Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wallace Clark, 1926-2011

The Daily Telegraph has published an obituary of Wallace Clark MBE, who died on May 8 aged 84, a charismatic and inspiring Ulsterman whose accomplishments as a writer, businessman and public servant were second only to his feats on the sea.

He usually went by his middle name of Wallace; was educated at Shrewsbury School, Shrewsbury, Shropshire; fought in the Second World War, with bomb and mine disposal; retired from the military in 1947, with the rank of Lieutenant, late of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve; was District Commandant, Ulster Special Constabulary between 1954-70; Deputy Lieutenant (D.L.) County Londonderry in 1962; chairman of Everbond Interlinings Ltd in 1969.
Member, Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.) in 1969; High Sheriff of County Londonderry in 1969.
He wrote the book Rathlin-Disputed Island; wrote the book Guns in Ulster. Major in 1970 in the service of the Ulster Defence Regiment; was director of William Clark and Sons Ltd in 1973.

Henry Wallace Stuart Clark was born on November 20 1926 in County Londonderry and educated at Shrewsbury. By the end of his school days he was bored with academic life and keen to play his part in the war.

He joined the Navy in time for V-E Day, remaining in the Service until 1947. He then spent a year as a merchant seaman on a cattle ship sailing to South Africa before settling down to a lifetime’s work in the family business, a venerable Irish linen firm which had played a significant part in Ulster’s textile boom in the early 20th century.

Clark saw that his company’s defining feature was not technology but sheer age. Having started in 1736, it was the oldest linen firm in Ireland.

In large part thanks to Wallace Clark’s efforts, the firm of William Clark & Sons trades on, still using the simple mill-driven process of the 1730s in which cloth is pounded by vertical wooden blocks to make it softer.

But Clark had always felt an atavistic longing to master the sea. From the early 1950s onwards he was snatching time from looms and shuttles to get on the water. In an age long before automatic anchors and glitzy marinas, he sailed modest wooden craft to Norway and around the Mediterranean, while developing a deep familiarity with the coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

From 1969, as the Troubles worsened, Clark served for seven years as a company commander in the Ulster Defence Regiment. Spending several nights a week on patrol with his men, he experienced the excitement, the fear and the biting sadness of warfare in a small, divided rural community, where farmers and tradesmen who rubbed shoulders in a village square by day could find themselves trading automatic fire on remote hillsides by night.

Half a dozen policemen and nine UDR soldiers from Clark’s district were killed on his watch, which he describes in Brave Men and True. Perhaps surprisingly, the book makes a point of noting that some members of the IRA fought honourably, and that they were foes whom Clark could respect.

But he never ceased to feel pain and anger over certain terrible atrocities in his neighbourhood – such as the enormity of a car-bomb in 1978 that killed a Maghera man and his 12-year-old daughter.

A commission to write texts for glossy books on the islands off Donegal and Connaught, for example, became a good excuse to visit beloved coastal haunts in Agivey, a fibreglass 7-tonner which was the last boat he owned.

He relished life while never losing sight of the eternal, a sense rooted in a deep Anglican faith that grew stronger in his final months.

He married, in 1957, June Deane, who accompanied him on many expeditions. She and one son survive him.

1 comment :

EDS said...

A true friend with a wounderful sence of humor. Ireland will miss this great man.

Euan Storey from Uruguay