William Clark was born in Kirklington, Yorkshire, England on July 6, 1822. He was the fifth child and fourth son of Leonard and Sarah Clark of Sutton Howgrave, Yorkshire. William married Jane Fenwick, who was born on March 21, 1823. William and Jane lived in Melmerby and then Osmotherley. They had six children, five of whom were born in Yorkshire before they left for the then Colony of Port Natal in South Africa.
William’s family in England was very much a victim of the economic events that caused so many people to leave England in the mid to late 1800’s. His brother John and his family had left Yorkshire for Natal in 1850, and his sisters Sarah and Ann both subsequently emigrated to the United States, settling in Mechanicville on the Hudson River in upstate New York. Brothers Robert and James, and sister, Ellen remained in England.
William and Jane only reached Port Natal on their second attempt to emigrate. On their first attempt William and Jane and their five children (ranging in ages from 14 to two years) left from Middlesbrough in March, 1862 on a small coastal boat, the “Onward.” The family had not progressed very far when the Onward ran into a storm off Flamborough Head, south of Scarborough, and sank. The occupants of the boat were rescued, and taken ashore at Grimsby. At Grimsby the family members were given train tickets to Bradford, where William managed to find work. However, the family had lost all of their worldly possessions with the sinking of the Onward.
A parson friend of the family in Osmotherley arranged a collection among his parishioners, and these funds enabled the family to survive the immediate financial consequences of their loss.
William worked at the railway shops at Bradford until October, 1862, and the following month the family started their second attempt to get to Port Natal. This time they took the train to London to meet the vessel that was to take them to Port Natal – the “Pharamond.” The Pharamond was a barque of 406 tons – 124 feet long, and 26 feet wide. It sailed from London in the first week of November, 1862, and arrived off Port Natal on January 10, 1863.
William and Jane were presumably influenced in their decision to emigrate to Port Natal by the fact that William’s elder brother John had emigrated, as a Byrne Settler, in May, 1850. By the time William’s family arrived in Port Natal, however, John had already left Port Natal for York, Natal. However, John’s son William was in the process of establishing a successful business in Port Natal by the time his uncle’s family arrived, and it seems likely that he was at hand to help the family get established after they arrived.
William and Jane were granted ten acres of land in the area that is now known as Durban’s Glenwood suburb. There they established a virtual “Clark colony” for their descendants. Eldest son George built a big house on the property, and sons William, Joseph and Robert built homes on the property and its environs too. Son John – the only child born in Port Natal – apparently took care of his parents, and may have moved into their house after their death. Daughter Anne Jane married George Wade, and established a family in Durban’s Bluff area.
William was the proud patriarch of his large family, the members of which appear in the family photograph which is published on this web site.