|John William Clark
my great grandfather
return to index page
This lovely picture shows the Clark family in summer 1921, a year after the wedding of my grand-parents Donald Maclean and Vera Clark, who are standing and sitting respectively on the far left. In the centre are my great-grandparents, the redoubtable John William Clark and Mary Elizabeth
Clark (nee Rippon). On the far right are Vera's elder sister Lilian and her husband Christopher Jobson, and their young son. The group is completed in the centre by third sister Marion Clark and brother Stan.
The family records trace the Clark family back to the 16th century, and one Thomas Clark (1575-1682), but we have no other information besides those dates. There is little additional firm detail until we arrive at William Clark, born in the village of Runswick, near Whitby, North Yorkshire on 6th Nov 1794. A brother Thomas was born in 1801.
The Clarks were one of the most numerous families in Runswick, along with the Calverts, Toses and others. In around 1816, William married Elizabeth Dawson (b 1795), and a son, Robert Dawson Clark, was born the following year. Although he does not appear to have been a sailor by occupation, William was involved in seafaring, working in Whitby harbour, and owning a ship. In 1834, both William Clark and Thomas Clark of Runswick are listed in Pigot's directory of professions and trades as ship owners.
By 1841 William had risen to the position of harbour master of Whitby. That year, he and Elizabeth appear in the Census, still living in Runswick, along with their first grandchild Ann (b 1838). By 1851, they had moved to Whitby, living in the street known then (and now) as "The Cragg", along with another grandchild, Thomas Dawson Clark (b 1843) and Jane Clark (b 1787), described as William's sister, though a widow. (I haven't yet worked out this relationship). I can find no reference to either William or Elizabeth in the 1861 Census, but there is a record of death for a William Clark in Whitby in 1869.
William and Elizabeth's son Robert Dawson Clark was a seafaring man, becoming a Master Mariner at an early age. In 1838, he married Mary Grace Walker, from another prominent family in and around Whitby. RDC doesn't make an appearance in any Census until 1881. Presumably he was away at sea for much of this time, making only occasional returns home, each marked by the conception of a new child. No few than six children were born during the 1840s, including Ann and Thomas (mentioned above).
In 1851, Mary Grace Clark was living in Haggersgate, Whitby, described as "master mariner's wife". By 1861, the family had moved to Hartlepool, and were resident at 84 Scarborough Street in Stranton. In the 1881 Census, when Robert Dawson Clark makes his first appearance on land, they had moved to 4 Adelaide Street, Stranton. Daughter Jane - now Jane Newton - was living with them, although she is described as a house maid. So too are four of Jane's daughters. In 1891, RDC and Mary Grace had moved again, to 1 Alderson Street, Stranton. RDC died in 1893. He is described in the probate as a retired ship owner, leaving effects of just £187. Probate was granted to Mary Grace, and to Edward Fryer and John Furness. Mary Grace died in 1905.
RDC and Mary Grace had at least eight children. The eldest Ann Clark (1841-1861) died when she was just 20. Mary Ellen (b 1841) eventually married Thomas King, also a mariner. They had at least one child Jane Walker King (b 1864). Thomas Dawson Clark (b 1843)
also became a mariner, with a long and eventful career as well as a large
family. He had nine children in all, seven of of whom had families of
their own, and died at the grand old age of 91. (Thanks to Bob Thompson,
who supplied this wonderful
press cutting from 1933, the year before TDC's death, which also
features my own great-grandfather, of whom more below).
Jane Clark (b 1846) married William Richard Newton, a grocer, and they had at least five children. However William was not a successful businessman. He was declared bankrupt in 1869 (RDC and his father, a policeman, were appointed as trustees), but died four years later aged just 29. Jane later remarried, becoming the 3rd wife of Barton Grainger, a colourful and prosperous figure in the Hartlepools.
Hannah Clark (1848-1909) married John Edward Spence, a tobacconist and grocer in Middlesborough, and had a number of children. Grace (b 1849) married George Hall, also a grocer, but in Hartlepool, and her line continues to the present day. Robert Dawson Clark the younger (1855-1930) followed in his father's seafaring footsteps, and married Jane Bedlington, the daughter of another ship owner from Whitby. They had too had several children. And finally, the last of RDC's children was
John William Clark (1858-1939), my great-great grandfather.
Like RDC, John William Clark took up a career at sea. After serving his apprenticeship, he went to sea in the sailing ship Esperanza, which was the first ship to be built by the firm of Messrs Gray, under the command of one Captain Bacon. After four years, JWC joined the firm of George Pyman & Co and at the age of 22 was given command of the ss Stanley. According to a later newspaper report, "His last ship was the ss Marmion, which he commanded for three years. This ship made its first voyage from Dunstan on a Friday, 13th of the month, and throughout the first voyage it left port either on a Friday or on the 13th of the month. Mr Clark relinquished command on a Friday and the very next voyage the vessel was torpedoed and the captain drowned." That happened in August 1917. JWC was appointed as
superintendent of the Pyman fleet, and the following year, when the firm disposed of their ships, he carried on the name in a smaller business.
By then, John William was also a husband and father. In 1886, he had married Mary Elizabeth Rippon, the daughter of Richard Pickering Rippon, a master ship's rigger in Whitby. Although they were married in Whitby, they appear to have set up home in Stranton (West Hartlepool). However it is not clear where they were living. Their first child,
Marion Clark (known as May), was born in Hartlepool in 1888. Lilian Clark (or "Lol") followed two years later. In 1891, though, they appear in the Census as guests of the Harrison family in Windsor Terrace, Ruswarp (Mary Elizabeth's home town, close to
Whitby). Eight years later, my grandmother
Vera Rippon Clark, their third child, was born, on 23rd August
1899. In 1901, Mary Elizabeth and the 10-year-old Lilian were on board ship with JWC in
Marion, then 13, and my grandmother were at home in Hartlepool being cared
for my their aunt Grace, now Mrs Hal. The final member of the family was a boy, William Stanley Clark (always Stan), born in 1903. By 1911, the entire family was all present and correct at "Newholme", 77 Hutton Avenue, West Hartlepool.
It was here at 77 Hutton Avenue that my grandmother Vera married my grandfather Donald Pyman Maclean, on the 20th August 1920.
My great great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Clark died in May 1937 after 52 years of marriage. John William Clark followed in March 1939.