Sunday 8 March 2009

Clarion - "Football, not Cannonballs"

Tom Groom famous for his role in establishing the "Socialist" Clarion Cycling Club had by the 1920's devoted himself to promoting the International Workers Sports movement (International Union for Workers' Physical Education & Sport) and later the International Workers Sports Association.

Its objective was to encourage socialist youth of both sexes, who were fighting capitalism, and that it aimed to develop in them the taste for, and the practice of, physical education, sports, gymnastics, cycle racing and cycle touring.

At the same time they advocated the use of the Esperanto language to reinforce progress towards breaking down misunderstanding between people of different countries and "Killing the war spirit.

The Clarion Cycling Club joined the British Workers' Sports Federation (affilated to the Red Sports International)

Tom Groom set about raising the necessary money to bring a football team from the Labour Sports Federation in France to the 1921 Clarion Cycling Club meet at Chester (Chester FC's ground) to play a Clarion team. The ceremonial kick off was performed by veteran socialist H.M. Hyndman wearing his famous top hat.

In 1922 the Clarion Football team played a return fixture in Paris, at Clarion the Easter meet in London 1923 a french team played a Clarion team, the French team winning 2-1.

These matches were promoted under the slogan "Footballs, not Cannonballs" as part of what was described in the Clarion as a new movement towards international peace by substituting sport for militarism.

Article in Bolton Cycling Clarion newsletter 1937

With the Clarion Cycling Club In Paris & Brussels, June 1922

In 1922 the Clarion C.C. were invited, to send athletes to compete in various events in Paris and Brussels, against teams selected from members of the "International Workers Sports Federation". The Clarion Cycling Club at that time, was the only organisation, affiliated to the I.W.S.F., in this country, so the members of the various branches of the Clarion Fellowship subscribed to a Sports Fund and it became possible to send Cyclists, Footballers and Swimmers in June 1922.

A tour had been arranged so that anyone who wished, could travel with the Teams, and as about fifty people had arranged their holidays to come with us, we were promised some vocal support. We duly arrived in Paris, and were met by an enthusiastic crowd. Some of them were old friends, who had competed against us previously and it was all vary nice to see them again.

Greetings over, we were taken to the Co-op Hall where a Banquet awaited us. It would be impossible for me to pronounce the various courses, there would be about twelve of them, also several sorts of wines, but after about two hours of feasting and being toasted and generally having a good time, we were taken to our hotel where we were glad to get to bed.

The following day, Sunday, June 5th.1922, was the Sports Day, so we were taken to St. Denis on the outskirts of Paris, to the football field, A gymnastic display was being given when we arrived, by a team of girls from Czechoslovakia and what a fine team they were.

The Football Match was the next event, and so we had to get stripped as soon as possible. The footballers were given a great ovation, the band played us on to the field to the tune of the "Internationale", the Clarion Captain was presented with a bouquet of flowers and then we kicked off before a crowd of about 10,000 people who had come to watch 22 "working lads" battle with a football instead of cannon balls! The Clarion team were soon in trouble, "Bob" Boddy, our goalie was injured, when he collided with an opponent, and although we covered him as well as we could, the French team beat him three times with high shots, which he was unable to reach, owing to his injuries.

I felt sorry for 'Bob' for he was a real good goalie, and he was beat with shots which he could have stopped without much trouble normally. However it was the luck of the game. At half time we were all being treated for various aches and pains, due mostly to the hardsun-baked ground, which was like rough concrete, and very different from the soft muddy grounds we were used to playing on. In the second half we put all we knew into the game, but although we had more of the play and did more attacking, we could not get past the French goalie who was like 'a cat on hot bricks' for agility and so we were beaten, but not disgraced.

After the football match we all went off to see the swimming events, which were being held in a branch of a canal close by the cyclists had already gone off on their 50 Kilometer road race, which was run in the Continental style, with a massed start. We had four riders in the event, but we had to wait until the riders came back before we knew the story of the race.

Our swimmers soon gave us something to shout about. with the Scott family from Atherton very prominent. The three Clarion ladies won the team event for us. Then, Pa Scott and his son Tommy, along with George Harrison from Oldham, (the last named had played football previously) won the gents team race. Then Tommy Scott won the 500 meters free style event in as glorious a race anyone could wish to see.

