 'Swiftsure' has words to say about 'Cyclo-Phobia' – demonstrating beyond dispute that it didn't, as is widely believed, originate in the Argus a few years back.