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Albert Victor Grayson, the seventh son of William Grayson, a carpenter, and his mother Elizabeth Craig Grayson, was born in Liverpool on 5th September, 1881. According to his biographer, David Clark, some people have claimed that he was the "love child of one of the English aristocracy and that he had been placed with Mrs Grayson in exchange for financial assistance". (1)
Another source claims he was related to Winston Churchill. (2) According to Jane, who worked for the Grayson family, was told by Elizabeth Grayson that Victor's father was George Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough. (3)
Grayson was educated at St Mathew's Church of England School on Scotland Road. As a child he suffered from a stammer and was teased about it at school. (4) At the age of fourteen he ran away from home and attempted to stow away on board a ship bound for Australia. After four days at sea he was discovered and returned to his parents. (5)
In 1899 Grayson started work as an apprentice engineer in Bootle, Lancashire. He joined the union and over the next couple of years became very interested in the emerging socialist movement. However, his mother was deeply religious and wanted him to become a church minister and in 1904 he entered Owen's College in Manchester to train for the Unitarian ministry. (6)
Grayson attended services at the Bethel Mission and he was soon gaining his earliest experience in public speaking, first as a Sunday School teacher, and then by addressing outdoor Christian meetings. (7) Grayson later told William Stead, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette that he decided to concentrate on his political activities: "It was useless to expect true religion in a social system such as the present - better conditions could only come by political action.... I was determined that my university career was to be a really useful one. I must agitate among my fellow students." (8)
Grayson learnt about politics by reading The Clarion, Justice and The Labour Leader. Grayson also attended meetings of the Socialist Debating Society at the Liverpool Mission Hall and made speeches in the college. One of his fellow students pointed out: "If the word went round that Grayson was talking in the Common Room we would flock down in crowds... it was all socialism, it was a kind of religion with him." (9)
Grayson joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP). Formed in 1893 the main objective of the ILP was "to secure the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange". Leading figures in this organisation included Keir Hardie, Robert Smillie, George Bernard Shaw, Tom Mann, George Barnes, Bruce Glasier, H. H. Champion, Ben Tillett, Edward Carpenter and Ramsay Macdonald. (10)
In Liverpool Grayson developed a reputation as a superb orator. Most days he could be found standing on his soap box giving lectures on socialism. The university authorities became concerned about Grayson neglecting his studies and asked one of the ILP leaders, Philip Snowden, to speak to him. Snowden was unable to persuade Grayson to continue his studies. Grayson told Snowden that the university was a "make-believe refuge" and he intended to work in the real world. Over the next couple of years Grayson toured the industrial districts giving lectures on socialism. His reputation grew and he was seen as a future leader of the recently formed Labour Party. (11)
In August 1905, Grayson wrote to a friend who shared his socialist beliefs: "You've probably read about the unemployment disturbances here. The next few weeks promise some stormy scenes... These are glorious days, Dawson, and we youthful warriors should be brightening our armour and poising for the fight. Lancashire is in a state of seething fermentation and I want God to send a fire to burn up some of the already smouldering rubbish." (12)
Grayson's biographer, David Howell, has pointed out: "Unemployment was high in Manchester during 1905 and Grayson emerged as a popular and effective speaker at demonstrations. His passion for socialism replaced his religious commitment, and in July 1906 he withdrew from his course. Grayson's subsequent political rise was meteoric. In significant respects his experience of the labour movement was narrow. He preferred the emotions of the platform to the humdrum tasks of political organization." (13)
In January 1907, the Independent Labour Party in Colne Valley selected Victor Grayson as their parliamentary candidate to replace Tom Mann, who had decided to concentrate on trade union matters. In the past, there had been an arrangement where the labour movement supported the Liberal Party candidate in Colne Valley in return for help in winning other seats for ILP candidates. The executive of the Labour Party therefore decided not to endorse Grayson as their candidate. In choosing their candidate the people of Colne Valley "selected someone with little experience whom they trusted." (14)
Keir Hardie was unhappy with the decision. He wrote to John Bruce Glasier that "I don't like the man they have chosen but that cannot be helped". Hardie later reported: "Mr Grayson's work in the movement, valuable as it had been, was a matter of very few years... There was neither anger nor bias against Mr Grayson, but simply a desire that men who had grown grey in the movement should not feel that they were put aside to make room for younger men." (15)
Victor Grayson became a regular speaker in the town. Kenneth O. Morgan points out that Grayson was "a spell-binding orator, with a kind of film-star charisma, a supreme rebel propelled from nowhere to smash down the crumbling edifice of British capitalism". What was also surprising that he was able to do it in Colne Valley: "How could the solid, respectable, nonconformist cotton and woollen workers of Colne Valley, close to much older forms of industrial production, relatively well-housed and well-paid, and almost all in regular employment allow themselves to be so swept up in the millenarian intensity of Grayson's crusade in 1907?" (16)
The Colne Valley Guardian was shocked by the appeal of Grayson's socialist campaign: "It is somewhat of a paradox but nevertheless true, that the measure of its discontent, and the higher the wages, the more eager is the straining after the chimerical ideals of Socialism. For the last seven or eight years the Colne Valley has enjoyed an unparalleled period of commercial prosperity. That has not been due entirely to the manufacturers, nor yet to the mill-workers but to both combined." (17)
Harry Hoyle, who was only 12 years old at the time, remembers Grayson speaking in the town: "I can picture him now in front of the Co-op at the Market Place in Marsden. They had a wagon for a platform... He seemed so enthusiastic about everything he attempted, he gave you the impression that this is what we want and this is what we must have... it was infectious. It was really. People just went hay-wire. They went mad at his meetings." (18)
Colne Valley ILP refused to back down and in the by-election held in July, 1907, Grayson stood as an Independent Socialist candidate. Only three leading figures in the ILP, Katherine Glasier, Philip Snowden and J. R. Clynes were willing to speak at his meetings during the campaign. As Reg Groves, the author of The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975), has pointed out: "The socialists had no money, save the pennies collected amongst their fellow workers in the mills and factories and at meetings. As the campaign grew, money was raised by more desperate measures; watches, household goods, even wedding rings were pawned to keep the supply of money flowing. They had no efficient, smooth working electoral machinery; it had to be improvised on the spot. The trade union machinery which might well have added much in the way of organisation and wide-flung influence was not likely to give its unstinted support, since the Labour Party refused its endorsement; the ILP, too, was antagonistic, and many of the local union officials favoured a policy of working with the Liberals, not against them." (19)
Although the ILP was committed to the parliamentary road to socialism, during the election, Grayson advocated revolution. In his election address Grayson wrote: I am appealing to you as one of your own class. I want emancipation from the wage-slavery of Capitalism. I do not believe that we are divinely destined to be drudges. Through the centuries we have been the serfs of an arrogant aristocracy. We have toiled in the factories and workshops to grind profits with which to glut the greedy maw of the Capitalist class. Their children have been fed upon the fat of the land. Our children have been neglected and handicapped in the struggle for existence. We have served the classes and we have remained a mob. The time for our emancipation has come. We must break the rule of the rich and take our destinies into our own hands. Let charity begin with our children. Workers, who respect their wives, who love their children, and who long for a fuller life for all. A vote for the landowner or the capitalist is treachery to your class. To give your child a better chance than you have had, think carefully ere you make your cross. The other classes have had their day. It is our turn now." (20)
At least forty clergymen worked on Grayson's behalf. His supporters sung Jerusalem, England Arise and The Red Flag at meetings and their main slogan was "Socialism - God's Gospel for Today". (21) One of his most important campaigners was W. B. Graham, the giant curate of Thongsbridge. The left-wing journalist, Robert Blatchford, described him as "six foot a socialist and five inches a parson". Graham's mission was the "Christianizing of Christianity". (22)
Grayson also campaigned for votes for women. Hannah Mitchell joined his campaign and later recalled: "I must have worked the Colne Valley from end to end, often under the auspices of the Colne Valley Labour League. Sometimes we just went... from door to door to ask the women to come and listen (to Victor Grayson), which the Colne Valley women were usually willing to do." (23) Emmeline Pankhurst also visited the town in support of Grayson. (24) The Daily Mirror pointed out that "Colne Valley mill girls... many of them who cared nothing about votes before are now eager in their desire to enjoy the privileges of the franchise." (25)
In one of his speeches Grayson outlined his view on women's suffrage: "The placing of women in the same category, constitutionally, as infants, idiots and Peers, does not impress me as either manly or just. While thousands of women are compelled to slave in factories, etc., in order to earn a living; and others are ruined in body and soul by unjust economic laws created and sustained by men, I deem it the meanest tyranny to withhold from women the right to share in making the laws they have to obey. Should I be honoured with your support, I am prepared to give the most immediate and enthusiastic support to a measure giving women the vote on the same terms as men. This is as a step to the larger measure of complete Adult Suffrage." (26)
The election took place on 18th July, 1907. Almost every eligible registered elector cast his vote and a turn-out of eighty-eight per cent was recorded. Grayson received 3,648 votes and this gave him a majority over his two opponents: Philip Bright - Liberal (3,495) and Grenville Wheeler - Conservative (3,227). The Daily Express reported that Grayson's victory illustrated the "menace of socialism" and reported on 20th July, 1907: "The Red Flag waves over the Colne Valley... the fever of socialism has infected thousands of workers, who, judging from their merriment this evening, seem to think Mr Grayson's return means the millennium for them." (27)
In his victory speech Grayson pointed out: "The very first joy that comes to my mind is this, that this epoch-making victory has been won for pure revolutionary socialism... You have voted, you have worked for socialism: you have voted, you have worked for the means of life to be the property of the whole class instead of a few small classes. We stand for equality, human equality, sexual equality... It is a splendid victory comrades." (28)
Wilfred Whiteley was a local member of the ILP: "The winning of Colne Valley was largely due to his vivacity and his enthusiasm, and his youth; and it just carried the day. I would say that it was almost entirely the platform work of Grayson that gave him his appeal, and that led people to follow him, and of course his great capacity for telling stories really attracted the listeners to a tremendous degree." (29)
The Independent Labour Party and the Social Democratic Federation welcomed Grayson's victory as it showed that a revolutionary socialist could be elected to Parliament. The Labour Party was unhappy with Grayson's victory as it posed a threat to their relationship with the Liberal Party. In the House of Commons he attacked the gradualism of the Labour Party: "We are advised to advance imperceptibly - to go at a snail's pace - to take one step at a time. Surely there are some young enough to take two steps or more at a time." (30)
In his maiden speech in the House of Commons Grayson criticised the recent decision to grant the diplomat, Evelyn Baring, the 1st Earl of Cromer, £50,000 for his services in Egypt. He attacked the government for rewarding a man for "consolidating Imperialism". Grayson added that Cromer had already been well-paid "while outside the four walls of this House people are dying of starvation". Pointing to the government front-bench he said he was looking forward to the day when those seats "will be occupied by socialists, sent there by an indignant people".
