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Lancashire's Romantic Radical: the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton
by Paul Salveson


Allen Clarke Teddy Ashton
21cm x 21cm illustrated book.
ISBN 978-0-9559171-2-7
£12.95 plus £2.50 P&P

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Lancashire’s Forgotten Genius: Allen Clarke Finally Gets His Recognition

He wrote over twenty novels, corresponded with Thomas Hardy and Tolstoy, and his writing was loved by tens of thousands of Lancashire mill workers. His dialect sketches sold over a million copies and his book on the cotton industry helped to win the campaign against child labour in the mills. Arguably, his humorous sketches about life in Lancashire helped to win more people to Labour’s cause than many of the more weighty polemics of his contemporaries. Yet today, Allen Clarke – or his pseudonym Teddy Ashton, is little known even in his native Lancashire.

Lancashire’s Romantic Radical: the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton is both an introduction to his life, spanning the years 1863 to 1935, and an outline of his work covering the novels, plays and short stories, poetry, political and philosophical writings – and his love of cycling. He was an environmentalist decades before the term was invented, wanting to ‘dust the soot of the petals of the Red Rose’.

Allen Clarke was born in Bolton in 1863. He was the son of factory workers and he himself went to work in the mills from the age of 11. He fought his way into journalism after working as a pupil teacher. He set up Lancashire’s first labour newspaper, ‘The Labour Light’, in 1890.

He settled in Blackpool from 1905, becoming Lancashire’s most well-loved writer. He developed a penchant for humour with a radical cutting edge. He wrote lovingly of the Lancashire moors and of the Fylde countryside, which he christened ‘Windmill Land’.

Clarke’s newspaper ‘Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly’ was read by thousands of cotton workers and their families who loved his ‘Tum Fowt’ dialect sketches. He promoted the work of many Lancashire writers who came together in Rochdale in 1909 to create the body which became the Lancashire Authors Association. Clarke was the first Chairman.

‘Allen Clarke was one of the most fascinating figures in Northern literature – he wrote over 20 novels, published a weekly newspaper, wrote poetry, philosophy and children’s sketches,’ said Paul. ‘His book on the cotton industry – The Effects of the Factory System was translated into Russian by Leo Tolstoy. His book on spiritualism and philosophy, The Eternal Question, was admired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Lancashire’s Romantic Radical introduces a new generation of Lancastrians to Allen Clarke’s life and work. Much of what he had to say about life, politics and the environment are as relevant now as they were in his own time.’

 

Comments from Readers

“Paul Salveson has brought the Bolton (and Blackpool) socialist Allen Clarke back from undeserved obscurity. He is perfectly placed to do so: a Bolton man himself, his established expertise in dialect literature, the popular romantic socialism of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century, and the extraordinarily enduring circle of worshippers at the shrine of Walt Whitman in the city, provides him with the grounding and expertise to tell Clarke's story and place him in context.

Late Victorian and Edwardian Bolton contained a remarkable spectrum of political and cultural radicals, drawn from all ranks of society from labourers to factory owners, and stirring up a ferment of physical and intellectual activity, from the Clarion Cycling Club to the Co-operative Holidays Association. Clarke was at the core of this, and his principles led him into the pursuit of reform and recreation through journalism, poetry and the promotion of rambling and the appreciation of Lancashire life and rural tradition. He could be acerbic and his ventures did not always prosper, but he never lost his enthusiasm for sharing ideas about how to live a more satisfying life while changing society in the process. Paul Salveson helps us to understand the man and the society in which he lived and worked, and offers transferable messages about today's needs and problems in the process”.

Professor John Walton, Institute of Northern Studies,
Leeds Carnegie University.

 

 

 

 


“This is an example of
what good socialist local history should look like”

Chartist magazine, July / August 2009

Salveson evokes a lost world of working class culture, with an almost naive belief in the world-changing power of socialism and solidarity.
Long before the Kinder Scout mass trespasses of the 1930s, Boltonians had reclaimed their moor in the Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. I didn’t know that and I learned much more besides from this fascinating account. It really ought to be on the shelves of every self-respecting leftie, not just in Lancashire.
 

Paul Routledge in ‘Tribune’
June 4th 2009 ’