This booklet has been written to preserve a record of the arrival in Natal in 1863, and the subsequent progress of, the family of William Clark of Clark Road, Durban. That history is almost entirely an oral one at present, and my modest objective is to preserve, and thereby make available for the benefit of present and future generations, the information about William Clark’s family and progeny which I have gathered over the past twenty five years.
My information is incomplete in many respects, and possibly inaccurate in others. However, rather than omit any branch of William’s family because of the inadequacy of data, I thought it preferable to include a chapter on each of his children – and sometimes to include therein information incapable of being verified. I have also included chapters with information which I have discovered about other Clark relatives, and ancestors, which I thought might be of interest. To any descendant of any branch who feels that his or her branch has been inadequately treated, or inaccurately portrayed, I offer my apologies – and the excuse that the volume and accuracy of material published is generally directly proportional to the input received from members of each of those branches!
This booklet draws ints inspiration from a meeting which took place in Durban in May 1970, in the law firm office of Leandy, Laroque and Partners. At the time Robin “Nobby” Clark was a senior partner in that firm, which was situated in what was then known as the J.B.S. Building, at the corner of West and Broad Streets. The meeting had been arranged as an interview of the kind which any prospective attorney in Natal is required to have with a member of the Law Society, before being permitted to enter articles of clerkship. Nobby was at the time a member of the Council of The Incorporated Law Society of Natal, and I the prospective articled clerk. Our meeting was entirely fortuitous – my prospective principal, J.A.N. “Tony” Biebuyck, happened to have his offices in the JBS Building, and he made the appointment with the closest Council member available.
Almost the first thing Nobby said to me after I was introduced to him was “who was your great-grandfather”. I could not tell him at the time, but I proudly asserted that it was my great-great-grandfather after whom Clark Road was named. Nobby said his family made the same claim. That exchange eliminated any possibility of discussion on matters of law, as we plunged into discussing what we knew of our common ancestors. Our meeting was also the beginning of a friendship and a collaboratin on family research which has this booklet as one of its tangible results. Over the next sixteen years, until Nobby’s untimely death in 1986, he and I worked sporadically but deliberately to gather what we could of the history of the family of William Clark. Our ultimate aim was to publish what we had comiled, and thereby preserve what we had learned of the story of how the family happened to be, and to become established, in Natal.
In the early 1980’s a rougher and less complete version of this booklet was written and distributed to family members, in the hope that it might prompt interest and recollection. In addition, Nobby and I arranged, some years apart, two family gatherings at the Durban High School Old Boys Club, to which we invited all family members whom we were able to locate. To some extent our activities did prompt interest and recollection, and a lot of valuable information was obtained and preserved. Nevertheless, most of our information came from a few valuable sources, who deserve special mention.
Among this group are Victor and Cyriil Clark; Amelia “Minnie” Douglas (nee’ Clark); Myrtle Deetlifs (nee’ Clark); and Clarice Catterall, daughter of John Frank Clark III and great-granddaughter of John Clark of York, Natal – the first familiy member to settle in Natal. Clarice made available to us her father’s incredibly interesting papers containing the results of his research into the John Clark branch of the family, while the others spent many hours with me as I tape recorded their recollections – therby providing the framework for what became the family trees set out in appendices to this booklet. Clarice also put me in touch with her cousin Hilary Battcock of Bournemouth, England, who was also engaged in research into John Clark’s family – Hilary’s mother was also a granddaughter of John Clark. In that way Hilary became our resource in England, and it is he who did the research into the pre-Natal history of the family in Yorkshire which appears in Chapter 11. Sadly, Hilary also died before he could see the completion of this project.
The rest of the material for this booklet was derived from conversations with other family members, old newspapers and newpaper cuttings, the Natal Archives, cemetery headstones (primarily Durban’s West Street Cemetery), the Durban Local History Museum, The Killie Campbell Museum, and whatever other sources we came across. I have tried to be as accurate as possible, and to cross check sources when available – at least to the extent of having current members of the various branches of the family check the proofs of the chapters on their respective branches. As an aid to any future researcher I have quoted my sources where these exist. In the nature of things, however, there are bound to be errors, and for this I can do little else but apologise in advance.
In addition to those specifically mentioned above, many other people have contributed to this publication. It is not possible to acknowledge all of those contributions here. However Nobby Clark and HIlary Battcock deserve special mention, as each contributed to the actual writing of the text of this booklet. Nobby wrote the original version fo Chapter 6 – which appears substantially as he wrote it. Hilary Battcock, unbeknown to him, is the author of substantially all of Chapter 11, since it was taken almost verbatim out of a letter which he wrote to Nobby and me. To both Nobby and Hilary, therefore, particular thanks are due. Particular thanks are also due to Len Clark and the staff of the Home Journal Press in Durban, without whose help this publication would – quite simply – not have come into existence. Finally, I owe a great debt of gratitude to my parents, George and Daphne Clark, who assumed responsibility for doing or co-ordinating almost all of the remaining research, and communication with family members, after I moved from Durban to California in 1986.
My intention has been to record in the text what I have learned about William Clark’s family up to and including his great grandchildren. However, the appended family trees contain information of generations subsequent to the great grandchildren: I have attempted to bring these as current as my information permitted.
I hope that this booklet will provide present and future generations of William Clark’s descendants with an interesting insight into how a few simple Yorkshire folk came to Natal, put down roots, and managed to make good – and in many cases, even to prosper. Hopefully it might also provide some later Clark with an incentive to complete the research – and thereby finish the job which Nobby Clark and I conceived so many years ago!
Stuart C. Clark
Lost Gatos, California