Page 1 of 1


Posted: 22 Apr 2012, 08:41
by Stanley
[Transcript of Daniel Meadows interview with Stan in 1976. Stan died in 1989]

As a young artist I knew nothing of The Clarion …………. But one day in 1976, while working as artist-in-residence to the Borough of Pendle in Lancashire and looking for stories to tell, I came across a dilapidated ramblers' café - a hut in the countryside near Nelson - called Clarion House.

When Robert Blatchford launched the Socialist weekly The Clarion in 1891, circulation was boosted by Clarion Cycle Clubs formed throughout the country to sell the paper and hold meetings. Clarion huts were built by volunteers as refuges where the cyclists could eat their sandwiches and drink pots of tea brewed by local Labour supporters. Before long, the huts became centres for weekend picnics and discussions. Now [1976] it is believed that Nelson's Clarion House at Dimpenley is the last still functioning in England.

a picture story showing members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and ramblers sitting in their Clarion hut drinking tea. The occasion was a conference entitled "A Consumer's Guide to the Social Services” There were about eight people in attendance. High up on the kitchen wall was a framed portrait of the Scottish miner who had founded the ILP in 1893: James Kier- Hardy, pacifist and Westminster's first flat-capped MP. Present in person were the local Labour MP Doug Hoyle and the then National Chairman of the ILP, Stan Iveson.

The Quakers in me liked Stan. He provided a privileged glimpse through the firebox door of English socialism. Not the whole thing, of course, but enough of a red glow to be warming - it's not a history you hear discussed much these days - and so, one evening in the early summer of 1976, I took a stroll up one of Nelson's steep, cobbled streets to interview him.

The Only Plumber in Walton Gaol
Stan Iveson was born on 29 June 1912, coincidentally the same day that the ILP bought the land on which to build the Clarion House.

STAN: I started work as a weaver when I left school. In the mill. Both my parents were weavers. My sister was a weaver. My wife Ivy was a weaver. I went tentin' [an unskilled assistant] but I didn't stick it. Three months it lasted, then I started in the building trade, Nelson Co-op. The third of October 1926. The year of the General Strike. I'm a plumber. The strike was over by then, except for the miners who were still out.

The ILP started in 1893 with an inaugural conference in Bradford, but there was an ILP in Nelson before the official inaugural meeting. We've been going that long. We had a big set of rooms here in Nelson right through until disaffiliation from the Labour Party in 1932. In Nelson, when I were just starting out, the ILP had roughly a thousand members and a full-time organiser. Clarion House was the third building we had for Socialist Fellowship, there had been two earlier buildings before we moved there.

As a nipper I used to go up to the Socialist Sunday School in the ILP Hall on Vernon Street, in fact I was wheeled over there in a pram. It wasn't teaching religion. It was teaching ethics. We always maintained that ethics weren't something confined to Catholics, Protestants, Methodists or any other church. Ethics can be talked about without talking about Almighties. Socialism had its precepts like the church had its commandments.

In Nelson the teachers and the superintendents were all members of the ILP.
Even though the Socialist Sunday School movement had no particular political affiliation, they ran it. So to us as kids the ILP and the Socialist Sunday School were one and the same thing. When I grew up I used to teach in the Socialist Sunday School and I taught what I knew as an ILPer. There was an adult class with 50 or 6o members.

I joined the ILP at 14, which makes 50 years this year. I've got me certificate. I took the Chair in a debate on capital punishment and I've been anti-hanging ever since. The ILP's always been against medieval practices like that.

Anyway there were strikes galore, and a lot of them held their meetings in the ILP rooms. We ran food kitchens in the ILP rooms during the Depression. In 1928, together with another apprentice plumber, I fixed the big boilers they used for making soup to feed the hungry. I were brought up on strike pay, and lock-out pay, and unemployment pay. My parents were always on strike ... over a fourpenny mantle once. Somebody broke a mantle [the element of a gaslight] and was required to pay for its replacement and the union brought everyone out on strike.

We took part in every demonstration there was. I was in that one in 1932 - I were what, 20? - the one they call the Battle of Pendle Street, when the weavers were on strike against the "more looms system". And mounted police charged them with batons drawn. I wasn't a weaver, but if the weavers were against it, we were against it and I were there when the stones were being thrown. I don't throw stones, I'm not putting any halo round me head, I just don't think it proves anything. But I was there when the batons were bashing about and when one gets you like that and you feel the waft of it it's pretty hefty.