On Tuesday, 31st October, 1908, Grayson stood up in the House of Commons and shouted out: "I wish to move the adjournment of the House so that it can deal with the unemployment question... people are starving in the streets." When he refused to sit down he was escorted from the Commons. As he left he turned to Labour members and shouted: "You are traitors! Traitors to your class." (31)
Grayson was now suspended from the House of Commons. Grayson's actions gained the approval of people like George Bernard Shaw, but provoked predictable hostility from Labour members. (32) "Grayson's activities were profoundly embarrassing to his colleagues, both because these activities were deemed to compromise the Labour Group's respectability, and also because they offered to the activists a striking contrast with the Group's own lack of impact." (33)
Keir Hardie, the leader of the ILP, was quick to make it clear that he completely rejected the tactics of Victor Grayson: "Grayson came to the House of Commons, consulted no one and did not even intimate that he meant to make a scene. This may be his idea of comradeship; it is not mine." J. Clynes added: "I do not believe causes are served by violent language and violent action." (34)
Fred Jowett also attacked Grayson for his behaviour. "Men are now described as traitors by Victor Grayson who undertook the task of founding a Socialist Movement at a time when the chilling frost of almost universal indifference was far harder to bear than are the violent alternations between the excitement of hostility and the enthusiasm of fellowship in which Victor Grayson now lives and moves. We must recognise that the man who can make a crowd shout is not necessarily an organizer of men. The gift of platform oratory, skill in making striking phrases, is a dangerous one. It is the man behind that matters. If his skill is employed in setting, not class against class, but men of the same class against their kith and kin, sewing seeds of distrust and hatred where the love of a common cause should produce the fellowship of kindred spirits, it were better if he had no such skill." (35)
Theodore Rothstein was more sympathetic to Victor Grayson but attacked him for not accepting Marxism: "Grayson is still quite a young man, about 27 years old, gifted, full of temperament, a born agitator, but without any sort of theoretical knowledge, no Marxist – more inclined to be an opponent of Marxism – in short, a sentimental Socialist at an age when the wine is not yet fermented. Like all Socialists of this type – and the type is a historical one, dating far back beyond our period – he represents more the tribune of the people than the modern party man, and without being an anarchist or syndicalist, he has a great horror of parliamentarism and of the planned political struggle, which he looks upon as dirty jobbery. This horror seems to be very wide-spread in England, in spite of the prevalent fetish-worship of Parliament, and is caused by the lying and deceitful tactics of the bourgeois parties." (36)
Edward Carpenter got to know him during this period: "Victor Grayson was a most humorous creature. His fund of anecdotes was inexhaustible, and rarely could a supper party of which he was a member got to bed before three in the morning. On the platform for detailed or constructive argument he was no good, but for criticism of the enemy he was inimitable - the shafts of his wit played like lightening round him, and with his big mouth and flexible upper lip he seemed to be simply browsing off his opponents and eating them up." (37)
His biographer, David Howell, has argued: "Often charming, and attractive to both men and women, his politics lacked depth. For his sympathizers he represented the hope of a better world that owed more to moral conversion than to legislation; for his detractors he represented the irrational, the destabilizing, and the potentially violent both as pre-war socialist and as wartime patriot. From one standpoint he is the flawed socialist hero; but his distinctive trajectory also illuminates specific and important themes within the Edwardian left. A character in a morality play, he was nevertheless very much a man of his time and place." (38)
Grayson was angry that the national leadership had been unwilling to support his campaign in Colne Valley and refused to join the Labour Party group in the House of Commons. In fact, Grayson rarely attended Parliament, preferring to tour the country making speeches in favour of revolutionary socialism. Of over 300 debates that took place in the Commons while he was the Colne Valley MP, Grayson only voted in 32. Grayson behaviour in Parliament was also becoming more erratic and it became clear that he had a serious drink problem. (39)
After this incident Grayson rarely visited the House of Commons and spent most of his time writing for The Clarion or being paid for making speeches. David Clark has argued: “He was young, dynamic and good-looking. His oratory was brilliant. In a political scene and age which abounded with brilliant orators, Grayson excelled. Some have suggested he was the greatest mob orator of his time. He could easily carry a crowd with him. He seldom used notes and had that rare gift of being able to marshal his thoughts logically while on his feet. Grayson’s style caught the mood of dissent and dissatisfaction of Edwardian England, not only among working people but also among the middle classes. His approach to politics and socialism was that of an evangelical preacher. He offered hope to thousands of men and women who toiled incessantly in hard labour for meagre rewards.” (40)
At first the people of Colne Valley were pleased that they had an MP that spoke up for the unemployed. However, they were less impressed by stories his luxurious life-style and his heavy drinking and he had fewer volunteers to help him in the 1910 General Election. One man who did campaign for him was John McNair. He later wrote that he was shocked by the sight of Grayson attending meetings drunk. "It was a terrible blow to me, a young enthusiastic socialist from a working-class family." (41)
The Liberal Party fought the election on the subject of reforming the House of Lords who had tried to block the radical People's Budget. Socialists tended to agree with the Liberals on this issue. Charles Leach, the Liberal candidate, won the election with 4,741. The Tory was second and Grayson finished at the bottom of the poll with 3,149 votes. He was not alone, in the election Labour candidates only won seats not contested by Liberals. Whenever socialist candidates fought both parties, they finished at the bottom of the poll. (42)
Victor Grayson made a speech where he claimed he would win the next election in Colne Valley: "The day is coming when socialism, the hope of the world, the future religion of humanity, will have wiped Liberalism and Toryism from the face of the earth... Sick to your flag... Don't let our colours be stained... Stick to the gospel that first inspired your heart and you will live to rejoice in a victory that none can gainsay." (43)
Grayson left the Independent Labour Party and talked about forming a new party. He argued: "We must have a Socialist Party... to demand the right to work; a Party to demand the right to live; a Party whose hatred of capitalism is implacable and undying... It is war - war to the knife... We are out to fight, to win." (44)
The British Socialist Party (BSP) was formed in September 1911. H. M. Hyndman, the former leader of the Social Democratic Federation, became one of its most significant members. Another important figure was Harry Quelch, who Grayson described as a "pugnacious intellectual bulldog". Grayson said he wanted a party of the sort where, united on socialism, differences could be allowed on pacifism, vegetarianism and similar matters of dispute". Robert Blatchford and his newspaper, The Clarion, supported the new party." (45)
Arthur Rose, Victor's closest friend, later claimed that women found him very attractive. "I knew a great deal about Victor's many relationships with women. You can't blame Victor. He attracted women: he was, well, like a matinee idol... he had the loveliest women in the movement - and outside it too - throwing themselves at him. He was only human... Victor felt, as I did, that we ought to be free to devote all our time to the cause. We were both heart and soul in the socialist movement; we lived for nothing else." (46)
On 7th November, 1912, Victor Grayson married the actress, Ruth Nightingale. (47) Ruth was the daughter of John Webster Nightingale, a wealthy banker. (48) One of Victor's close friends told Reg Groves that women had been a constant problem for him during his political career. "Women followed him, worried him... he could not help attracting them - like Ramsay MacDonald who was a fine looking man - they flocked around him all the time: I blame the women, mind, I blame the women, they wouldn't leave him be... He never should have married Ruth Nightingale - a nice girl, but not the sort for Victor. I don't think they got on too well." (49)
According to his biographer, David Clark, Victor Grayson had homosexual tendencies: "It is now known that he had such a relationship with his Merseyside friend Harry Dawson. Throughout his life there is evidence of this duality in Victor's character - he was obviously bisexual. While there was a series of relationships with women, his happiest periods were when he was in male company." (50)
Without a seat in the House of Commons, Victor Grayson attempted to make a living from lecture tours. Still drinking heavily, his health began to deteriorate. Many socialists felt that he had let them down: "We all trusted him... he was the darling of the socialist movement: none of our champions was ever made so much of... He possessed so many of the qualities of leadership... genial, hearty, with a homely wit and eloquence... Grayson rallied round him a following of which any man might be proud." (51)
In 1913 Grayson gave up alcohol and went on a sea-cruise and for a while his health began to recover. He was now strong enough to start a lecture tour in America. This went well until he started drinking again. Grayson returned to Britain but he was now an alcoholic and at public meetings in Bradford and Glasgow he was too drunk to speak and had to be carried off the stage. Even the birth of a daughter in April 1914, failed to stop him drinking and soon afterwards he was declared bankrupt with debts of £451. (52)
Grayson began making speeches concerning the dangers of the "German menace" and urging preparations to meet the growing naval and military power of Germany. He argued: "Rightly or wrongly, some of us suspect that a war with one, or a combination of European powers, is possible, if not inevitable. Rightly or wrongly some of us suspect that a war would find us unready and inadequately equipped. We believe that the maintenance of the British Empire offers the best conditions for the world's march towards socialism." (53)
At the end of July, 1914, it became clear to the British government that the country was on the verge of war with Germany. Four senior members of the government, Charles Trevelyan, David Lloyd George, John Burns and John Morley, were opposed to the country becoming involved in a European war. They informed the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, that they intended to resign over the issue. When war was declared on 4th August, three of the men, Trevelyan, Burns and Morley, resigned, but Asquith managed to persuade Lloyd George, his Chancellor of the Exchequer, to change his mind. Trevelyan went on to establish the anti-war organisation, the Union of Democratic Control. (54)
All of the socialist leaders in Britain opposed the war. Keir Hardie made a speech on 2nd August, 1914, where he called on "the governing class... to respect the decision of the overwhelming majority of the people who will have neither part nor lot in such infamy... Down with class rule! Down with the rule of brute force! Down with war! Up with the peaceful rule of the people!" (55)
Ramsay MacDonald also stated that he would not encourage his members to take part in the war. "Out of the darkness and the depth we hail our working-class comrades of every land. Across the roar of guns, we send sympathy and greeting to the German Socialists. They have laboured increasingly to promote good relations with Britain, as we with Germany. They are no enemies of ours but faithful friends." (56)
Almost alone amongst left-wing political figures, Grayson gave recruiting speeches and wrote articles urging young men to join the armed forces. Some socialists accused him of being paid by the government to make these speeches. He attempted to explain why he changed his views on war: "This war has made havoc of many ready-made theories and doctrines, and some of my most cherished antipathies have succumbed to its effects. I am facing the fact that some 178 Peers of the Realm are now in khaki fighting an enemy country." (57)
In 1915 Grayson travelled to Australia and New Zealand where he gave speeches in favour of conscription. "Not only did his pro-conscription views prove unpopular, but his speeches could be marred by alcohol, and there were allegations of financial deception." (58) He was denounced by the anti-war movement as being well-paid by government sources for making these speeches." (59)
In an interview Grayson gave to the Christchurch Sun he argued that the working-class would be rewarded if the Allied forces won the war: "The war has cast everything into the crucible. So far as Socialism can be defined intelligently, I still believe that the products of the workers belong to the workers... The war has wrought a marvellous change in the division of classes and masses. The working man has changed his attitude towards the worker, hence new political, industrial and ethical conditions will be the result of our inevitable triumph." (60)
A left-wing journalist commented about how the audience reacted in Wellington: "The audience laughed at his jokes and applauded his hits at the capitalist system. It was a good meeting, but our comrade was certainly out of touch with his audience on the military question, and some of those present let him know it. Rightly or wrongly, we have built up a very strong anti-militarist sentiment in the Holy City (Wellington), and anyone who comes here must be prepared to state their opinions on the question." (61)
Grayson's campaign continued and a long interview appeared in The Lyttleton Times on 4th October 1916. "Wage-earners and capitalists were fighting side-by-side in the ranks, and the capitalist was acquiring the habit of regarding the wage-earners in a very different light from that in which he saw them in the days before the war. War had brought the socially antagonistic classes into closer relations, and the result of the closer knowledge and understanding could not but be beneficial to humanity." (62)
The following month he launched an attack on socialists who opposed military conscription: "Needless to say, the Socialist-Pacifists are anti-conscriptionists, but their real disease is anti-militarism. If a fire broke out in their domestic abodes they would talk to it gently. If a German assaulted their wives or daughter, or if a Prussian crushed the skulls of their babes... they would explain that such conduct was not in keeping with the spirit of the international. I am a Socialist and a democrat to the very roots of my being, but I confess that my bosom comrades are entirely incomprehensible to me. The Labour Party in New Zealand had the chance of their lifetime when the horrid word conscription was mooted. They could and should have accepted the conscription of men, on the guarantee of the Dominion Parliament to conscript capital and wealth... The pacifist (whether he calls himself a Socialist or Quaker) is a greater menace than the guttural Hun in the trenches of Flanders... I hate war and I hate killing. Yet if I account for one of the vassals of the world's mad-dog I shall have done my bit towards world regeneration." (63)
Later that month Victor Grayson enlisted in the New Zealand Army. He explained his decision in a speech: "The pay is good and the chances of getting into a good fight are excellent. I am a socialist and will wear the uniform of a warrior with a good logic and a bright spirit. I hate war and hate killing, yet if I account for one of the vassals of the world's mad dog, I shall have done my bit towards the world's restoration." (64)
Grayson arrived in France in September, 1917. He was sent to the Western Front and on 12th October 1917 at Passchendaele, he was sent over the top for the first time and soon afterwards a shell burst near him, leaving him slightly concussed and with a piece of shrapnel embedded in his hip. (65) According to army records, the mud was knee deep and the stretcher-bearers found it very difficult to bring out the wounded. It was taking six to seven hours to carry a stretcher the three miles to the dressing station. (66)
Grayson later told The Daily Mail that by the time he reached the advanced dressing station, the staff were either dead or badly wounded. Grayson claimed that "covered from head to foot in clinging slime" he was put on a horse and he rode to the three miles to the next dressing station. After receiving medical treatment he was sent to Brockenhurst Hospital to have the shrapnel removed. (67)
Friends claim that although he was only on the front-line for a few weeks he was suffering from shell-shock. On 15th December, 1917, it was recommended that he should be discharged from the army as physically unfit as he was suffering from neurasthenia (a generic term in 1918 for such nervous afflictions as those resulting from shell-shock).
On 6th February 1918, Ruth Grayson gave birth prematurely to a daughter, Elise, who unsuccessfully struggled for life for a brief fifteen minutes. Ruth survived the actual birth, but four days later on 10 February she died from the after-effects of childbirth in a nursing home at 42 Belgrave Road in London. (68)
After the war Victor Grayson returned to England where he hoped to revive his political career. Without the backing of any of the major political parties, Grayson found it impossible to become a parliamentary candidate. Grayson took a keen interest in Irish politics and made several secret trips to Ireland where he had talks with Michael Collins. He told Robert Blatchford that he wanted to become a full-time journalist and was investigating the Roger Casement case. (69)
In early 1918 Basil Thomson, head of the Special Branch, asked one of his agents, Arthur Maundy Gregory to spy on Grayson, who he described as a "dangerous communist revolutionary". Gregory was told: "We believe this man may have friends among the Irish rebels. Whatever it is, Grayson always spells trouble. He can't keep out of it... he will either link up with the Sinn Feiners or the Reds." Gregory was a regular visitor to Grayson's home and David Clark, the author of Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) has suggested he might have been recruited by MI5 to spy on the Labour Party. (70)
Reg Groves claims that the two men were enemies. However, another biographer, David Howell, believes it is possible that Gregory was paying Grayson money. "Grayson subsequently lived in apparent affluence - a contrast with his recent poverty - in a West End flat. His associates included Maundy Gregory... The significance of this relationship and the source of Grayson's income remain unknown." (71)
Grayson believed he was working for Gregory but during the summer of 1919 he became aware that he was being spied upon. He told a friend: "Just as he spied on me, so now I'm spying on him. One day I shall have enough evidence to nail him, but it's not going to be easy." Grayson came to the conclusion that Gregory was involved in a corrupt relationship with David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister. (72)
In September, 1920, Grayson made a speech where he accused Lloyd George, of corruption. Grayson claimed that Lloyd George was selling political honours for between £10,000 and £40,000. Grayson declared: "This sale of honours is a national scandal. It can be traced right down to 10 Downing Street, and to a monocled dandy with offices in Whitehall. I know this man, and one day I will name him." The monocled dandy was Arthur Maundy Gregory, who had indeed been selling honours on behalf of Lloyd George. (73)
A few days later Victor Grayson was beaten up in the Strand. This was probably an attempt to frighten Grayson but he continued to make speeches about the selling of honours and threatening to name the man behind this corrupt system. On the 28th September, Grayson was drinking with friends when he received a telephone message. Grayson told his friends that the had to go to Queen's Hotel in Leicester Square and would be back shortly. (74)
Later that night, George Jackson Flemwell was painting a picture of the Thames, when he saw Grayson entering a house on the river bank. Flemwell knew Grayson as he had painted his portrait before the war. Flemwell did not realize the significance of this as the time because Grayson was not reported missing until several months later. An investigation carried out in the 1960s revealed that the house that Grayson entered was owned by Arthur Maundy Gregory. (75) (15)
Hilda Porter, the manageress of Grayson's apartment in Vernon Court, provides a different story. She claims that every two weeks a package for Grayson was delivered by two men in uniform. Grayson told Porter the package contained money. One morning in late September, 1920 - she did not remember the precise date - two strangers came and asked for Grayson. After spending most of the day with Grayson, they left together carrying two large suitcases. Grayson told her: "I am having to go away for a little while. I'll be in touch shortly." That was the last she saw of Victor Grayson. (76)
Victor Grayson was never seen alive again. It is believed he was murdered but his body was never found. After Grayson's death Arthur Maundy Gregory continued to sell honours for the next twelve years. In 1932 Gregory attempted to sell a knighthood to Lieutenant Commander Edward Billyard-Leake. He pretended he was interested and then reported the matter of Scotland Yard. Gregory was arrested but he turned it to his advantage as he was now able to blackmail famous people into paying him money in return for not naming them in court. Gregory pleased guilty and therefore did not give evidence of his activities in court. Gregory was sentenced to two months' imprisonment and a fine of £50. On leaving prison Gregory was persuaded to live in Paris where he was paid a pension of £2,000 a year by the Conservative Party. (77)
On 25th August 1939, someone collected Grayson's war medals from the New Zealand Embassy in London. The Ministry of Defence insisted that they would not have handed these medals over unless the man proved he was Grayson. "If Private Grayson was deceased then proof of death would be required". (78)
There is also evidence that Grayson was still alive after the Second World War. Harold P. Smallwood, a former CID officer, first got to know Grayson in 1948. He claimed that after his disappearance, Grayson worked in numerous schools under a false name in Ireland, Kent, Sussex, Switzerland and Austria. Grayson told Smallwood that "he rarely spent more than one term in any school, when he was usually asked to leave because of his drinking habits and his unorthodox method of teaching." Smallwood lost contact with Grayson in 1950. (79)
Victor Grayson has a deep rich voice, just made for the open-air and he gave his audience plain, strong, and richly-defined Socialism. Nothing petty or mean, no appeal to unworthy motives, or even the misery of things, but an uplifting, elevating, manly propaganda speech, addressed to the crowd as men. In Victor Grayson, student and orator, the Manchester men have found a prize indeed, and Socialism has gained another valuable asset.
