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A Clarion Call

Robert Tressell and his daughter Kathleen, circa 1896
Robert Tressell and his daughter Kathleen, circa 1896

Reading the Guardian newspaper like reading any newspaper, has become a minority pursuit. Personally, I cannot make it through a bowl of cereal without it. But, last week the bowl almost dropped into my lap as I saw reference to an aspect of Labour History that I hold dear: the Clarion Cyclists. Surely, few others knew of these proselytisers of Socialism who toured the country in late Victorian and Edwardian England.

However, this was not about history, they were still around, albeit not, as far as I am aware, distributing Socialist pamphlets to rural villages. These were modern day cyclists and they were objecting to the attempt to alter their constitution – namely, the part that said they were Socialist! Apparently, this was not inclusive enough and may have deterred potential recruits. You do not have to be a Telegraph reader to be appalled at this cynical appeal to use inclusiveness.

It reminded me of the chapter in the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists where the Socialist Cyclists arrive in Mugsborough and are met with violence. Hence it seemed a good opportunity to plug Tressell’s classic in the pages of a major newspaper. You can read my letter to the Guardian, published on 18 June, here:

“Dear Editor,

Readers of Robert Tressell’s socialist novel ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ will be aware that the 'Socialist Cyclists' are met with violence by a howling mob in Mugsborough. (Fight for socialism on two wheels, 17th June) The victim then turns to the other side to speak against socialism for money. Do present day Clarions sense a turncoat behind the attempts to alter their constitution?

Yours fraternally

Trevor Hopper”.

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