This was the first meeting for the society since March 2020. The
September meeting is the annual general meeting, but at short
notice, Shirley, who was booked for August, was happy to
re-schedule and give her talk following proceedings.
Shirley’s interesting and engaging talk centred around the life
of her paternal grandfather, Charles Allen Clarke, who was born
in Bolton in 1863. He became a popular, author, poet and
journalist, writing about the condition of the working class.
His experiences came from a childhood working in terrible
conditions in the cotton mills that frequently left the children
with life changing injuries and, in many cases, death.
Shirley Clarke Matthews
It was during his childhood that he went on a very rare, day
trip on the train to the Fylde coast. After the utter bleakness
of a mill town, the sight of green fields, the sea, and a
windmill, left him with an overwhelming urge to return when
After surviving those working conditions, he was able
to build on a basic education and found employment in a Bolton
based publisher. This gave him the basis to start to produce his
own material that had a strong message regarding the condition
and treatment of the working class.
He wrote under many
pseudonyms, with Teddy Ashton becoming one of his most popular.
This success and popularity led him to meet famous individuals,
such as Thomas Hardy and King George V.
He was known as ‘A
Champion of the Worker’ and ‘Poet of the Poor’s. His involvement
with the Bolton Clarion cyclists, Blackpool Ramble Club, the
‘Daisy Colony’, and Little Marton windmill, Blackpool,
reinforced his commitment to improving the lives of the working
Shirley’s excellent presentation brought to life a,
now little known, very popular social writer and activist.
Charles Allen Clarke (1863–1935),
widely known as C.