The socialists had no money, save the pennies collected amongst their fellow workers in the mills and factories and at meetings. They had no efficient, smoothworking electoral machinery; it had to be improvised on the spot. The trade union machinery which might well have added much in the way of organisation and wide-flung influence was not likely to give its unstinted support, since the Labour Party refused its endorsement; the ILP, too, was antagonistic, and many of the local union officials favoured a policy of working with the Liberals, not against them.
I am appealing to you as one of your own class. It is our turn now.
The placing of women in the same category, constitutionally, as infants, idiots and Peers, does not impress me as either manly or just. This is as a step to the larger measure of complete Adult Suffrage
Men are now described as traitors by Victor Grayson who undertook the task of founding a Socialist Movement at a time when the chilling frost of almost universal indifference was far harder to bear than are the violent alternations between the excitement of hostility and the enthusiasm of fellowship in which Victor Grayson now lives and moves.
We must recognise that the man who can make a crowd shout is not necessarily an organizer of men. If his skill is employed in setting, not class against class, but men of the same class against their kith and kin, sewing seeds of distrust and hatred where the love of a common cause should produce the fellowship of kindred spirits, it were better if he had no such skill.
Victor Grayson was a most humorous creature. On the platform for detailed or constructive argument he was no good, but for criticism of the enemy he was inimitable - the shafts of his wit played like lightening round him, and with his big mouth and flexible upper lip he seemed to be simply browsing off his opponents and eating them up. His disappearance from public life has been quite a loss.
As well as blackmail, Arthur Maundy Gregory kept himself in lucrative work by giving the authorities the sort of reports they wanted about communist subversion. The end of the war saw many strikes and Bolshevik plots were held to be behind them all. The Special Branch and M15 competed to provide evidence to support these claims. In the context of the times, this kind of paranoia is easy to understand. The Russian Revolution of 1917 inflamed the British working classes. There were military riots at Folkestone. Thousands of British troops at Calais mutinied, and two divisions had to be recalled from Germany to surround Calais with machine-guns. Leaflets from secret presses were circulated, urging workers to sabotage the war effort. In London even the police were threatening to strike - and those in Liverpool did, in August 1918. When riots and looting broke out in Birkenhead and Liverpool a battleship and two destroyers steamed up the Mersey, playing searchlights on both banks.
By the end of 1918 Gregory had a solid reputation as a "Mr Fixit" with powerful connections. He had already begun his most lucrative business: selling honours for Lloyd George, so that he could gain funds to fight the next election. Lloyd George's Political Fund was to reach some £3,000,000. It is claimed by some that Gregory even suggested the introduction of the new order of the OBE in order to coin more income - even from OBEs he got £20 commission a time. He usually made a point of hinting to prospective buyers that the money was to be used to enable the government to "fight Bolshevism and revolution".
Gregory had an office in Whitehall at 38 Parliament Street, which had a rear entrance in Cannon Row (he was always one to leave himself an escape route). Like all confidence tricksters, he was assiduous in keeping up a good front: he wore silk shirts, expensive suits and shoes, and much personal jewellery. His office was lavishly furnished, with scrambler telephones on the desk and signed photographs of royalty.
He kept a cab-driver on permanent hire, ready to drive him anywhere at a moment's notice, summoned from Cannon Row by an ingenious system of coloured lights in the office window. Gregory liked to flash a gold, inscribed cigarette-case at visitors, which had been presented to him by the Duke of York, later King George VI, for his work for the King George V Fund for Sailors. His staff were required to refer to him at all times as "The Chief", and his hints at powerful connections, many of which were lies, were always backed up by an obsessive attention to detail. For example, he used to excuse himself to visitors by saying he had an important telephone call from "number 10", but this really referred to 10 Hyde Park Terrace, Bayswater Road, which he leased. Frequent visitors to his office were Sir Basil Thomson of the Special Branch and Sir Vernon Kell of M15.
Early in 1918, Gregory was asked by the Special Branch to keep his eyes open for the return to Britain of a "dangerous communist revolutionary", which was an unlikely description of Victor Grayson at the time. Superintendent Quinn of Scotland Yard instructed him: "We believe this man may have friends among the Irish rebels. he will either link up with the Sinn Feiners [Irish nationalists] or the Reds." Gregory promptly made a point of calling on Grayson's wife, posing as a theatrical producer seeking to cast a new play and asking her if she was interested in a part. Until Ruth Grayson died later in the year, Gregory used her to check on Grayson's movements.
Grayson had no sympathy for the Russian revolutionaries, but he did have links with and sympathies for the IRA. On his return he made several secret trips to Ireland, where he had talks with Michael Collins, who was later one of the leaders of the Irish Free State, founded by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921, until his assassination in 1922. Grayson soon discovered that Gregory was spying on him, and he became determined to expose him - not only as an honours tout but, what was perhaps even more scandalous, as the possible forger of the infamous Casement diaries. To this end, he made the speech in Liverpool threatening to name Gregory and also began to collect signed statements about his activities as an honours tout. Gregory became extremely alarmed. Grayson was a dangerous enemy who was threatening his source of income. As a journalist, Grayson could easily conduct a campaign to discredit Gregory in a number of publications, always providing he took care not to breach the libel laws.
Having been commissioned to keep an eye on Grayson anyway, Gregory now had a double reason to do so. He made it his business to fabricate reports discrediting Grayson, telling his Special Branch and M15 contacts that Grayson was in touch with both Bolshevik agents and the Sinn Fein movement. But if Gregory was observing Grayson closely, he would have realised that the former MP posed no security threat. Politically, he was finished - and his heavy drinking would have made him an unreliable conspirator in any plots to overthrow the government. Gregory would also have known that there was no Russian connection, only an Irish one. But truth was no impediment to Gregory's urgent need to eliminate the man who was a personal threat to him. If Grayson could not be ruined by fabricated reports, then there were other alternatives. One way or another, Victor Grayson had simply got to disappear.
There is some confusion over the last few weeks of Grayson's public life. It is known that he was the victim of a mysterious attack in London in September 1920. He was beaten up in the Strand, and booked into a hotel with stitches in a head wound and a broken arm in a sling. The police confirm the attack: Grayson was taken to Charing Cross Hospital for treatment. Yet the witnesses who saw him walk out of the Georgian Restaurant and vanish did not notice these wounds. He had visited his mother in Liverpool briefly early that same month, but she too saw no wounds. He told her he could not stay long, as he was due to give a speech in Hull. There is no record of any such speech having been made, nor indeed of any hall in Hull having been booked for the purpose, though Grayson may have gone to Hull in order to see someone. It is almost certain that he took the train from Hull straight back to London, where he must have been attacked.
Then comes the climactic scene in the Georgian Restaurant, when Grayson was told his luggage had been delivered in error to the Queen's Hotel, Leicester Square. This has sinister overtones: Gregory, it will be remembered, had his secret headquarters there, at which he used to interview people in connection with his counter-espionage work. There are variations to the last scene, one of which has a well-dressed woman beckoning Grayson out of the restaurant. But the fact remains that Grayson was not seen again after this evening - or rather, not officially.
At the present time a great confusion exists in the ranks of the Independent Labour Party (I.L.P.). The four most important members of its National Council – Keir Hardie, MacDonald, Snowden and Bruce Glasier (editor of the party organ, the “Labour Leader”) – have, in consequence of the criticism of their policy as leaders of the Party which was expressed at the Easter Conference, demonstratively retired from office. In an open letter addressed to the members of the Party they point out that confusion has existed for some time, caused by the formation within their ranks of a group who do not know what they want, who to-day applaud the Labour Party, and to-morrow demand the formation of a new Socialist Party, who upset the minds of the comrades and undermine their confidence in the leaders by their criticisms and ugly allusions and erroneous statements. How could the business of the Party be carried on under such circumstances? It is indeed not a question of the tactics of the Party – these were laid down once for all when it was founded – but only as to whether the Party is desirous of carrying out these tactics, of insisting upon loyalty to the latter, and of rejecting any actions or methods not in agreement with them. But it is exactly on this point that the Conference has in some instances not supported the Council, thus leaving them, the writers of the letter, no choice but to resign the mandates given by the Party.
Horrible! What can have happened? What is this mysterious group which is confusing the spirits of the Party, and has driven the four most respected leaders and founders of the Party out of the “responsible” posts of the Party Ministry? The proclamation of the four – the quartette, as it is now called in I.L.P. circles – does not mention any names, but all the world knows that the allusion is to the Grayson group. Now, who is Grayson? Who constitute his group? Wherein consists their disruptive activity?
Grayson is still quite a young man, about 27 years old, gifted, full of temperament, a born agitator, but without any sort of theoretical knowledge, no Marxist – more inclined to be an opponent of Marxism – in short, a sentimental Socialist at an age when the wine is not yet fermented. This horror seems to be very wide-spread in England, in spite of the prevalent fetish-worship of Parliament, and is caused by the lying and deceitful tactics of the bourgeois parties. It is more to be ascribed to this horror than to firmness of principle, that Grayson, when put up as candidate at a bye-election in the summer of 1907 by the workers of Colne Valley, a Yorkshire constituency, fought for the mandate as a declared Socialist upon an openly Socialist programme, and rejected the compromise proposed by his National Council to appear before the public as a mere “Labour candidate” according to the arrangement of the Labour Party bloc. In spite of his being boycotted by the administration of his own party, as well as that of the Labour Party, and having candidates of both the bourgeois parties opposed to him, he was elected and came into Parliament, the first representative of the workers to get in on a Socialist ticket; thus proving that the hushing-up policy of the National Council of the I.L.P. and their trade unionist colleagues of the bloc of the Labour Party is not a necessity, and occasioning great joy in the S.D.P., as well as among the Socialist elements in the I.L.P., but at least equally great annoyance among the National Council of the latter.
Since that time Grayson has come to be in permanent opposition of the heads of his party, as well as the Labour Party group in general. As he did not join the latter, it boycotted him, and on the few occasions when he spoke in the House (as a Parliamentarian he was chiefly remarkable by his absence) he always came into collision with it. As, for instance, when the English King’s visit to Reval was discussed. The Labour fraction, encouraged by the Radicals, had decided on an interpellation, and as polite people (unlike the Irish who always force their questions upon the “Honourable House”) they entered into negotiations with the Government as to when and under what conditions they would allow this interpellation to be discussed. The Government said they would be glad to meet the wishes of the Labour fraction; only the debate must be closured at a certain hour by the leader of the Labour Party himself, and besides, the speakers must observe a respectful tone towards the King. The group joyfully accepted the conditions, and during some hours made their speeches, which were a curious mixture of attacks upon the Anglo-Russian friendship, and loyal songs of praise to King Edward. The time for adjourning the debate had already passed, but two Liberals spoke in succession, and the leader of the Labour Group, Henderson, showed no signs of interrupting them, Suddenly there arose from his seat, the “enfant terrible,” Grayson, who might well be expected to adopt a sharp tone against the King. Immediately at a sign from the Government, Henderson rose and closured the debate. Grayson protested, but was not allowed to speak.
Grayson came into collision a second time with the Labour Party on the question of unemployment. The Labour Party had neglected this question very much, while it had supported with great enthusiasm the Government’s Licensing Bill. The protests against this outside the House were becoming more frequent and violent, and one fine day when the whole House was deep in discussing a paragraph of the Licensing Bill, Grayson appeared upon the scene and announced to the House an obstruction according to the Irish pattern if it would not occupy itself, instead of with trivialities, with the unemployment question. Grayson’s appearance was unexpected, and one could justly reproach him that he, who never appeared in Parliament and had let pass earlier and much more suitable occasions for a protest, had no right to dictate to his colleagues as to what they should occupy themselves with. Still, this formal reason could only be sufficient to prevent the Labour Party supporting him in his unasked-for and unforeseen protest. But these gentlemen went further, and when the leader of the House, the Prime Minister Asquith, moved Grayson’s suspension, none of them uttered a syllable of protest, some refrained from voting, and the others voted for the proposition.
This, then, is Grayson. No extraordinary hero, as you see; no pioneer; though, on the other hand, not quite an ordinary human being. Whence, then, comes his popularity? How did he manage to create a state of mind in his party by which the most respected leaders have been defeated? The answer is, he has created no state of mind; he has only given expression to that state of mind which was already present; and that is why he has become popular. Perhaps the same state of mind could have been expressed much better and more worthily by a different person. As a matter of fact, the manner in which he gives expression to it is too theatrical, sometimes bordering on caricature. Still, he it was who distinctly voiced the state of mind, and he is made much of by those who agree with him – as a symbol, a standard. Nothing could be more mistaken than to see in him the leader of an opposition. He is no leader, neither can he become one. He is but a point of crystallisation, round which those elements group themselves who have something they wish to express.
