The Clarion

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The Clarion was a weekly newspaper published by Robert Blatchford, based in the United Kingdom. It was a socialist publication though adopting a British-focused rather than internationalist perspective on political affairs, as seen in its support of the British involvement in the Anglo-Boer Wars and the First World War.


Blatchford and Alexander M. Thompson founded the paper in Manchester in 1891 on a capital of just £400 (£350 from Thompson and Blatchford and the remaining £50 from Robert's brother Montague Blatchford). In it, he serialised his book, Merrie England, and published work by a variety of journalists, including George Bernard Shaw and the cartoonist Walter Crane. The Clarion Women's column was written initially by Eleanor Keeling Edwards and, from October 1895, as the Women's letters page by Julia Dawson, pen name of Mrs Myddleton-Worrall. It was Julia Dawson who pioneered the famous Clarion Vans which toured small towns and villages throughout England and Scotland from 1896 until 1929 spreading socialist propaganda.

A large number of associated clubs and societies (Cycling, Rambling, Choirs (Vocal unions), Handicraft, Field, Drama, and Cinderella clubs) connecting with the newspaper were created, of which the National Clarion Cycling Club still survives, as does the People's Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne, which began its life in 1911 as the Newcastle Clarion Drama Club. The Sheffield Clarion Ramblers were founded in 1900 by G. H. B. Ward, a Labour politician in Sheffield;[1] it is recognised as the first working class rambling club,[2] and is still in existence.

On 27 June 1904, three weeks before the King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra opened Liverpool Cathedral, Jim Larkin and Fred Bower, workmen on the site, composed a message "from the wage slaves employed on the erection of this cathedral" to a future socialist society, and, along with a copy of the Clarion and the Labour Leader, placed it in a biscuit tin deep inside the brickwork and covered it.

Emil Robert Voigt (1883-1973), an English born engineer, and Manchester Clarion movement activist was one of the foremost pioneers of the fledgling Australian broadcasting industry in the early 1920s and the man behind the birth of the progressive radio station 2KY.

20th Century[edit]

Enjoying sales of around 30,000 for many years, some readers left after it adopted a stance in favour of the Second Boer War and against limited women's suffrage. They rose again as it became associated with the Labour Party, and by 1907 had reached 74,000. The paper again lost readers when it supported the First World War. It closed in 1931. However, The New Clarion was founded in 1932, a newspaper that carried similar socialist and recreational content. Moreover, many of the cycling, rambling, theatre and other social clubs associated with the original Clarion continued, leaving a diverse legacy.

Despite, or because of, its popularity the Clarion was viewed with suspicion by both Parliamentary and Marxist socialists and has been treated as little more than a footnote in histories of English socialism. ‘There never was a paper like it’ said Margaret Cole, ‘it was not in the least the preconceived idea of socialist journal. It was not solemn; it was not highbrow … It was full of stories, jokes and verses – sometimes pretty bad verses and pretty bad jokes – as well as articles’. [3]

Robert Blatchford stated in his book My Eighty Years,

I will go as far as to say that during the first ten years of the Clarion's life that by no means popular paper had more influence on the public opinion in this country than any other English journal, The Times included.

The Clarion was also popular in many countries of the British Empire, especially New Zealand and Australia. A Clarion Colony was established in New Zealand in 1901 by William Ranstead. At least one Clarion Cycling Club was established in New Zealand in the 1890s at Christchurch.


The name was adopted by another left wing publication in 2016 which is produced monthly as an "unofficial magazine by Momentum activists" after being initiated by members of The Alliance for Workers' Liberty, although the magazine editorial board consists of a variety of activists from different socialist traditions.


  1. ^ Bill Bevan, From Cairns to Craters: Conservation Heritage Assessment of Burbage, 2006
  2. ^ "Scout's honour", Guardian Unlimited, 17 April 2002
  3. ^ cited by Martin Wright, Robert Blatchford, the Clarion Movement and the crucial years of British socialism, 1891-1900, in Tony Brown (ed.) Edward Carpenter and Late Victorian Radicalism, (London: Frank Cass, 1990), page 75


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