1 wasn't hit but I was caught. Outside the old Liberal Club it was. There was a painter there, in the crowd, one of the mildest types I ever knew, wouldn't say boo to a goose. And when the police grabbed me a little circle gathered round. A lot of women, and women can often get very tough can't they? And this painter, and I can see that feller today. I were more surprised than the coppers. He said: "Let that lad go!" And his eyes were flashin'. And that young bobby was scared to death and he let me go.

When the Jarrow Hunger Marches were on I was still only an apprentice and I remember crying outside Nelson Weavers, not at the poverty, but because they wouldn't let me join the march.

I went cycling a lot as a boy. But, you know, there wasn't a Clarion Cycle Club in Nelson at the time, so I rode with the Nelson Weavers' Cycle Club. Thousands would set off on a Sunday morning from round here.

I must have been in a hundred and one demonstrations. There used to be a Speakers' Corner in Nelson, near where the Arndale Centre is now. I got a lot of my training there - in the rough way - arguing with Mormons, Catholics, Communists, even the Tories used to have a do up there. We'd argue into the small hours on a Friday night. That was my training, that and the ILP classes. They ran speaker's classes, they ran classes on current affairs. And every one of us were active in our unions. I were on the committee before I were out of me time. When I were 20. And at 23 I were the Union Secretary.

The ILP was involved in everything. The majority of the Co-op committee was made up of ILP members. The majority of Nelson Weavers Committee were members of the ILP. Some of the General Workers. The ILP was the association which held the dances. We had concerts; a billiard team that played in the Socialist Sunday School League. We had a cricket team. We'd a football team. Really, it was the ILP that played a major part in the town until 1932 and disaffiliation.

The big division between the ILP and the Labour Party was about its attitude towards war. Nelson had a very high concentration of Conscientious Objectors during the First World War. The highest percentage in the country. And there were a lot in the last war too. There were scores and scores here. And they were treated very badly during the First World War.

We didn't have it anything like as bad during the Second World War. I was a
Conscientious Objector and I've been in prison twice. In 1942 and '43. In fact I probably were treated one of the best of anyone in prison.

You see, prison is like the capitalist world: there are good jobs for the few, good positions, and the many gets the rough end of the stick, don't they? Well a fellow goes in without a trade or er ... well, I wouldn't say any of us has a high mentality, but many of these criminals, well, I always thought they were a bit lower than me (Laughs) They gave them mailbag sewing, the real scruffy ones, I shouldn’t use them words should I? But you'll know how to sort them out for me - anyway the rougher type, if you like, they got whitewashing to do and that sort of thing. Well our lads, conchies or COs, all got something pretty good.

For instance, Gilbert Kinder - who was wonderful at writing - the screws had him as a cleaner on the landings. Now, outside your cell door is a big board with VEGETARIAN on it or ORDINARY DIET, what your job is, your date of release and so on and so forth, there's quite a number of tickets slotted in. And Gilbert did these tickets in this wonderful lettering for his screw. So he had quite a pleasant job. Others got in the kitchen, some were in the stores but I ... I was the only plumber in Walton Gaol. When they found out I was a Plumber they gave me a lot of latitude because there weren't a plumber tradesman amongst ‘em. I was never short of customers in Walton Gaol.

Not like Nelson, where there was always one or two customers who would refuse to have me because of my politics. I could mention one in particular who wouldn't have me until, shortly after, she had a burst pipe and I was the only plumber she could get and she were desperate. But I wouldn't turn out for her (laughs). I shouldn't swank about that, but I can't help swanking a bit! For all I know the ceiling's still running through (laughs). One does get satisfaction out of such things ... but one shouldn't, I know.

With remission I came out before the six months were up because we'd all appealed while we were in prison and my appeal was upheld. It was part of the game to appeal against the sentence. Politically it was important to appeal.

Out of prison I was offered ambulance work, fire brigade, hospital work, land work and so on. And I turned them down. Gilbert went draining. Well I refused to do that, Some of us took the view that it weren’t just the thing to do, to go on the land and maybe turn a feller off the land whose job it had been. So I was sentenced again for refusing a tribunal order. Three months I got this time. Ivy got some anonymous letters after that while I were away.

I never had a lot of hostility from people in Nelson because - and I've always said this to Ivy and I think she agrees - had I gone in the army people could have been more critical about how I'd backed down, with me being known for so long as a pacifist.

Transcribed 25/02/06
1927 words.


Posted: 08 Jul 2016, 06:38
by Stanley
I've bumped this to reinforce Ian's post about Clarion House......


Posted: 26 Aug 2016, 03:26
by Stanley