The Six Children

Harry's six children (from eldest to youngest):

William 1897

Tom 1898

Norah 1900

Young Harry 1904

Brian 1907

Mamie 1909

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Early photographs show the young William Clark as a gravely handsome young man who took seriously his responsibilities as the eldest son of a locally distinguished family. Like his brothers he attended Shrewsbury School but left quite early to join the business. During his school years he had an early brush with mortality after falling ill with severe abdominal pains. His father Harry rushed over, bringing his friend Doctor Martin of Portrush along for a second opinion; appendicitis was diagnosed and a life-saving operation was carried out. In due course, a white-faced boy in a buttoned-up coat travelled back to Upperlands by train, to be met by a band on the platform and banners reading: “Thee cheers for Master Willie”.  There was another display of local feelings when his parents invited hundreds of people to Willie’s coming-of-age celebration in January 1918, in the firm’s Lapping Room. The occasion was marked by a “splendid cinematographic display” and the presentation of a gold watch and ring by a group of employees. On the same occasion, Willie’s brother Tom was presented with a “pair of prismatic binoculars” before joining the forces. Their father “spoke in feeling terms of the great kindness manifested to his sons,” a local newspaper report says.

Willie married Zelie Lopdell from Athenry in County Galway on August 25, 1920; four years later his cousin Alexander was to marry Zelie’s sister Dorothy. Willie and Zelie’s first son, known as Billy, was born in 1924 and their second son Blake two years later. Billy married Mary Webb in 1950; their children are Stephen (born 1952), Shirley (born 1955) and Tim (born 1960). Blake was killed in a military training accident in 1946, while saving the life of a soldier from a stray grenade.

Willie’s business travels often took him to Scandinavia and he became good personal friends with many of the firm’s agents there. In 1948, he became deputy leader of the Northern Ireland Senate, a duty he performed with quiet efficiency, without seeking any of the public honours that could easily have been his. His godson Wallace Clark wrote of Willie that “his gentle manner concealed a lot of steel…”


Born prematurely on May 20, 1898, just 16 months after Willie, Tom was unlucky enough to fall onto rocks at Portstewart when barely two years old. He lost a lung and carried the scars for life.

Though he loved his prep school, Seascale, he soon joined Willie, who was recovering from peritonitis, at Shrewsbury School. There, because of his size, was chosen to cox for his house.

In his first term's report the headmaster said he had settled in well and described him as “a very nice young man.” Photos show a slim fair boy with a shy, very sweet smile.

At school Tom learned glass-plate photography, an interest Brian shared, but their main pleasures were always shooting and golf.  All four brothers had a great love of birds as well as becoming excellent shots, though Harry preferred just to collect eggs and shoot exclusively at inanimate targets. Old Harry taught them all to shoot and fish, but only Willie fished in adulthood.

Tom proved a natural with engines; only his nephew Billy, much later, was to match his fascination. With his brothers he had enjoyed touring on motorbikes; but nothing could rival his delight in car ownership.  Cars were his lifeblood. So on leaving school he was commissioned in the (later 'Royal') Army Service Corps. How he was accepted with only one lung is a mystery.

Through organising informal get-togethers for local survivors of the Great War he became president of a new branch of the British Legion.

Tom married Eileen Campbell on December 4, 1923. They had three sons: Roddy (born 1924, lost on naval service 1944), David (born 1926) and Desmond (born 1927) and one daughter, Victoria (born 1945).

Later in life Tom and Brian shared golfing holidays in Ireland with Eileen, their sisters and their friend Tom Middleton. With Willie, Tom went rough shooting in the Sperrins and on shooting trips to Scotland.


Harry and Alice’s older daughter, Norah Primrose, was born on 19 April 1900 (Primrose Day). The third of six children, the somewhat earnest Norah bossed her three younger siblings in good mother-hen style, checking that they had clean hands and faces, tidy hair and well-polished shoes. Her nickname of Matty Ann, [1] or just Matt, was justly earned! However, Norah’s kindness ensured that she was greatly loved by even the most haphazard of her siblings. Warm-hearted, and self-effacing, she was never heard to utter a bad word about anyone.