What is that state of mind? Who are these elements? The state of mind is: Discontent with the tactics adopted and carried on during the last few years by the I.L.P. leaders towards the Labour Party. Here we reach a much discussed topic, which was also raised in the “Neue Zeit” a short time ago. How should a Socialist Party behave towards a Labour Party like that in England? As Marxists we all indeed know that Socialism can only succeed as a labour movement, that Socialists do not constitute a special organisation opposed to the other labour parties, and that the Socialist idea and the organised proletariat united into a class party must go together, like – to use the striking expression of Comrade Kautsky – the connection between the final goal and the movement. In all Continental countries we have acted upon these principles, but not in England, where their application met with a hindrance in the form of the peculiar historic facts. For while in other countries it was the Socialists themselves who for the first time organised and mobilised the hitherto chaotic, or, to be quite correct, amorphous mass, the proletariat in England had already been organised and actively engaged in the political struggle for decades before the modern Socialists appeared in the historic arena. Therefore Socialism on the Continent was never for a moment separate from the general labour movement, but stood, on the contrary, in its midst as its central force, while in England it arose as something different – even something opposed. What were the English Marxists to do under these circumstances? Should they merge themselves in the Labour Party? But there was no such thing at the beginning of English Marxism, for the few trade unions which engaged in political action did not at that time constitute a special party, but only provided from among their ranks members and candidates for the Liberal Party. All then that the Socialists could do was to seek to win over the masses to themselves; and that they did. Were they successful? No. Marx himself did not succeed when he tried to unite the English labouring masses to the International. As long as the English trade unions were fighting for the suffrage, as a means of securing their right of coalition, it seemed as though Marx’s attempt were destined to succeed. But no sooner was the suffrage – and what a meagre suffrage! – won, and the right of coalition secured, than the unions left the International, and the whole movement was at .an end – the International was dissolved. This precedent cannot be too sharply emphasised in face of the widespread opinion that the S.D.F.’s want of success is to be attributed to its own mistakes. Ah! what Party has not made mistakes? Marx was surely free from great tactical errors, and did he fare any better? Engels, too, discontented with the S.D.F., made, after Marx’s death, several attempts with the Avelings and others, to set on foot a new Socialist movement, and to mobilise the masses for an independent political struggle. How did he fare? Any better than the S.D.F.? No; a thousand times worse. Not only did all the organisations and movements die down after fluttering a little while, but the leaders, the Avelings, Bax, Morris and others, were forced to make their peace with the S.D.F. The difficulty of the S.D.F.’s task lay, not in that body and its methods, but in the historically created state of mind of the English working class, who were unreceptive to Socialist propaganda. Therefore it is out of place to speak of mistakes on the part of the S.D.F. Kautsky, who knows English conditions much better than most critics of the S.D.F., admits this fact, but yet is of the opinion that the S.D.F. did itself a great deal of harm by its irreconcilable criticism of the trade unions. I cannot share this opinion either. In the first place it was not the trade unions that the S.D.F. criticised, but the trade union cretinism, which at that time was so wide-spread, and of which Germany has not been free from samples. The faith in trade union action, and especially trade union diplomacy, as the one means of salvation, was the principal obstacle to the political action of the masses, and how could the S.D.F. not fight against it? In the second place, if these tactics brought the S.D.F. the enmity of the trade unions, thereby injuring the former, how was it with the I.L.P., which was much more gentle in its attitude towards trade union cretinism? Was it any more successful in winning the sympathies of the unions for itself, and for Socialism? It is true that at first Engels had great hopes of this, but the hopes were not realised. The I.L.P. remained for years quite as small a group as the S.D.F., and the unions gave it quite as little attention. Therefore the alleged bitter tone adopted by the S.D.F. towards the trade unions was not a factor in the want of success of this Party’s agitation among the masses.
The most important change which the war was making in society, however, was a spirit of change. Wage-earners and capitalists were fighting side-by-side in the ranks, and the capitalist was acquiring the habit of regarding the wage-earners in a very different light from that in which he saw them in the days before the war. War had brought the socially antagonistic classes into closer relations, and the result of the closer knowledge and understanding could not but be beneficial to humanity.
Needless to say, the Socialist-Pacifists are anti-conscriptionists, but their real disease is anti-militarism. Yet if I account for one of the vassals of the world's mad-dog I shall have done my bit towards world regeneration.
(1) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 156
(2) Kenneth O. Morgan, Labour People: Leaders and Lieutenants (1987) page 67
(3) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 157
(4) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) pages 10-11
(5) Victor Grayson, interview, The Worker (July, 1907)
(6) Andrew Hirst, Daily Huddersfield Examiner (18th June 2016)
(7) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 7
(8) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 15
(9) Jill Liddington, Rebel Girls: How votes for women changed Edwardian lives (2006) page 147
(10) Paul Adelman, The Rise of the Labour Party: 1880-1945 (1972) pages 20-24
(11) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 19
(12) Victor Grayson, letter to Harry Dawson (August 1905)
(13) David Howell, Victor Grayson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(14) Jacqueline Dickenson, Renegades and Rats: Betrayal and the Remaking of Radical Organisations in Britain and Australia (2006) page 123
(15) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 22
(16) Kenneth O. Morgan, Labour People: Leaders and Lieutenants (1987) pages 65-68
(17) The Colne Valley Guardian (15th March, 1907)
(18) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 33
(19) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 28
(20) Victor Grayson, election leaflet (July, 1907)
(21) Kenneth O. Morgan, Labour People: Leaders and Lieutenants (1987) pages 66
(22) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 36
(23) Hannah Mitchell, The Hard Way Up (1968) page 129
(24) Jill Liddington, Rebel Girls: How votes for women changed Edwardian lives (2006) page 151
(25) The Daily Mirror (19th July, 1907)
(26) Victor Grayson, speech (July, 1907)
(27) The Daily Express (20th July, 1907)
(28) Victor Grayson, victory speech (18th July, 1907)
(29) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 43
(30) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 48
(31) Victor Grayson, House of Commons (31st October, 1908)
(32) David Howell, Victor Grayson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(33) Ralph Miliband, Parliamentary Socialism (1972) page 14
(34) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 74
(35) Fred Jowett, The Clarion (November, 1908)
(36) Theodore Rothstein, The Social Democrat (August, 1909)
(37) Edward Carpenter, My Days and Dreams (1916) page 260
(38) David Howell, Victor Grayson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(39) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 76
(40) Andrew Hirst, Daily Huddersfield Examiner (18th June 2016)
(41) John McNair, Spanish Diary (1975) page 2
(42) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) pages 104-105
(43) Victor Grayson, speech (11th February, 1910)
(44) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 108
(45) Tony Cliff and Donny Gluckstein, The Labour Party: A Marxist History (1988) page 45
(46) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 121
(47) The Daily Mirror (7th November, 1912
(48) David Howell, Victor Grayson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(49) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) pages 121-122
(50) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 92
(51) Justice Magazine (December, 1912)
(52) David Howell, Victor Grayson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(53) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 114
(54) A. J. A. Morris, Charles Trevelyan : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(55) Keir Hardie, speech (2nd August, 1914)
(56) Ramsay Macdonald, speech (5th August, 1914)
(57) Victor Grayson, Evening Standard (20th January 1915)
(58) David Howell, Victor Grayson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(59) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 159
(60) Victor Grayson, Christchurch Sun (12th August 1916)
(61) The Maoriland Worker (October, 1916)
(62) Victor Grayson, The Lyttleton Times (4th October 1916)
(63) Victor Grayson, The Lyttleton Times (18th November 1916)
(64) Victor Grayson, speech (November, 1916)
(65) Victor Grayson, The Daily Mail (29th January, 1918)
(66) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 113
(67) Victor Grayson, The Daily Mail (29th January, 1918)
(68) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 117
(69) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 176
(70) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 126
(71) David Howell, Victor Grayson : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(72) Andrew Marr, The Making of Modern Britain (2010) page 216
(73) Victor Grayson, speech in Liverpool (September, 1920)
(74) Reg Groves, The Strange Case of Victor Grayson (1975) page 184
(75) Donald McCormick, Murder by Perfection (1970)
(76) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 150
(77) Richard Davenport-Hines, Arthur Maundy Gregory : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(78) David Clark, Victor Grayson: Labour's Lost Leader (1985) page 152
(79) Harold P. Smallwood, letter to Donald McCormick (26th November 1970)
With the centenary of the disappearance of Victor Grayson approaching there is understandably a great deal of interest. I’ve written features for Tribune and the Morning Star which will be published in September and my new biography of Grayson will be published by Pluto Press (who coincidentally published Reg Groves’ second Grayson biography) early in [&hellip]
This is a commemorative pamphlet of the debate on Socialism held at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester on February 14th 1908 between Grayson and W. Joynson-Hicks. In the aftermath of the debate Grayson was mocked for appearing significantly better dressed than his Tory opponent. Johnson-Hicks succeeded in being so broad and basic in his attacks [&hellip]
So just why did former Colne Valley MP Victor Grayson vanish?
A politician turned author believes he has solved the near century-old riddle of an MP who disappeared and was feared murdered.
The disappearance in 1920 of Victor Grayson – a firebrand socialist turned spendthrift playboy – is one of the great mysteries of British politics.
It led to endless speculation including a theory that the ex-Colne Valley MP was murdered on the orders of the Establishment.
The most in-depth research into the life and fate of Grayson has been carried out by David Clark, now a Labour peer, who was himself elected as MP for Colne Valley in 1970, some 63 years after Grayson – a powerful and provocative orator – won the seat as a Socialist.
Once a politics lecturer and now a visiting professor at the University of Huddersfield, Lord Clark’s Colne Valley connection led him to investigate the case. This resulted in a 1985 book that was also the basis for a TV documentary.
Now, after 30 years of further research, the book has been extensively revised and updated, including the addition of many recently-discovered photographs. Re-published as Victor Grayson: The Man and the Mystery, it was launched on Monday at Huddersfield University’s Heritage Quay archives centre.
After winning Colne Valley in 1907, Grayson had a short but controversial career as an MP, losing his seat at the 1910 General Election.
He served in the First World War but afterwards lived a flamboyant lifestyle in London until, in September 1920, he was observed leaving his flat with two men and was supposedly never seen again.
His final words were to his landlady as he left, telling her “I’ll be in touch.”
It was frequently speculated that Grayson was murdered because he threatened to reveal the details of an honours-selling racket that raised huge sums of money for Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
But Lord Clark has developed a theory that Grayson was given a generous pension on condition he left the country. There were a number of supposed sightings of him overseas and in Britain through to the late 1930s, including a claim that he was killed in a German air raid in London in 1941.
Lord Clark describes Grayson as “a charismatic figure whose meetings remain a legend in the political folklore of the Colne Valley.”
Grayson’s life may have been short but it was certainly action-packed.
Born in the slums of Liverpool, he did an engineering apprenticeship before becoming captivated by religion.
He began preaching in non-conformist churches before training as a Unitarian minister and attending Manchester University.
His interest switched to politics and in 1907, aged just 25, he shook the British Establishment when he won the Colne Valley by-election as a socialist with active support from the Suffragettes.
The 1910 election saw him lose his seat but it split the Labour party in the process.
He then married an actress, travelled to Australia and New Zealand where he joined the Anzac forces and sailed for France. Wounded at Passchendaele, he was invalided out of the army. In 1918 his wife died tragically giving birth to their second daughter.
The reason behind his political success was his powerful charisma.
David Clark writes: “He was young, dynamic and good-looking. His oratory was brilliant. In a political scene and age which abounded with brilliant orators, Grayson excelled. Some have suggested he was the greatest mob orator of his time. He could easily carry a crowd with him. He seldom used notes and had that rare gift of being able to marshal his thoughts logically while on his feet.
“Grayson’s style caught the mood of dissent and dissatisfaction of Edwardian England, not only among working people but also among the middle classes. His approach to politics and socialism was that of an evangelical preacher. He offered hope to thousands of men and women who toiled incessantly in hard labour for meagre rewards.”
The shockwaves he sent out by winning Colne Valley were huge.
The traditionally safe Liberal seat had fallen to a man the infant Labour Party had refused to endorse.
Clark states: “National newspapers ran stories suggesting this result presaged the red revolution. Serious political commentators concluded that nothing would be quite the same again in national politics.”
But it made him enemies. By becoming the darling of the Left he presented a real challenge to the established leaders of the Labour Party who were trying to forge links between socialism and the trade unions but the compromises they were making dismayed many socialists.
When he lost the Colne Valley seat in 1910 Grayson was a main player in forming a new political party, the British Socialist Party which became forerunner to the Communist Party in Britain.
But Clark writes: “He was outmanoeuvred in the process and this, coupled with ill health, led to his gradual demise and withdrawal from the public scene.”
After the war and his wife’s tragic death Grayson lived a luxurious lifestyle – and became a heavy drinker – but questions were asked about where the money came from to afford it.
Now Lord Clark thinks he knows.
* David Clark, author of Victor Grayson: The Man and the Mystery will be discussing the book at Huddersfield University on Monday, June 20, 12pm – 2pm, as part of Heritage Quay’s current exhibition Radical Roots: Politics in West Yorkshire.
Victor Grayson MP Timeline Biography
September 1881: Victor Grayson is born in Liverpool. Just a few months previously the Grayson family had been living on Sidney Street in the Poplar district of London. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the area was home to the largest Russian émigré community in the UK. Lenin and Stalin would later hold their meetings in the area. The Grayson family itself is steeped in mystery, and much has been made about the true identity of Victor’s parents.
1884: International Working Men’s Educational Club is founded by the Socialist League on Berner Street, St George in the East and is quickly established as the base of Russian radicalism and anarchism in the UK. In 1886 it moves to Whitechapel where it features prominently in the infamous Ripper investigations. In 1906 it is forced to move to the Brotherhood Church on Jubilee Street, subsequently becoming known as the Jubilee Street Club. German anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker and Prince Kropotkin become key speakers at the club.
March 1898: Russian Social Democratic Labour Party is founded.
April 1902: Exiled from Russia Vladimir Lenin moves to London. It is here that he meets Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky. Continues production of political newspaper, Iskra (meaning ‘spark’). British Social Democrat activist Harry Quelch offers Lenin use of his office and printing press. In 1920 Quelch’s son Tom Quelch becomes founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (in 1905 Iskra falls under control of Georgi Plekhanov).
July 1903: Second Russian Social Democratic Labour Party Congress held in London in July 1903. Lenin, Plekhanov, Trotsky, Martov, Stalin and Rosa Luxemburg all in attendance. The RSDLP splits into Bolsheviks (‘the minority’) and Mensheviks (‘the majority’) as a result of disputes between Lenin and Martov over the definition of party membership. Locations include Three John’s Pub in Islington and the Jubilee Street Club in Whitechapel. London’s East End is favoured due to its substantial Russian population.
1904: Grayson becomes a neighbour of Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in Ancoats, Manchester. They are also members of the same Independent Labour Party branch in Central Manchester. He becomes a firm confidant of Pankhurst.
1905-1906: Glasgow shipworker (and later Etaples mutineer) James Cullen finds himself stranded in Odessa, Russia as a result of the 1905 shipyard strikes and mutinies.
March 1906: Victor Grayson and Christabel Pankhurst form the Manchester University Student Socialist Society. 40 students enrol. Grayson is elected Chariman and Pankhurst, Vice-Chairman. Treasurer Fred Marquis (subsequently 1st Earl of Woolton) was, like Grayson active in Social Work in Liverpool and an active member of the Unitarian Church.
December 1906: Adela Pankhurst charged and sentenced over assault in the House of Commons.
January – July 1907: Victor Grayson and Adela Pankhurst (daughter of Manchester Suffragette Emeline Pankhurst) become leading figures in the Manchester’s Independent Labour Party. Adela campaigns actively for Grayson in the Colne Valley. The Women’s Social and Political Union play a central role in his sensational victory when Grayson stands as Independent Socialist/Labour candidate in the Colne Valley (West Yorkshire) by-election.
