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Brian Clark

Picture of Brian Clark.

My father, Brian Clark, was born in Harrow in 1933, but lived in Eastbourne from 1937.

The war years proved very disturbing – he went to two private schools, three primary schools and three grammar schools at places varying from Hitchin to Leamington Spa to Chichester and back to Eastbourne. The family house at Eastbourne had its windows blown out by bombs on three occasions, and Brian had a souvenir table made from bomb fins, shell fragments and cannon ball parts, acquired from debris after he was machine-gunned by a German Messerschmidt outside school – it was nothing personal, apparently.

When he finally settled at Eastbourne Grammar School in 1945, he had an undisturbed life, never complicated by doing much work, but scraping through exams when necessary. He claimed that the teachers became irritated whenever he handed in work, because they felt they actually had to mark it. One of his proudest school moments came with the annual carol service, when all the pupils would walk with their form teachers to the parish church a mile away. Prefects could make their own way, so Brian hired a fleet of taxis for them, just for the sheer joy of waving to the masters as they trudged through the rain.

He didn’t exactly excel in practical matters at school. In his third year, his woodwork teacher wrote on his report “hopeless and helpless” – this being after he spent a whole term making a chess board which turned out to have 9 squares in one direction and 7 squares in the other.

At Keele University, Brian discovered a liking for public speaking. Such was his success that, according to Keith Clement – a BBC producer who was his contemporary – all the bars and snooker tables would empty when Brian was speaking. “Observer” editor Kenneth Harris, adjudicating the inter-varsity debating competition, said that Brian’s speech was the wittiest he had heard in twenty years. In later years, this talent extended to end-of-term party contributions and farewell eulogies to retiring teaching staff colleagues.

After university, he did two years of National Service, mainly in Cyprus. He entertained his fellow soldiers so much so that after demob, he received a card signed by every officer, NCO and gunner of his battery with the message “It’s a hard life without you”.

He married Rosemary in 1957, after six years of dating. The imminent wedding came as a surprise to him after his demob from National Service: he arrived back in England to find that Rosemary had called the banns in his absence, and he would be getting married the following Saturday. There followed 54 happy years where life was filled with laughter (and washing up), and was never dull.

Brian and Rosemary settled in the Potteries, first in the Westlands, then Penkhull, than back to the Westlands. My father was a big cricket fan, and a rather exciting Test Match between England and South Africa was in progress when my mother went into labour with me. Brian refused to call the ambulance until the day’s play had finished. That was 1960, and three years later, my brother Richard arrived.

Brian had started work at the British Ceramic Research Association, but found it a bit dull, and after a few years, he decided to try teaching. He applied for a job at Hastings College of Education, but the interview ended abruptly after the elderly female Chairman asked Brian how well he thought he could handle the girls. His reply “I didn’t think I’d be allowed to” was deemed not appropriate. He never applied for another job, but the headmistress of Thistley Hough High School, who lived nearby, invited him to teach at the school. The girls loved him, although he lived dangerously at times: during a class lesson, the headmistress found him having his hair combed into a different style by a group of girls in his form. She told him – possibly with a twinkle in her eye – that that wasn’t the purpose of a form period.

In 1964, he started work at the Orme Girls’ School, where he was appointed as Head of English, and later, Vice-Principal of the independent Newcastle Under Lyme School.

I never saw my father lose his temper, if indeed he had one. When he retired, headmaster Bill Donaldson wrote that he had hundreds of friends and no enemies. He found humour in everything, and his anecdotes about colleagues and pupils always contained laughter, even if they were frequently unrepeatable.

Everyone remembers my father for his often-mischievous sense of humour. We’ve received many kind comments from his friends during the past week, and they all make reference to this. Here are a few of them:
- “Even on the bad days, he looked on the bright side with a cheerful welcome”
- “His wit and humour would soothe the most fraught situation”
- “He was a brilliant man, and had the best sense of humour I have ever known”.

Right up to the end, he was still making jokey comments. A few weeks ago, when he knew he was very poorly, I did some hoovering around the house for him, and he said to me “Oh, you’ve done a very good job – I’ll be able to lie in state”. He left detailed instructions for me and my brother about what to do in the event of his death – and it included the wording for the notification to go in the local newspaper. He added the comment “Make sure they spell “principal” correctly, and put the apostrophe in Orme Girls’ School in the right place – otherwise I shall come back and haunt the undertakers!”.

That was my father – a gentle man who found life never very serious for long, until he lost his beloved Rosemary – something which dealt him a body blow during the last few years. But overall, he lived a good, happy, varied and interesting life, made all the richer by the many friendships he enjoyed. Relatives, neighbours, schoolfriends, university friends, and staff and pupils from the education community – thank you all for being a part of my father’s life.

David Clark

Added by: Richard Clark on 3 December 2015.

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Picture of Brian Clark.
Picture of Brian Clark.
Picture of Brian Clark.

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