Griffin was born in Northern Ireland in 1873 and was the only son of British parents. Soon after Clarence was born, John Thomas Griffin, Clarence's father, moved to Japan to begin business. Clarence remained in Northern Ireland with his mother, Sara Louise, until 1875 when the family reunited in Yokohama.
The Great Kantō earthquake of September 1, 1923 devastated Yokohama. Clarence Griffin was found barely breathing by surprised Scouts as they helped with rescue work in the aftermath of the destruction. Relocating to Kobe he recovered from his injuries however, being financially ruined by the quake, Griffin soon left Japan. After a short lecture tour in the United States Griffin taught for many years at a College in Taiwan and then spent the World War II years in Shanghai before returning to Yokohama in 1950.
- I.B.S., Troop 1. "A Brief History of I.B.S. Troop 1" Retrieved on 16 March 2012.
- "クラーレンス グリフィンのお墓" (Clarence Griffin's Gravesite - article in Japanese, Scouting, December 2007, Scout Association of Japan, p. 11