January – July 1907: Minister F.R Swan steps down from his post as Congregationist Minister in Marsden, Colve Valley in order to campaign full-time for Grayson and the Social Democratic movement. He becomes one of the main supporting speakers.
June 1907: 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (ft. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Plekhanov) takes place at Bruce Wallace and Reverend F. R. Swan’s Brotherhood Church in Southgate Road, Whitechapel. As we have seen above the former minister in Marsden, West Yorkshire, the Reverend F.R Swan (a Congregationalist Minister) played a key role in the election of Victor Grayson in the Colne Valley in the summer of 1907 (the Brotherhood Church was a Christian anarchist and pacifist community with roots in Yorkshire and Northern Ireland). German anarchist, Rudolf Rocker and Glasgow Communist and anarchist, Guy Aldred also play host to the Congress on Jubilee Street. The revolutionaries discuss bank robberies as a means of funding the revolution. The 1907 Tiflis bank robbery becomes the most famous of these robberies.
July 1907: Grayson is elected MP for the Colne Valley and moves to London.
Aug 1st – 3rd 1907: Liverpool’s James Larkin, now leading the striking dockers in Belfast invites Glasgow’s John Maclean, and his old Liverpool associates Fred Bower and Victor Grayson to address between 10,000 and 15,000 workers. Rumours persist that Larkin had managed to get 600 members of the 1000-strong Royal Irish Constabulary to support the strike with many men defying the orders of their officers (see: Sir James Sexton, Agitator: The Life of the Docker’s M.P & John Gray, City in Revolt). Some seven thousand troops were drafted in to contain the mutiny. That same year Maclean is introduced to Trotsky and Lenin associate, Peter Petroff who arrives in Edinburgh at the invitation of the Social Democratic Federation. Petroff remains in the UK and becomes a key figure on ‘Red Clydeside’. Grayson is savaged by the press for making a violence speech encouraging the striking Belfast workers to use broken glass against the troops and police.
September 1907: Emeleine Pankhurst resigns from Independent Labour Party to concentrate attentions on the WSPU.
September – Oct 1907: Russian Socialist Revolutionary Peter Petroff arrives in Scotland. He seeks the assistance of the Socialist Democtatic Federation as is provided housing in Glasgow by John Maclean. In the 1905 Revolution Petroff claims to have built a socialist organisation within the Tsarist Army in Southern Russia, taking part in an armed rising in Voronezh. He is made Vice-Commissar for Foreign Affairs by Lenin’s Bolshevik government on his return to Russia in 1918.
October – November 1907: Victor Grayson embarks on a series of talks in Paisley, Bonnybridge, Greenock and Glasgow.
December 1907: Grayson hosts lecture entitled ‘The Destiny of the Mob’ at Northgate Mansions Hall in Gloucester. The lecture is an attempt to breathe fresh life into the personality of socialism and relocate the individual at its spiritual centre. Grayson contends that Capitalism has depersonalised and dehumanized the individual. Modern capitalism “placed commodities above human life”. The more they consume us, he tells his audience, “the more we grow.” Even at this early stage it is clear that Grayson thinks that revolution could never flourish without first taking root in the hearts and minds of the bourgeoisie, placing him alongside the likes of Kerensky. He says that it was a fallacy that rich men could not be Socialists. Socialism was coming by the force of circumstances, the “irresistible trend of things”.
1908: Lenin and the Bolsheviks relocate to Paris but remain allied to the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
August 1908: Keir Hardie and Victor Grayson both cite ill-health and embark on a trip to Canada, touring both Montreal, Manitoba and Quebec. The trip is financed by Joseph Fels, a German-born philanthropist and friend of Peter Kropotkin and George Lansbury. Fels also sponsored the 1907 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, paying for the return trip of 300 or so of its delegates including Stalin and Lenin. Activist and Doukhobor leader, Peter Verigin had recently set up communities of exiles in the region. According to the diary of Charles ‘Leo’ Briggs, Grayson had visited Verigin’s friend, Vladmir Chertkov in Bournemouth with Briggs shortly after arriving at Owen College in Manchester. Fred Bower, an activist Grayson had known from his days in Liverpool, had arrived in Canada with a Doukhobor contingent just a few years earlier. Some of the group were charged with rioting and arson.
March 1909: Still an MP, Victor Grayson attends Labour Conference in Portsmouth. Endures rather comical ‘abduction’ by Conservative motorist making him late for his speech. The abduction had been planned by a retired Conservative Naval Officer. Grayson’s Liverpool comrade Fred Bower says Victor was going to talk about the need for Labour to adopt a more militant policy.
April 1909: Grayson writes, ‘The Case For Efficient National Defence’ in The Clarion after visiting Germany and witnessing first-hand its military build-up.
15th September 1909: Adela Pankhurst justifies violent militant tactics to Taranaki Herald (New Zealand) correspondent.
October 1909: Grayson addresses 8,000 social democrats in Trafalgar Square and makes a violent speech denouncing the execution of Catalan anarchist,
Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia. Henry Hyndman is also present. In the speech Grayson advocates a “life for a life” and declares that if the head of every king in Europe was torn from it’s trunk tomorrow, it would not pay half the price of Ferrer’s life. He says Ferrer’s death lies at the door of King Edward for failing to use his influence in Spain.
January 1910: Grayson loses his seat in the House of Commons.
February 1911: Victor Grayson is invited to the New Zealand Socialist Party’s April Conference in Dunedin (Mark Briggs attends).
August 1911: Formation of British Socialist Party. Grayson is described by the New Zealand Press as its ‘moving spirit’.
March 1912: Grayson becomes an active voice in the Miner’s and Dockers Strikes taking place in Cardiff and the Rhonnda Valley. Criticizes use of military force against striking workers. Condemns arrest of Trade Unionist Tom Mann.
November 1912: Victor Grayson marries Ruth Nightingale (actress Rith Norreys) in Chelsea. Ruth is the daughter John Webster Nightingale (b.1858 Chorlton), a Manchester-Bolton banker whose family have firm links to Lancashire’s Chartist and Nonconformity movements. Her grandfather is Jonathan Nightingale (b.1830) Blackburn. His birth is registered in the National Archive’s among the Non-Conformist Births and Baptism records. Ruth’s great uncle, Benjamin Nightingale was a radical minister whose work is mentioned in the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell (his book, Lancashire Nonconformity is published in 1890). The Nonconformity movement comprised of Presbyterians, Congregationalists and other Calvinist groups. The Nightingales appear to have made their money in Manchester’s Cotton & Textile Industry.
February 1913: Right-wing New Zealand Press report on Grayson and French Socialist efforts to ‘corrupt the army and navy’ should war be declared (they propose calling a general strike).
April 1913: Victor and Ruth Grayson arrive in New York in the midst of a major ‘Silk Strikes’ in New Jersey. His friends and hosts are among the fiercest supporters of the strikes. In an interview with the New York Times Grayson says that murder would be justified during the strikes. In the same interview Ruth describes herself as a ‘militant suffragette’ who believes that women in England are ‘justified in burning houses and raising Cain generally”. She believes that “anything is justifiable.”
April 1913: Grayson visits pro-war Socialists Samuel George Hobson (Cardiff/Bristol) and William English Walling (Kentucky, US). They are associates of the pro-Conscription Henry Hyndman and US Russian-Jewish exiles Sergius Ingerman and Boris Reinstein both now active in the Socialist Labour Party of America. Reinstein took control of the US Passaic Weavers strike of 1912 and the ongoing New Jersey Silk strike. In October 1917 Reinstein returns to Russia and is made Head of Propaganda by Vladimir Lenin. Sergius Ingerman stays in America and founds the New York Plekhanov Group. Plekhanov was one of the leading revolutionaries who like Grayson backed the war in the name of ‘defense of the revolution’ and ‘national defence’. Mensheviks like Plekhanov and Tsereteli were advocates of Social-Chauvinism and believed their vision of revolution was not viable under German triumph. They backed the Revolutionaries’ Second International but not the Comintern (Third International) of 1919. At the end of their stay in America Ruth Grayson tells reporters, “The only people I found worthwhile (here) were the Russian Jews. I liked them.”
May 1913: Writing in Pravda Vladimir Lenin describes Grayson as “a very fiery socialist, but one not strong in principles and given to phrase-mongering.” (Pravda, No. 109, 14 May 1913)
March 9th 1914: Grayson delivers violent revolutionary speech in London. “You must fight capitalism with every possible weapon. If they shoot you down you must get ready to shoot them.”
May 1914: Grayson’s Colne Valley campaigner Adela Pankhurst arrives in Melbourne, Australia.
July 1914: Lenin opposes outbreaks World War One as an ‘imperialist conflict’ and calls for proletariat soldiers to mutiny.
17th July 1914: Grayson election campaigner, Adela Pankhurst arrives in Sydney, Australia at the initiation of E. J. Kavanagh and the New South Wales Labour Council. Reinforces case for militancy. Quickly drafted into the Women’s Peace Army led by Suffragette, Vida Goldstein. Here she embarks on an ‘anti-recruitment’ drive (part of the anti-Conscription League’).
July 1914: Grayson is dispatched by Manchester ‘Umpire’ newspaper (later ‘Empire News’) to France as War Correspondent. It is not backed by the war office.
August 1914: Grayson commissions private plane and flies above trenches and beyond enemy lines. On landing back in France he arrested as a German Spy as a result of Police concerns about his requisite papers. The charges are later dropped.
September 1914: Poor health sees Grayson return to England where he engages in recruitment campaigns.
June 1915: Victor Grayson arrives in Australia on what is believed to have been a pro-war recruitment drive. Sails from London on the SS Orontes (the troopship alleged to have ferried Toplis away from to India before any mutiny happened).
September 1915: Ruth Grayson lands job with Allan Wilkie’s Shakespearean Touring Company. Wilkie receives a CBE in in May 1925 for services to the British Empire.
October 1915: Founder of the British Labour Movement and anti-War campaigner Keir Hardie dies. Grayson at one time regarded Hardie as friend and inspiration.
March 1916: New Zealand Christian Socialist and Pacifist Archibald Baxter makes the New Zealand news when he and several of his associates refuse conscription to the New Zealand Defence Force.
April 26th 1916: New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association is founded. Victor’s Grayson’s commanding officer serves as President of the Association between 1924 and 1926.
July 1916: Grayson makes career-changing pro-War speech onboard the Orontes in Australia (the ship that Toplis is alleged to have been on at the time of the Etaples Mutiny).
July 1916: Grayson Colne Valley campaigner, Adela Pankhurst arrives in New Zealand for a series of lectures in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton and a mass meeting at the Manawatu Flaxworker’s Union – chaired by subsequent pacifist and Conscientious Objector, Mark Briggs.
August 1916: Grayson arrives (and stays) in New Zealand. He is accompanied by his wife Ruth Nightingale (actress Ruth Norreys) as part of Wilkie’s Shakespearean Company. The boat they are sailing on nearly sinks.
August 26th 1916: Frank Hughes of New Zealand’s Canterbury Infantry Regiment shot for serial desertion and refusing to obey orders.
September 1916: Grayson gives lecture at Wellington’s Alexandra Hall entitled, ‘The Coming Revolution‘. He says a social revolution must first take root in the press and religions of the world. This is followed by ‘The Altar of Mammon‘ at an address made at the Socialist Party HQ in Christchurch.
September 1916: Delivers second lecture at Wellington’s Alexandra Hall on behalf of the Social Democratic Party entitled, ‘The War and the Labour Movement’. Attempts create a plausible context for Socialists to back the war.
September 1916: In an interview with the Maoriland Worker, Grayson offers a revealing insight into his pro-Conscription efforts, “the present war would achieve an epoch-making revolution … possibly resulting in the overthrow of capitalism itself”. He claims men would come back from the war “trained to use guns and bayonets and act unitedly”. The men, he goes on, would ‘reap the experiences of the trenches.” His basic premise is that the British proletariat would never be able to go back and accept the terms of their oppression.
October 29th 1916: Conditions at Etaples Camp continue to deteriorate. Private Jack Braithwaite (described as a Bohemian Journalist) serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Otago Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force is shot for mutiny. Three other New Zealand privates have their sentences commuted. In total five New Zealand soldiers were executed during the war, two from Grayson’s Canterbury Regiment.
November 8th 1916: Adela Pankhurst is back in New Zealand for series of talks in Katamatite.
November 1916: The New Zealand Attoney General calls Grayson a ‘mischievous fanatic’.
November 1916: Writing in the Lyttelton Times, Victor Grayson explains reason for his decision to enlist and his complete change of heart about the war and conscription: ” I have joined the army and hope to fight because the Prusso-Germans, because I believe that my ideals stand the best chance of realisation under a British regime … I hate war and I hate killing. yet if I account for the vassals of the world’s mad dog, I shall have ‘done my bit’ towards the world’s regeneration.”
November 28th 1916: Grayson enlists with New Zealand’s 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment. Leaves Wellington in March 1917 and completes basic training at Sling Camp in Wiltshire, England. The Canterbury Regiment’s Aberdeenshire-born, Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Stewart (and author of the official history of the New Zealand war effort) spent the period before the war teaching in Russian schools and had learned the Russian language. He was the son of Presbyterian minister, John Stewart and Margaret Mackintosh. In his Official History of the New Zealand Division published in 1922 Stewart is accused of hushing-up the mutiny that broke out in Etaples. Stewart subsequently wrote several books on Russia including ‘Provincial Russia’ and ‘Russia’ (with Sunday Times correspondent, George Dobson and Dutch-French painter and draughtsman, Frederic de Haenen). Both books were published by Adam & Charles Black (owned by the politically active, Adam Black of Edinburgh and Soho whose friend Walter Berry had already been imprisoned for writing a ‘seditious’ pamphlet). Stewart’s co-author, George Dobson was arrested by the Cheka (Soviet secret police) in August 1918 on suspicion of spying for the British. British Naval attaché, Francis Cromie died defending the British Embassy that same year.
November 1916: Grayson gets cold shouldered by the Australian Labour Movement for supporting Conscription.
March 14th 1917: Grayson Colne Valley campaigner, Adela Pankhurst severs her connection with Australian Peace Movement to focus on organising work for the Socialist Party in Australia.
March 1917 – Russia’s February Revolution. Abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and formation of Russian Provisional Government. Mitigating factors include hunger riots, industrial riots and mass desertions among Russian troops. February Revolution still dominated by capitalist stakeholders and supported by many nobles. Socialists had the support of troops and mutiny was a critical factor. Provisional Government and leading members of the Menshevik vow to continue war with Germany.
