Claude Robinson (b.1898) – Writing Lives

Claude Robinson (b.1898)

669 ROBINSON, Claude, These We Have Loved (New Horizon, Bognor Regis, 1982), pp.165 + 28pp. index, 1p. list of abbreviations, 14pp. chapter notes. Illustrated. Central Library, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Born 1898 in Sherborne, Dorset. 2nd son of a schoolteacher. Mother formerly a mill girl. Won scholarship to the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield, in 1911. Attended Oxford University, 1917-20. Passed examination for external honours degree in Classics (London University) in 1929. Married. Family moved to Wakefield in 1908. Lived in Croydon and Surrey from 1920 to 1927, when he moved to Sunderland. Subsequently lived in Jarrow and Newcastle upon Tyne.

Worked for his living during university vacations, including as a private tutor and at the Ministry of Pensions; agent and organiser for the Epsom Divisional Labour Party (1920-1); taught for 3 years at a boarding school in Purley, Surrey, and then for 3 years at Kingston Grammar School; moved to Bede School, Sunderland, in 1927, and became headmaster of Jarrow School in 1934; taught at Dame Allan’s Girls’ School, Newcastle upon Tyne, between 1963 and 1972.

Joined the Independent Labour Party in 1917, distressed by the slaughter of friends in France and the Dardanelles; exempted from military service because of a neck injury; leading member of the Oxford University Socialist Society; Christian; member of Fabian Society; unsuccessful parliamentary candidate for South Croydon in 1925; secretary of the Labour Party’s Finance and Currency Committee at the time of the debate surrounding the return to the Gold Standard; active in the General Strike, being tried and convicted under the Emergency Powers Act of alleged ‘incitement to disaffection among the civilian population’; took part in the Jarrow March of 1936.

Written to challenge the ‘misleading’ versions given of the politics, people and events of the 1920s and 1930s, Robinson provides an important personal assessment of the inter-war Labour movement. Accusing the Labour Party of moral bankruptcy and critical of the ‘bureaucratic’ policies of the Webbs, the author was nevertheless an active and leading propagandist at constituency level and a minor figure in the national arena. Detailed observations are given of the anti-war movement; reactions to the Russian Revolution of 1917; the Labour Party constitution; elections and electioneering; Irish politics; lengthy profiles of leading personalities; and with a full record of his activities during the General Strike and subsequent trial. Secondary themes include bohemian life and ‘free love’, university life and acquaintances, teaching and education. The volume covers the period 1914 to 1934.

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