Did we shout? most of the people were past it by now, they had used their lungs to such purpose that they could only whisper to each other. Tommy Scott wasthe hero, a lad of about 16 years, who walked about dry land like a sailor would, who had not stepped ashore for about 12 months, but in the water, fishes crawled under stones, when they saw him, and 'tucked their heads underneath their fins';, ashamed of themselves. It was a good job for Tommy that his sister was there to look after his bouquets. At the conclusion of the swimming events, we got word that Harry Williamson had won the cycle race for us, and another Clarion rider came in third, after being off the course. The other two riders had trouble, so we did very well in this event, although it had not been possible for us to give our riders our vocal support during the race,

After the Sports we were entertained to another banquet, Speeches were made, various people got up and said something, we did not know what, we only knew it was something about Peace through Sport, and we all agreed with that, We were toasted, and the International Workers Sports Federation was toasted. Tom Groom, our National President should have replied, but thanks to Tommy Scott and our swimmers, his voice had gone, and so he just could not do it,

The following day we all went to Versailles and roamed about the Palace Grounds. We saw the Hall of Mirrors, where the Peace Treaty was signed in 1919, and other places of French historical interest. On our way back from Versailles, a halt was called at a wayside Beer Garden, where welcome drinks were served to us in large glasses, and then back to Paris.

On Tuesday we were left to do as we liked, it being our last day in Paris, so we split up into small groups and roamed about the city, visiting the various noted show places and boulevards which make Paris so famous, The Clarion football team and supporters left Paris, for Brussels,

On the Wednesday morning, and we were given a good send off by our French comrades, The journey to Brussels was very tiring, the sun was hot, the train was very slow, and to make matters worse, there was not a dining car on the train. We had taken a wrong train. However we had to make the best of it. After several hours of crawling along with numerous short stops, we eventually reached the Frontier. It seemed to take us hours to get through, first the French customs, and then the Belgian customs, then we got going at last, but there were no prospects of food or drink until we got to Brussels.

We did have a little interlude to break the monotony of the journey. At one of the small stations where we stopped for a few minutes, there was a hawker selling fruit. Joe Atherton, 'one of the Bolton boys' jumped down to purchase enough for our carriage, and gave the man a coin about the value of two shillings. 'Joe' expected some change, the train began to move. Joe had been in the Army, so he knew a few words, and he used them grabbed some more fruit and jumped into the train as it was gathering speed "Leave it to Joe".

We got to Brussels at last, in time for Supper, having been without food since breakfast time. The Belgian people took us to a hotel close to the station, and we were soon enjoying our supper. Then off to bed, for we were all very weary. The next day we were conducted round Brussels. First we went on to the roof of the Co-operative Hall to see the Panorama of Brussels.

The most prominent building was the Cathedral, S.S.Michel et Gudule, which towered over the city like a sentinel. I am afraid most of us were not in the right mood for sight seeing, being stiff and sore after the long train journey of the day before, but I was certainly impressed by the beautiful carving and statues on the Cathedral, when I got a closer view of it. It surely must rank as one of the finest buildings of its kind in the world.

As we had to play football the following day it was thought advisable for the team to rest as much as possible and concentrate on getting as fit as we could. We wanted to win this match, and we had been told that the Belgians were a better team than the French. We got another great reception from a crowd of about 6,000.

The Continental people do, like to see an English football team. We marched on to the field arm in arm with the Belgians, whilst the band played the "Internationale". The game started, and the Clarion team were soon in trouble, Joe Atherton with a thigh injury and I with a sprained ankle - 'Souvenirs from, Paris is'. The hard ground which we had again to play on-had soon found our weak spots, and two of us were virtually passengers for the rest of the game. Under the circumstances it was no surprise, when we were again beaten, but only by the odd goal, after one of the sternest battles of football I have ever experienced.

The Belgians were very fast and vigorous, and although our defense stood up to them very well, our forwards, with two cripples, could not work up any successful attack. However, although the Clarion had lost both football matches, we had given a good account of ourselves in other events, and after all what does it matter who wins, the game was played in a sporting manner. "Peace through Sport" is our Motto, and if we have through our visit, sown a few seeds, which will produce in the future International Peace, and Co-operation throughout the world, it will have been well worth our efforts.

May 1937 Bolton Clarion Cycling Club Journal