March 1917: Manawatu Flaxworker’s Union leader and Pankhurst associate, Mark Briggs is arrested by civilian police. Briggs and his fellow objectors are imprisoned first in Wellington, then at Treantham, Sling Camp (Bulford, Wiltshire) before relocation to Etaples Camp. Their status as Conscientious Objectors is not recognised by the military and their treatment is severe.
March 26th 1917: Victor Grayson and his regiment leave Wellington New Zealand for basic training in the UK.
April 1917: German authorities grant Vladimir Lenin passage through Germany to Russia in a sealed railway car. Germany believes the return of the anti-war Lenin to Russia will undermine the Russian war effort.
April 1917: Baxter and his co-defendants (described by the press as ‘recalcitrant reservists’) are tried by court martial in Wellington, New Zealand for refusing orders. They are sentenced to 84 days imprisonment with hard labour and then sent back to camp.
June 3rd 1917: As a direct response to Russia’s February Revolution, a Labour and Socialist Convention is held in Leeds. Over 1500 delegates from the Socialist Democratic parties including British Socialist Party, the ILP and Women’s Organisations attend convention that creates a Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ (it is welcomed by the Russian Soldiers and Worker’s Deputies and a R.A.M.C unit). Basil Thomson of Special Branch says it was “resolved to divide Great Britain into Soviets to the ominous number of thirteen.” This was a reference to the thirteen elected conveners: H. Alexander, Charles G. Ammon, W.C. Anderson, M.P., C. Despard, E.C. Fairchild, J. Fineberg, F.W. Jowett, M.P., George Lansbury, J. Ramsay Macdonald, MP., Tom Quelch, Robert Smillie, Philip Snowden, MP., and Robert Williams. The Council folds after just six months as a result of disagreements over the October Revolution.
June 24th 1917: Men awaiting demobilization within the Royal Sussex, Middlesex, Royal West Kent and Buffs regiments declare a branch of the Soldiers and Workmen’s Council. The authorities view it as an attempt to create a Soviet and the movement fails to gain traction with other regiments.
July 1917: Men of Russia’s First Expeditionary Brigade begin to rebel openly against the Russian High Command at La Courtine Camp. About 9,000 men refuse to fight and set up their own camp-based ‘Soviet Republic’. The situation in Russia remains dangerously unpredictable and the Bolshevik movement is gaining traction.
26th July 1917: Grayson and the 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment arrive in Devonport, England and are marched into Sling Camp (Bulford Camp) in England to complete basic training.
August 1917: Adela Pankhurst arrested during a march against rising food prices in Melbourne. Sentenced to one month in prison.
August 1917: Adela’s mother, Emmeline Pankhurst meets Alexander Kerensky, the provisional Justice Minister in Russia. Kerensky played a key role in the Russia’s February Revolution (he leads the moderate Trudoviks faction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party). Between March and October 1917 Kerensky serves as Minister of Justice in Russia’s Provisional Government. Britain are eager to keep the Russians in the War.
August 19th 1917: Private John King of New Zealand’s Canterbury Infantry Regiment is executed for desertion by firing squad.
September 5th 1917: Victor Grayson and his Canterbury Infantry Regiment complete basic training at Sling Camp (Bulford) and leave for France.
September 9th 1917: Victor Grayson and the Canterbury Infantry Regiment arrive at the Reinforcement Camp at Etaples.
September 9th 1917: Etaples Mutiny breaks out (New Zealand and Australian troops take leading role in riots). Disturbances mitigated by vicious beating of Arthur John (‘Jock’) Healy – a bugler within New Zealand’s Field Artillery (b. 1896). Service records show regular disciplinary action taken by Military Police and periods of ‘rest’ in hospital.
September 10th 1917: Etaples soldiers set out demands for improvements to camp conditions (access to town in particular)
September 11th 1917: Small delegation of Etaples soldiers (alleged to have included Percy Toplis) seek support of ‘Soldier’s Champion’ Horatio Bottomley who edits the John Bull newspaper. By chance he is staying at the Hotel des Voyagers in Etaples at the time of the incident. Bottomley writes on October 6th how he sets out their complaints: “Leave, Pay, Field Punishment, Military Policing, Short Rations and Cushy Posts”.
September 12th 1917: General Haig’s diary records that he meets Bottomley for lunch. An entry on the same describes the events at Etaples: “The AG reported some disturbances which have occurred at Etaples, due to some men of new drafts with revolutionary ideas who produced red flags and refused to obey orders. The ring leaders have been arrested, and the others sent to their units at the front.” Did these ‘new drafts’ include Grayson’s Canterbury Regiment?
Mutineer James Cullen (sentences to one year, suspended) later writes: “I was approached by a prominent Communist agitator, who asked me what part I would take in getting the troops to mutiny. There was a small council of action set up and we set about doing everything possible to get a general rising… the councils of action, of which I was one, were giving instructions through under channels. The revolt lasted three days, at the end of which a truce was come to between the General Officer Commanding and the rebel troops. I was one who refused point blank to recognise the truce and carried on with a small band of irresponsibles. Eventually we tried to rush the guard one night, but were repulsed. I was captured and made a prisoner.”
September 12th 1917 (same day) A headline in New Zealand’s The Maoriland Worker reads: “The Great Australian Revolt”. It relates the story and persecution of Adela Pankhurst and the ‘mighty working class revolt’ (Maoriland Worker, Volume 8, Issue 342, 12 September 1917).
September 12th – September 16th 1917: Demands for camp improvements are granted: the removal of the Assistant Provost Marshall (Captain Strachan) and the ‘Red Caps’, the cancelling of out-of-bounds orders, a modification of the Bull Ring (training ground) ‘torture’ and the assurance that no man was to be court-martialled for taking part in the mutiny.
September 16th 1917: In France loyal Russian troops battle mutinous Russian troops who have taken arms with the Bolsheviks. Over twenty Russian troops are killed (it subsequently becomes known as the massacre of La Courtine).
September 18th 1917: Etaples mutineer Arthur ‘Jock’ Healy admitted to Etaples General Hospital (there is no mention in his service records of any disciplinary action being taken against Healy for any role played in the mutiny).
September 22nd 1917: Grayson and the 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment ordered to the front.
September 22nd 1917: Yorkshire-born objector Mark Briggs marched into Sling Camp (the same New Zealand Army base at Bulford in Wiltshire where Grayson completed his training)
September 1917: Britain’s 74 Chinese Labour Corps in Boulogne go on rampage. A total of 27 unarmed strikers are shot dead, 39 are wounded and 25 are taken prisoner.
October 1st: Mutineer Arthur ‘Jock’ Healy moved from Etaples to a hospital in London England.
October 4th: Etaples Mutineer Jesse Robert Short of the 24 Northumberland Fusiliers, executed by firing squad.
October 6th 1917: New Zealand Conscientious Objector, Mark Briggs arrives in Etaples from Sling Camp (Bulford) and is immediately sentenced to Field Punishment 1: the ‘crucifixion’ – loosely tied to a pole and forced into a hanging position. His torture is ordered by Lieutenant Colonel George Mitchell, generally thought to have helped restore order at the camp in the aftermath of the mutiny. Officers quiz Briggs about his Socialist ‘tendencies’.
October 15th 1917: Victor Grayson is wounded at Passchendaele. Admitted to 9th General Hospital (wound to the left hip). Medical notes say condition made worse by years of alcoholism (1 bottle of whisky a day) and epileptic seizures since 1911.
October 23rd 1917: Etaples Mutineer James Cullen in detention awaiting trial for mutiny. His sentence is suspended and he is sent to the front.
October 29th 1917: Grayson is transferred to No.1 New Zealand General Hospital in Brockenhurst, England.
November 7th 1917: The October Revolution in Russia. Lenin’s Bolshevik-led Red Guards remove the Provisional Government and proclaim soviet rule. Tsar Nicholas III and his family are executed in July 1918.
November 1917: New Zealand Conscientious Objector Archibald Baxter and 13 other detainees leave New Zealand aboard the troopship Waitemata bound for Cape Town on 14 July 1917, imprisoned in the ship’s lockup. They are stripped and put into uniform.
January 8th 1918: Baxter arrives at Sling Camp (Bulford Camp, Wiltshire) after measles outbreak in Cape Town.
January 26th 1918: Military Police warrant issued on Etaples mutineer Arthur John Healy for absentee journey to Edinburgh.
January 28th 1918: New Zealand conscientious objector Archibald Baxter arrives in Etaples. The camp is now under the control of Sling Camp’s Lieutenant Colonel George ‘Hoppy’ Mitchell. The official explanation is that it is to relieve overcrowding at the detention camp at Sling/Bulford, but there are some indications that it was to provide the correct legal framework to mete out more severe punishment.
January 1918: Grayson is discharged from military service as medically unfit. On his return to England he seeks (but is not offered) a financial arrangement with the National War Aims Committee to campaign on their behalf.
Februay 1918: Ruth Grayson gives birth prematurely and dies.
February 18th 1918: Bolsheviks appoint Maxim Litvinovas their Consul in England. John Maclean is appointed Bolshevik Consul in Glasgow. Maclean is subsequently imprisoned for sedition (inciting other Socialists to begin a revolution by seizing the city’s town hall, its banks and post offices). Money is said to have been funnelled to Maclean through bank accounts belonging to Litvinovas (Bolshevik Pay For Agitators, Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXXIV, Issue 0, 19 December 1918)
February 1918: Attempted mutiny breaks out on two Imperial Russian ships docked in Liverpool (the Poryv and the Razsvet). Voices are heard crying, ‘Shoot the officers’).
February 1918: Victor Grayson is drafted into trade unionist, Havelock Wilson’s Merchant Seamen’s League. He undertakes active campaigning in Glasgow and ‘Red Clydeside’.
February 1918: Basil Thomson, Head of Special Branch asks impresario Maundy Gregory to keep an eye on Grayson.
April 1918: Grayson provides detailed account of his month-long military career and injury in the Daily Mail.
April 1918: Grayson suddenly withdraws completely from public life, and his attachment to Wilson is severed. He does not feature in Wilson’s plans again.
August 30 1918: Major Police strike in England. 12,000 officers go on strike. Sir Basil Thomson believes it to be economic and not revolutionary in nature.
September 1918: Etaples Mutineer Arthur ‘Jock’ Healy discharged as a result of diagnosed heart murmur (New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs records his death as 1966 in Blenheim). Healy went on to serve with the New Zealand Home Guard and as Engine Driver in World War II.
June-November 1918: Grayson moves to Bury Street in London’s St James Palace. Maundy Gregory and Etaples Soldier’s Champion, Horatio Bottomley become Grayson’s most frequent visitors.
November 1918 & March 1919: Riots break out among New Zealand Troops at the Sling Camp (Bulford). Grayson’s old regiment, the Canterbury Regiment is involved. The giant Bulford Kiwi is carved out of the hillside as a way of restoring order and discipline. Transport issues and the influenza pandemic mean that the last group of New Zealand soldiers do not arrive home until May 1920.
January 1919: National Union of Ex-Servicemen (NUX) is founded in London by ‘Victor Grayson mystery’ witness, John Beckett and Ernest Mander, a worker at the ‘Ministry of Munitions’ in London who moves to New Zealand in 1920.
January 10th 1919: Military riots break out in Folkestone. Disturbances breal out at other camps. The slow demobilization process is blamed.
January 1919: Bolshevik violinist, Eduard Sõrmus schedules UK tour to coincide with Sylvia’s ‘Hands of Russia’ meeting at Albert Hall in March.
Janaury 31st 1919: Battle of George Square. Glasgow and Clydeside area is scene of intense riots as 60,000 demonstrators battle with Police. Troops are called in as Churchill’s fears of a Bolshevik revolution take hold. Subsequently referred to as Black Friday. James Cullen associate, William Gallacher is arrested. Maclean’s Red Clydeside Movement is judged to be behind it.
1919: New Zealand Maoriland Worker writer, Edward Hunter (aka. Billy Banjo) returns to Glasgow. The former secretary of the Huntly branch of the New Zealand Socialist Party and Grayson supporter has already been charged with sedition and is blacklisted on the coalfields of New Zealand. As brother-in-law of Scottish Socialist and Labour MP James C. Welsh he enjoys an active role in Clydeside Politics and Political theatre.
March 1919: Special Branch report signs of co-operation between ex-servicemen’s The Sailors’, Soldiers’, and Airmen’s Union and extreme Labour organisations.
August 1919: Percy Toplis re-enlists under his own name in the RASC. He is based at Bulford Camp alongside the remaining New Zealand units (Sling).
April 1920: Still at Bulford, Toplis is charged and sentenced (in absentia) over the murder of taxi driver George Spicer. Another Bulford Soldier, Harry Fallows is arrested. He says he played no part in the murder of Spicer but had accompanied Toplis on a ‘joyride’ to Cardiff and Swansea in the aftermath murder. Toplis makes his way to Bala in Monmouthshire, South Wales, just a few short miles from the home of executed mutineer, Jess Short. He heads back to London and then Scotland.
November 9th 1919: Grayson’s Liverpool and Belfast ally, Jim Larkin is arrested in New York on charges of Criminal Anarchy. During his time in the US the Irish Labour Leader had joined the Socialist Party of America before being expelled for contact with the Soviets. His arrest coincided with raids on the headquarters of the Russian Soviet (Leeds Mercury 10 November 1919)
1920: Adela Pankhurst becomes founding member of the Communist Party of Australia.
June 1920: So-called mutineer Percy Toplis ambushed and killed in Penrith.
1920: Glasgow mutineer James Cullen becomes a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and is later offered a place as speaker in Havelock Wilson’s Industrial Peace Union alongside Adela Pankhurst and Tom Walsh. Like Cullen, Pankhurst eventually moves across to the right and forms the Australia First Movement in 1941.
1920: Victor Grayson is alleged to be investigating Maundy Gregory and the role he played in the trial of Roger Casement and the Lloyd George Honours Scandal.
March 1920: ‘Hands Off Russia’ campaign successful in holding strikes. London dockers refuse to load munitions onto ships to support Poland’s fight against Russia. Anti-communist Intelligence community grows concerned about government’s failure to contain British Bolshevism. To support efforts, Joseph Ball is recruited as Mi5’s Head of B Division: the Counter-Espionage Unit.
August 1920: Communist Party of Great Britain is formed at a conference held at Cannon Street Hotel in London. Co-founders include Harry Pollitt, Wal Hannington, Willie Gallacher and Grayson’s ‘Don’t Shoot’ associate, Tom Mann.
September 15th 1920: Still incarcerated in New York on charges of Criminal Anarchy, Jim Larkin issues a demand for the immediate release of Irish hunger striker, Terence MacSwiney.