There was great celebration when Norah and her third cousin, naval officer Roland Clark, fell in love and were married in February 1922 (22/2/22). They had two sons (Roland jr and Dick) before Roland died of black water fever in 1926.

Just 25 when she was widowed, Norah devoted the rest of her life to her family. In post war years Dick and family were always nearby. Her son Roland emigrated to New Zealand, but Norah’s Kiwi family was never far from her thoughts. Not only did she visit, but she and her son Roland wrote to each other twice a week. And she knitted for everyone – jerseys and hats in complex Aran patterns were her specialty.

A woman of great Christian faith, Norah was selfless in her support of others. Throughout the war Norah worked tirelessly as the area organiser for the Women’s Voluntary Service. This included the coordination of salvage collection (old iron) as well as organising chains of pennies to fundraise for more Spitfires. In later years she was involved with the Women's Institute and the Mothers’ Union.

[1] After ‘Meddlesome Matty’, a popular children’s book of the day.

Young Harry

Born in 1904, young Harry Francis Clark was close to his three brothers but unlike them he preferred bird-watching and collecting rare eggs to rough-shooting, despite being an excellent shot and physically fearless. A meticulous record-keeper and shrewd judge of markets, he took over the running of the new linen weaving factory at the age of 21 and did this job with great competence for most of the remainder of his working life. At the same tender age, he married Sybil Stuart, who was only 20. It was a marriage which delighted both families. Sybil’s father Wallace Stuart (one of four North Antrim brothers who created a sheep station in Queensland) was a friend of old Harry and shared his mixture of Ulster roots and globe-trotting spirit. Writing home from his honeymoon, a motoring tour of England, young Harry sounds full of boyish enthusiasm and gratitude to his parents. People who met Harry Francis Clark in later life recall a taciturn and sometimes melancholy character, rather exhausted by life at the factory and five hard war years as an officer in the anti-aircraft artillery. But as a young father to Wallace (born 1926), Henry (born 1929) and Jill (born 1936) he was a devoted and soft-hearted figure, fond of innocent pleasures like caravanning and family expeditions to the beach. He was President of Royal Portrush Golf Club, where Sybil became an international player. He and Sybil took great pleasure in turning an unpromising field into one of the finest private gardens in the area.


Brian was the youngest of old Harry’s sons and the one who stayed closest to home. A bachelor, he occupied a modest bedroom towards the back of Ardtara until his father’s death in 1956; then he and his long-widowed sister Norah moved into another comfortable house nearby, Clonmore. In childhood, Brian loved going on expeditions, especially rough-shooting expeditions, on the local mountains with his older brothers and father. Later he became a familiar participant in highly organized grouse shoots in Ireland and Scotland. He enjoyed ski-ing in the Alps in the days before ubiquitous lifts and modern bindings, when it was a far more risky and strenuous sport than it is today. Brian’s deep attachment to Upperlands and Maghera made his second world war achievements all the more remarkable. He rounded up local men to form an artillery battery and took them to Scotland and then Egypt, where he suffered a bad case of rheumatic fever. When a visitor from South Derry dropped in on his sick bay, the colonel in the next bed exclaimed: “What on earth sort of men are you…this young fellow next to me can talk of nothing but Upperlands day and night, and the great men in it!”  Brian’s financial acumen helped him to become a generous benefactor to the Anglican church, as well as to his extended family and local good causes.


As the beauty of the family, little more was expected of Mamie (born in 1909) than to look lovely and arrange the flowers as she waited (in vain) for an eligible suitor to ask for her hand in marriage. As the years passed she took up painting and also had a small poultry enterprise – this was condescendingly approved of by her brothers as ‘something for Mamie to do’.

World War Two proved to be a liberating time for Mamie. She joined the V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment) in 1941 and worked as a naval nurse in Portsmouth. Away from the stifling atmosphere of Ardtara and her very dominant mother, Mamie at last blossomed and gained independence.

Nephews Roland and Dick recalled how in post war years their ‘wonderful Aunt Mamie’ would lend them her prewar car so they could ‘go gadding’. During the years when Mamie was a very popular almoner (hospital social worker) at Coleraine Hospital, she and Norah lived next door to each other in Portstewart.