September 16th 1920: Anarchists bomb Wall Street in New York.
September 26th-28th 1920: Victor Grayson disappears, never to be seen again.
September 29th 1920: Reports leak of a foiled attack on Whitehall featuring British-based networks loyal to Sinn Fein and the Roger Casement Sinn Fein Club. Attacks were planned in response to the arrest of Terence MacSwiney in August 1920.
September 28th 1920: Painter George Flemwell now based in Switzerland claims that on a rare visit to England on September 28th he spots his old friend Victor Grayson entering ‘Vanity Fair’ — a bungalow on Ditton Island in the Thames owned by Maundy Gregory. According to former Sunday Times journalist and one time Fleming associate, Donald McCormick, the same George Flemwell appears in a coded diary entry by suspected Cambridge Spy Ring Master, Arthur Cecil Pigou. The quote from the diary reads: “Established communications with Piatnitsky via George Flemwell in Switzerland: this is permanent link by Verlet in Geneva.” Osip Piatnitsky was one of the Russian revolutionaries who attended the 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in London alongside Stalin and Lenin. Their host, Reverend F.R Swan was one of Grayson’s most committed campaigners in the 1907 Colne Valley by-election. The existence of the diary cannot be confirmed.
October 22nd 1920: Terence MacSwiney dies in police custody in Brixton Prison.
October 25th 1920: Brixton-based clerk, Michael Simington convicted over the September Whitehall Plot
November 29th 1920: Sinn Fein arsonists launch sustained attack on Liverpool and Manchester.
May 1922: Etaples champion and Grayson visitor, Horatio Bottomley is arrested and charged with fraud. He served 5 years and died penniless in 1933.
January 1st 1927: Toplis’ Bulford accomplice Harry Fallows is found dead in mysterious circumstances in a cave in Derbyshire. He had been living in Manchester and dating a girl called Marjorie Coe Stewart of Mayne Fabric Company in Salford. The girl is also found dead in the cave. Their death comes just a few months after the end of the Great Strike.
The Disappearance of Victor Grayson - Socialist MP
Victor Grayson was perhaps Britain's most radical and rabble rousing MP. Elected Britain's first and perhaps only Socialist MP in 1907 at an age of 25 he stormed through the Yorkshire Hills around Huddersfield and took his fight to Westminster. He was thrown out of the House of Commons calling the MP's murderers for not debating hunger in the ranks of Britain's starving unemployed and their children. In today's Britain with it's doubling Child poverty and burgeoning food banks it strikes a note. Grayson was a thorn in the side of the Labour Party and lacking the backing of officials lost his seat in 1910. His speeches are still today both prophetic and inspiring. Grayson set up a rival political party to Labour - the British Socialist Party in 1911, and became a free wheel on the radical left, even backing British involvement in World War 1. He enlisted and was injured on the Western Front and looked set for a come back to parliament after 1918. The sudden death of his wife and baby in February 1918 was followed by a series of strange events in 1920, including an attack on him in a London Street, and his eventual disappearance escorted to oblivion in the company of two men who had collected him to leave his lodgings to embark on a long trip. He was never to return.
What happened to him? - Some reports link him to Ireland and a clandestine visit to Dublin. Others suggest that he left Britain to die in Australia or New Zealand. He was subject to a series of supposed sightings in Kent or on a London Street in the next 20 years. Some of his friends claimed he was living secretly in London and living a quiet life working at a London furnishing shop.
More sinister suggestions have been made - that he was murdered at the hands of notorious honours trafficker and political fixer Maundy Gregory.
Intelligence writer Donald McCormick (Aka Richard Deacon) was in 1970 the first researcher to link the two men, a fact substantiated by Lord Clark of Windermere in interviews with Grayson's Hotel Manageress Hilda Porter in 1985. McCormick claimed to have had possession of letters from Artist George Flemwell who sighted Grayson disappearing into Gregory's Island Bungalow on September 28th 1920 , but this is strongly challenged as a fabrication and McCormick claimed to have sold the letters in 1974.
Grayson's family became alarmed at his disappearance. His daughter last saw him in 1919 and was told he had left on a long trip to write a book. His sister who travelled down to London from Liverpool in 1920 to nurse his injuries found he had left the Georgian House in Bury Street, London and could not find him. In 1927 his brother returned from the merchant navy tried to find him, and his mother appealed to Scotland Yard and the National Newspapers. No luck, despite a deathbed plea to see him before she died, she passed away in 1929 still separated from her missing son. In 1942, his sister who had emigrated to Toronto Canada, urged Scotland Yard to launch a man-hunt for the missing MP. They discovered that Grayson had been attacked but could find no body or trace of a living man matching his description. In 1952, prompted by an anonymous letter Grayson's sister used her life savings to travel to London to seek help from Scotland Yard and the National Newspapers to no avail. Donald Trelford reported that Grayson's file in Scotland Yard's Missing Persons Department was the size of 2 London Telephone Books. That file which existed in 1942, 1948 & 1955 , along with Special Branch, MI5 and other files have long since been lost or destroyed. Attempts by researchers, MPs, Cabinet Minister and authors to see them from the 1960's onwards have met with no success. Because of Grayson's love of drink, and alleged womanising - many have been too quick to discount his possible murder, yet the combination of an attack on his person and his removal from his Mayfair lodgings by 2 unknown men suggest foul play. Certainly something happened to him which prevented his return to see his 6 year old daughter, his mother and sister after 1920, and if alive after 1927 he would have found word to reach out to his family.
Lord Clark On The Mystery Of Victor Grayson
It’s now 107 years since Victor Grayson won a spectacular victory in the 1907 Colne Valley by-election, standing as an Independent Labour candidate. But his life and mysterious disappearance continue to fascinate political historians. His biographer, and one of his successors as MP for Colne Valley, David (now Lord) Clark, was the main speaker at an event about Grayson at the University of Huddersfield last night.
Victor Grayson had a reputation as one of the great and most radical public speakers of his time, and the Pankhursts were among those who travelled to Colne Valley to join his campaign. His success was short-lived and his Parliamentary career ended at the next general election in 1910, after, with the help of a series of drunken outbursts on the floor of the Commons chamber, he managed to alienate just about all his fellow MPs, including those from Keir Hardie’s mainstream Labour Party. Grayson re-emerged after the First World War but was not seen again after 1920, amid suggestions he got himself mixed up with a shadowy Whitehall fixer called Maundy Gregory, a man responsible for co-ordinating the sale of honours on behalf of Prime Minister David Lloyd George.
The evening began with an extremely rare screening of a 1985 BBC2 documentary about Grayson, not thought to have been shown publicly since its original broadcast. It included interviews with Grayson’s landlady at the time of his disappearance in 1920, Grayson’s nephew as well as a New Zealand soldier who had served with Grayson during WWI, and claimed to have seen him in Spain some years after his apparent disappearance. A rather younger looking David Clark, who by this time had lost his seat in Colne Valley but been elected in South Shields, also featured prominently.
Having read and written a bit about Grayson during my time reporting politics in Saddleworth, in particular the 2011 Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election (Saddleworth and ‘Red Delph’ was part of the Colne Valley constituency in Grayson’s day, indeed it was up until 1983), I’d always assumed that the various sightings of him after his disappearance were probably false, and that he’d been bumped off on Gregory’s orders. A common suggestion is that Grayson knew too much about the honours scandal, and may have threatened to reveal it.
However, Lord Clark seemed fairly convinced, both in the original documentary and again in his remarks last night, that Grayson went to ground and was paid off, and continued living in secret under an assumed name. That would certainly explain the various sightings of Grayson recorded in the 1920s and 30s. But a stronger piece of evidence is the fact that somebody retrieved Grayson’s WWI medals from the New Zealand authorities in London in August 1939. If not Grayson himself, this would have to have been a direct and close relative. The only one alive at that time was his daughter, who, according to Clark, had told him she knew nothing about the medals. It strikes me the sightings can be easily explained away, but that can’t.
Lord Clark speaks about Victor Grayson last night.
Lord Clark also revealed that files about Grayson and some of his political contemporaries held by the Home Office still haven’t been released. When asked by event organiser and University of Huddersfield lecturer Stephen Dorril whether his experiences investigating Grayson’s life had informed his later work on Freedom of Information during the first year of Tony Blair’s government, Lord Clark said it had up to a point. But he then added he was concerned it was the media rather than the general public which tended to use FOI today, which had not necessarily been his original intention.
After Lord Clark’s talk, University of Huddersfield history lecturer Keith Laybourn set Grayson’s life in the context of the Labour movement of the early 1900s, then both men took questions from the good-sized crowd of about 80 people. Thanks to all for a very enjoyable evening.
Victor Grayson - History
White, almost a pale-ish color. Accent and Ethnicity is unknown.
Reading, tea, anything involving the paranormal, being in charge, horror, etc-
Loud people, Filename2*, children and humans who don't know any better, feeling powerless/not being able to control a situation.
Overall Victor doesn't show much personality, but if you had to describe it.. He is very strict when it comes to his workspace. Victor can and will confront any faculty member who slacks on the job, or any kid that disrespects him and staff. Sometimes he can be slow to react and come off as "tired", but he is still very serious about work. Some staff members would even try to make Victor take a break due to working so hard.
Aside work, Victor can be caring or cruel depending on the person. It's never in between. He may not be the best at affection. However, he does attempt to show some sort of love to those that he actually care about.
Victor.. also spelt as "Viktor" Grayson, is a grown male that stands at a height of 5"2 and he may choose to alter his size if feeling threatened or challenged. Surprisingly this man is the Principal and does not mess around when it comes to his schoolhouse.
In human form, Victor has dark-ish brown hair and wears anything comfortable to him, such as a casual sweater or a formal suit with a pair of jeans/slacks. He is often found with a sunset yellow-colored bowtie around his neck. If this is ever removed, you can see distinct and deep rope burns around the front of the neck.
Victor is a polymorphic being, meaning that he can change his appearance whenever he wishes to as long as there is enough energy for him to do so. He is most likely spotted in human form.. Sometimes it can be noticeable that he has the qualities of a snake such as fangs and his speech when ticked off. When mad he will hiss like a snake, and any word that has an "s" in it will be pronounced longer. Victor's most common form when he chooses to use his power is the Black Mamba (images below snake warning). It is better to keep yourself at a safe distance if you however spot him in this form, as this species is very quick to act and venomous.
Victoria was manipulative, cold and rarely displays her true feelings, ironically she was more like Amanda Clarke than either of them had ever realized, the only big difference in their personalities was that Victoria was not loyal to her loved ones, although Victoria rarely shows her true feelings, she has a more vulnerable side as made evident by her request that Frank Stevens to stay with her when she was alone in her house. She also seemed genuinely devastated when Frank was killed and it has been implied that she might have had feelings for him, although it was possible that she was simply manipulating him to get him to do what she wanted.
Victoria did genuinely love David Clarke, but it had been implied that she used to have a rather weak willed nature, since she helped Conrad and Frank frame him, despite her feelings for her lover. However, after David's arrest, Victoria appeared to become a stronger person, doing her best to get David out of prison despite the disapproval of her husband. She later stated that David was the only man she had ever truly loved and never forgave herself for betraying him.
The Hampton Queen was also fiercely competitive and suffers no rivals. Victoria seemingly wants to own the people she claims to love and desires to be the only person in their lives who matters. This might explain why she never got along with young Amanda Clarke and why she never truly apologized for all the harm she did her.
Victoria was a hypocrite, as she claims that what the conspirators did to David was horrible, when she was the one who betrayed him in the first place. She's also livid that Conrad and Lydia had an affair, although Victoria did cheated on Conrad too, but she never loved him to begin with.
Victoria loves her children very much, although she had a better relationship with Daniel than she did with Charlotte, it was later revealed that Charlotte was actually David Clarke's daughter and the reason Victoria was so cold towards Charlotte was, because she reminded her of the fact that she had betrayed David. As time went on Victoria's whole family turned against her, but after surviving the White haired man's attempt to assassinate her, she became closer to Charlotte. She loves her eldest son Patrick the most. When he returns, she spends the entire summer bonding with him and they develop an intense mother-son relationship.
In Season 4, all of Victoria's children turned their backs on her, this time for good. Charlotte checked herself into rehab tired of being a pawn in her mother's war with Emily. Daniel sees his mother as cautionary tale Victoria's twisted kind of "love" only ensures a life of solitude. Wanting to be better than his parents Daniel leaves Victoria to self-destruct. Even Patrick whom Victoria connected with the most left in the end, hating the violent duplicitous man he was becoming under Victoria's influence. In a rare show of altruism Victoria allowed her favourite son to depart.
Victor Grayson: remembering an independent socialist MP
One hundred years ago a fiery socialist, independent of the Labour Party, was elected to parliament, creating hysteria in the media. He inspired thousands of working people across Britain, yet today many people would not even know his name.
When Victor Grayson was elected to parliament in 1907 he believed it was a victory “for pure revolutionary socialism”. He won against all early expectations and without the backing of the newly formed Labour Party.
Grayson was born in Liverpool on 5 September 1881. He was an apprentice engineer in Bootle, cutting his teeth as a public speaker at a Nonconformist Christian mission.
At this time a period of industrial militancy known as the new unionism was ebbing away, and the ruling elite went on the offensive. This culminated in the Taff Vale decision in 1901 that outlawed picketing and made unions compensate employers for money lost during strikes. Many felt that there was a need for independent working class representation in parliament.
The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) was founded in 1900. It formed an alliance between the trade unions and the Independent Labour Party (ILP), creating a broader party to represent working class people.
Trade unionist MPs had been elected to parliament as members of the Liberal Party, one of the two major ruling class parties, and were known as Lib-Labs.
The LRC would elect MPs who could form a distinct Labour group in the House of Commons.
This initiative aroused little enthusiasm among trade union members, with one ballot over affiliation recording a turnout of only 4 percent. The LRC made little progress – only two candidates were successful in the general election of 1900.
As a result two ILP leaders – Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald – agreed a secret pact with the Liberal Party, whereby Labour and Liberal candidates would not contest the same seats in certain areas. In the 1906 general election 24 out of 29 LRC MPs were returned on this basis.
Although this pact remained secret for over 50 years, it was clear to many that the Labour Party was tailing the Liberal Party. Labour MPs backed the Liberal government in 86 percent of votes between 1906-1908.
The Labour Party was wedded to parliamentary procedure and starved of funds because a law known as the Osborne Judgement had outlawed political levies on trade union members.
The party’s future was by no means certain. It now faced a new challenge as a 25 year old socialist left his training as a Unitarian minister to stand for parliament without its sanction.
Grayson was adopted by the Colne Valley Labour League (CVLL) in West Yorkshire to be its parliamentary candidate, even though the Labour Party refused to endorse him. Members of the CVLL had carried out much preparatory work in the constituency, holding over 125 public meetings in the previous year.
The anti-socialist editor of the Colne Valley Guardian noted, somewhat baffled, that “the higher the wages, the more eager is the straining after the chimerical ideals of socialism”.
The election was fought in the early summer of 1907. Although in his first formal election address Grayson was referred to as the ‘Labour and socialist candidate’, the words Labour and socialist were later reversed.
Grayson said that he wanted “emancipation from the wage-slavery of capitalism”. He was victorious, winning by 3,648 votes.
The mainstream press greeted Grayson’s victory with a mixture of disdain and hysteria. The Colne Valley Guardian lamented that “in the estimation of the country, Colne Valley has grievously fallen and it will take a decade, perhaps a generation, to restore it to its former position”.
The Daily Express ran the headline, “The Menace Of Socialism”. This exaggerated the threat Grayson posed to the ruling elite, but he proved to be a menace to them on more than one occasion.
When Grayson entered parliament the biggest Liberal majority in the party’s history ruled the House of Commons. There were 30 Labour MPs, with half claiming to be socialists. Grayson was asked to join the Labour group but he refused as he did not want to be hamstrung by its decisions.
His maiden speech was not the usual apolitical fair. The government moved a motion to grant £50,000 to Lord Cromer for his services in Egypt. Grayson irreverently stated, “We find ministers… making a grant to an Egyptian official while outside the four walls of this building people are dying of starvation.” This proved to be the first of many controversial speeches that he made.
Grayson traveled the country with his message. He told his audience in Wigan, “I am looking forward to the time when a British soldier will emulate his brother of the National Guard of France and when, asked to fire on the people, who are fighting for their rights, will turn his rifle in the other direction.”
One Saturday night he spoke at Huddersfield town hall. Grayson responded to calls to evict a heckler with characteristic good humour, saying, “Don’t chuck him out. I know what it is to be chucked out.”
He went on to address a packed meeting at St George’s Hall in Bradford, an audience of 2,000 in Keighley and 5,000 at St Pancras in central London. His popularity deeply troubled Labour leaders, who attempted to smear him in order to undermine his support among working people.
When strikes broke out in Belfast in 1907, Grayson took the side of the strikers. He spoke at a meeting in Huddersfield saying, “If the people have no shrapnel, they have broken bottles.”
Grayson was voted Yorkshire’s most popular MP in a poll conducted by a Yorkshire newspaper – he won 27,000 votes against the 22,000 cast for his nearest rival.
On Thursday 2 November 1908, members of the House of Commons were discussing the Licensing Bill. Grayson moved an adjournment so that the house could discuss unemployment.
He refused to stay silent, stating that “the people are starving in the streets they demand the immediate attention of this house”. He was forced to leave the chamber. As he left he shouted across to the Labour benches, “You are traitors! Traitors to your class.”
The following day he was suspended from the house for making a similar protest, calling the commons “a house of murderers” on his way out.
Grayson lost his seat in the 1910 election. He still polled over 3,000 votes despite division within the Colne Valley Socialist League (successor to the CVLL) and an ill-prepared campaign.
Now outside parliament he became the political editor of the radical Clarion newspaper, and threw his weight behind the drive to form a new socialist party.
In August 1911 he formally resigned from the ILP. This coincided with a period of unprecedented industrial militancy that became known as the Great Unrest.
This period, lasting from 1910 to 1914, saw the first national strikes of miners, dockers and rail workers. Trade union membership doubled and the number of strike days quadrupled.
On the back of this the British Socialist Party was founded in Manchester on 30 September 1911. It could have challenged the Labour Party for influence among working people.
But it was split between syndicalists, who believed in the primacy of strike action, and reformists, who believed in the primacy of parliament. It fractured with the onset of the First World War.
Imperialism proved to be Victor Grayson’s Achilles heel. He defended the British Empire and supported the First World War, even serving in the trenches. However, Grayson also opposed conscription and became bitter at the fact that those who had profited from the war received political honours at the expense of those who had served in the army.
At the end of the war Grayson was isolated – cut adrift from the left and viewed with suspicion by the right. His last political act was to expose the selling of honours by the government, which he declared to be “a national scandal”.
After exposing the honours outrage, he disappeared in mysterious circumstances in 1920 never to be seen again.
Grayson saw parliament as a platform for his ideas, and used his position to bring working class issues to the fore. He was an inspiration to many.
Unfortunately he was held back by a lack of theory – he didn’t see the need for regular industrial work and did not see the importance of independent revolutionary organisation. Lenin described him as “a very fiery socialist but one not strong in principles and given to phrasemongering”.
Despite his sad demise, he deserves to be remembered for so much more. When he was elected to parliament, he said, “I am simply a bullet fired by the Colne Valley workers against the established order.” We could do a lot worse than be bullets too.
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Back again and into the heart of tourist London running the gauntlet of the yellow properties on the Monopoly board – Leicester Square, Coventry Street and Piccadilly – along with the streets that make up the capital’s Chinatown.
Starting point for today is Piccadilly Circus and as we head east along Coventry Street the first thing we pass is the massive London Trocadero complex, a site with a long and chequered history. In the 1820’s and 30’s there were various attempts to establish a theatre here but by the mid century it was being mainly used as an exhibition space. It was then leased to a wine merchant by the name of Robert Bignell, who reconstructed the existing buildings into Assembly Rooms called the Argyll Subscription Rooms. Thirty years later the place had degenerated into a haunt of prostitutes and their clients and in 1878 was raided and then closed down by the police. Despite losing his license, Bignell was not one to let go lightly and four years later he managed to re-open the building as the Trocadero Palace music hall. Bignell died in 1888, the music hall failed to flourish in his wake and seven years later his daughter sold the building on a 99-year lease to J. Lyons & Co. who converted it into the Trocadero Restaurant. This was decorated in an opulent baroque style with murals on Arthurian themes alongside the grand staircase and a Long Bar which catered to gentlemen only. During World War I, the Trocadero initiated the first “concert tea” served in the Empire Hall and accompanied by a full concert programme. The restaurant lasted right up until 1965 and after its demise the building played host variously to a dance hall, bowling alley and casino. Then in 1984, the Trocadero was redeveloped as a tourist-oriented entertainment, cinema and shopping complex the largest in the UK at the time. Sadly for the owners, visitor numbers for attractions such as the Guinness World Records Exhibition and later the Segaworld arcade failed to match the scale of the ambition. By the mid-noughties the place was in a sorry state and, as you can see in the pictures below, most of it is now boarded up. In 2015 however the opening of a new Picturehouse cinema on the Shaftesbury Avenue side of the building at least provided signs of rejuvenation.
Turn north up Rupert Street passing this elaborate roof-top embellishment about which I can find no information on whatsoever.
Emerge on to Shaftesbury Avenue opposite the run of three theatres that we covered briefly in one of the Soho posts. First of these, moving west to east, is the Lyric which opened in 1888 but retained the façade of the house built in 1766 by Dr William Hunter, an anatomist, partly as a home and partly as an anatomical theatre and museum. Amazingly, “Thriller Live”, the current production has been running since 2009 which means it could soon become the most successful show this theatre has ever hosted (takes all sorts I guess).
Bang next door is the Apollo which opened three years later with an exterior designed in the Renaissance style. The four figures on the top of the facade were created by Frederick Thomas, of Gloucester and Cheltenham, for the Theatre’s opening and represent Poetry, Music, Comedy and Dance.
In 2013 part of the auditorium ceiling collapsed during a performance of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ and nearly 80 people were injured. The Theatre was subsequently closed for investigation and repairs for over 3 months and by the time it reopened the National Theatre-spawned smash had moved to the Gielgud just a block down.
The Gielgud started life as the Hicks Theatre in 1906 but within three years had been renamed the Globe. It was renamed again in 1994 after the eponymous theatrical knight partly in celebration of the renowned thespian (who still had six years to live at the time) but also to avoid any confusion with the newly opened Shakespearean Globe Theatre on the south bank. (For this information and most of the rest on the history of London theatres I am greatly indebted to www.arthurlloyd.co.uk).
Next we cut through Rupert Court to the lower end Wardour Street which marks the western boundary of Chinatown,
No 41-43 is the home of the Wong Kei restaurant, renowned back in the day for the “alleged” rudeness of its waiting staff. This was said to only increase the popularity of the restaurant which is generally full but that probably has more to do with the reasonableness of their prices. You can’t expect both value for money and over-politeness.
The building is another designed in the baroque style (with added touches of Art Nouveau) and as the blue plaque attests was once owned by Willy Clarkson (1861 – 1934), theatrical costumier and perruquier (that’s wigmaker to you).
Dansey Place is basically just a back alley that runs behind the restaurants on the north side of Gerrard Street and emerges into Macclesfield Street. Despite all the visits I’ve made to this area I’d never even noticed it before but it has a distinct dingy, unchanged for decades charm to it.
Next we’re on to Gerrard Street itself which at mid-morning with a parade of white vans lined up making deliveries manages, if anything, to look slightly tackier than normal. Though I have to confess to a bit of a soft spot for its gaudy accoutrements.
The part of London originally known as Chinatown was down in Limehouse in the East End and consisted of businesses that catered to Chinese sailors visiting the docks. It wasn’t until the Seventies following an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong and a growing taste for oriental cuisine that Gerrard Street and the surrounding area began to assume the name.
Those two carved Chinese lions in the one of the slides above were donated by the People’s Republic of China and were unveiled by the Duke of Gloucester in 1985 at a formal naming ceremony (which coincided with the quatercentenary of the City of Westminster). Appropriately, given the Chinese fondness for gambling, they are now backdroppped by a Betfred bookmakers.
There are a couple of atypical commemorative plaques on Gerrard Street. At no.37 is one to John Dryden (1631 – 1700), England’s first Poet Laureate. The phrase “blaze of glory” is believed to have originated in Dryden’s 1686 poem The Hind and the Panther (which celebrated his conversion to Catholicism) , in that it refers to the throne of God as a “blaze of glory that forbids the sight.”
(The portrait of Dryden above was taken in the National Portrait Gallery which will feature in the next post.)
The second plaque is at no.37 in honour of the Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke (1729 – 1979). Burke, who was both a philosopher and politician, was supportive of American independence and Catholic emancipation but vehemently antipathetic to the French Revolution. Although a member of the Whigs he is widely touted as the “father of modern conservatism”.
As noted in an earlier post, the original Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club was at no. 39.
If you nip up Gerrard Place, at the western end of the street, you hit Shaftesbury Avenue opposite the Curzon Cinema which, to my mind, is one of the best in London. Its existence is under threat from the proposed Crossrail 2 (Gawd help us) and though the building it occupies the basement of is nothing to write home about, the cinema would be sorely missed. (So go on – sign the petition).
Next we go south down Newport Place and veer left down the alleyway that is Newport Court. This brings us out onto Charing Cross Road where we turn right almost immediately back up Little Newport Street. The building on the corner that is now a branch of Pizza Express is Grade II listed and was once an outlet of the costumiers, Morris Angel & Son.
Pass round the back of the Hippodrome (more of that next time) and continue along Lisle Street which probably has a better selection of Chinese restaurants than its parallel neighbour.
At the end we’re back out on Wardour Street opposite what used to be the Chuen Cheng Ku restaurant which served the best Dim Sum in Chinatown in bamboo baskets wheeled round on trolleys. Not sure what it is now and the splendid Dragon Pole is gone, in its place a plaque commemorating the building as the site where the Magic Circle was founded in 1905. Bizarrely a website for the restaurant still lives on as a ghostly reminder so you can see what’s been lost here.
A couple of doors down no. 9 was once the residence of Benjamin Smart, a goldsmith and dealer in bullion, who wasn’t shy of advertising the fact as you can see.
A left turn at the southern end of Wardour Street and Swiss Court takes you into Leicester Square and face-to-face with the Swiss Glockenspiel, a 10m high structure, with 27 bells, an automated musical clock with a procession of herdsmen and their animals ascending an alpine meadow. This rather charmless confection was only erected here in 2011 in an attempt to replace the far more impressive glockenspiel and clock which in 1985 was installed on the front of the Swiss Centre that occupied the north-west corner of the square, from 1966 until its demolition in 2008.
I don’t think I ever really understood the purpose of the Swiss Centre but its demise seems to be lamented by quite a few online commentators. In any event it was preferable to the building which has replaced it and incorporates yet another luxury hotel and M&M’s World which stretches to a mind-boggling four floors. About as necessary as another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.(For people of a certain age – M&Ms are like an American version of Smarties).
Leicester Street runs north from the square to Lisle Street emerging opposite no.5 which was designed by Frank T. Verity in 1897 in the early Renaissance style of northern Europe. The building was first occupied in 1900 by the French Club and subsequently by Pathé of France and Pathéscope Limited, film-makers. From 1935 to 1989 it was the home of St. John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin. After that it became the aptly-named Crooked Surgeon pub until in 2007 it was (sigh) taken over by the owners of the ubiquitous Slug and Lettuce Chain.
In the next block down on the square itself is the Empire Cinema and Casino. The current building is the third incarnation of the Empire Theatre to occupy this site. The first version opened in 1884 as a high-end variety theatre but within three years had repositioned itself as a popular music hall. That building was demolished in 1927 and the second Empire Theatre which opened a year later operated primarily as a cinema. After WW2 the theatre became known for its Cine-Variety programmes – a combination of film showings and live performances – and example of which you can see here. In 1959, the Empire installed 70mm projectors and a new screen in front of the proscenium to show Ben-Hur, which ran for 76 weeks. Following this, in 1961, the Empire was closed for extensive internal reconstruction to a design by Architect George Coles. It reopened in 1962 with a new 1,330 seat auditorium in place of the circle and a Mecca Ballroom where the stalls used to be. The latter is now the Casino. The cinema today comprises 9 screens, one of which is an IMAX.
Next door to the Empire is Queen’s House which was built in 1897 and opened as the Queen’s Hotel in 1899. In 1920 the socialist MP Victor Grayson vanished mysteriously after telling friends that he had to pay a quick visit to hotel. It was rumoured that the MP, who had made a number of enemies in high places, was killed to stop him revealing details of government corruption.
In 1936 the building was remodelled to accommodate office space on the upper floors but today it is once again a hotel (wait for it) as part of the Premier Inn stable. It also plays host to yet another casino (Napoleon’s).
On that note it’s time to bring things to a conclusion but we’ll be back with more of Leicester Square in the next post. Until then here’s a reminder of what it’s really all about – foreign tourists and half-baked street performers.