Rev Bill Clarke

Rev Bill Clarke

Caring minister who also left his mark with music

Obituary: Rev Bill Clarke

Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 05:41

This is the story of my ‘favourite Uncle’ who inspired me to go out and achieve whatever I could.

Featured Image: My Uncle the Rev Billy Clarke keeping wicket to my daughter Kirsty (his great niece) on the back lawn of the Manse at Omagh in c. 1990.

Rev Bill Clarke: Born October 18th, 1924 – Died February 12th, 2017

Rev Bill Clarke, who has died in his 94th year, was a Presbyterian minister noted for pastoral care, empathy for the disadvantaged and sick, and commitment to education. During his long ministry, he served in Dundalk and then Omagh.

He was noted for his healing ministry, which attracted people from a variety of backgrounds. As an educationalist, he served as a governor of several schools in Tyrone and Louth, and as chair of the Western Education and Library Board.

Home wine-making was one of his hobbies. Visitors to his home greatly admired his vintages. He was also a link to the small group who kept uileann pipe playing alive in the first half of the last century. His father William Clarke made one of the first commercial recordings of uileann pipe playing, in 1928. His son was proud to live to see a plaque in his honour unveiled in their native Ballybay, Co Monaghan.

Robert William Wylie Clarke was born just outside Ballybay, Co Monaghan, in October 1924, youngest of three children, two boys and a girl, to Robert William Clarke, a clock-maker and jeweller, and his wife Margaret (née Johnson).

House full of music

The young Bill Clarke grew up in a house full of music. As well as being an uileann piper, Robert William Clarke played the bagpipes in a local pipe band. As a child, Bill Clarke used often listen to groups of musicians play at night in the house which was a meeting place for musicians, uileann pipers in particular.

These were an eclectic bunch, including James Ennis of Dublin, father of piper and folklorist Séamus Ennis, and Br Gildas, an uileann-piping De la Salle Christian brother from Kerry. Tragically, William Clarke died of tuberculosis when his younger son was nine, and the music was stilled.

The Rev Clarke was educated at Hall St National School, Ballybay; the Masonic School, Dublin; and Trinity College Dublin, where he studied English and French. After Trinity, he studied for the ministry, first at Edinburgh University, then at Assembly’s College, Belfast.

Prior to ordination he was a student assistant minister in an Edinburgh church. During that time, he spent the summer supplying the pulpit in parts of the Orkney Islands.

After ordination, he was assistant minister in McQuiston Memorial Church in Belfast. For over 20 years he ministered to the congregations of Dundalk, Carlingford and Castlebellingham.

In 1971 he moved to Tyrone, as Minister of Trinity Church, Omagh, and Gillygooley. Afterwards, he was fortunate to enjoy over quarter of a century of retirement. During much of it, he supplied the pulpit in churches in the Derry and Donegal Presbytery. However, he faced personal tragedy later in life, with the deaths of his wife and only son.

He is survived by his daughter-in-law Kathryn; grandchildren Alice, Adam and Daniel; and sister-in-law Martha. He was predeceased by his wife Alice, and son Liam.

Reverend Robert William Wylie (Bill) Clarke, who spearheaded healing ministry in Omagh dies at 92

Belfast Telegraph: February 14 2017

Reverend Bill Clarke

The Rev Robert William Wylie (Bill) Clarke, a former long-serving minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Omagh and a noted educationalist in the area, has passed away aged 92.

Rev Clarke was the father of the Belfast Telegraph’s former Political Editor, Liam Clarke, who died in December 2015.

Born in 1924 in Co Monaghan, Rev Clarke was educated at Trinity College Dublin where he obtained a BA and MA, and was installed and ordained in Dundalk Presbyterian Church in October 1949.

He remained there until May 1971 when he became minister to the Trinity and Gillygooley congregations in Tyrone.

Rev Clarke served there until his retirement in 1992.

He was the first occupant of the new manse at Trinity which was completed shortly after his installation and during his ministry a further extension to the church hall was planned and completed. The church organ was also fully restored.

During his time in Omagh he was officiating chaplain at Lisanelly Army base – standing in for the padre when required – and he was also a driving force behind the establishment of a healing ministry in the area which still continues today.

Rev Robert Herron, who succeeded Rev Clarke at Trinity, said: “Bill had a great empathy with those who were sick or disadvantaged and that may have resulted from his own experience of losing his father when he was quite young.”

Rev Clarke was chairman of a number of boards of governors in the Omagh area and also a member of the Western Education and Library Board for a time.

At one stage he was appointed president of the Association of Education and Library Boards.

After his retirement Rev Clarke and his wife Alice went to live in Eglinton, Londonderry, where Alice died in April 2011.

In his later years Rev Clarke stayed at a nursing home in Ballymena.

During his earlier life he was a keen fisherman and enjoyed boating on the lakes of Fermanagh.

He kept a boat moored near Castle Archdale and he was also a keen shooter.

Another pastime in which Rev Clarke took great pleasure in was making his own wine – and according to friends he was generous in sharing the fruits of his labour.

His father William was a noted piper and one of the first people to make a commercial recording of uilleann pipe music. He also played the traditional Scottish bagpipes and pipers from all over Ireland, and of all traditions, would call at his home in Monaghan to discuss the music.

A clockmaker and jeweller by trade, he died just short of his 45th birthday from tuberculosis.

Rev Clarke’s funeral service will take place at Faughanvale Presbyterian Church in Eglinton tomorrow and he will be buried in the adjoining graveyard.

He is survived by his daughter-in-law Kathryn, grandchildren Adam, Daniel and Alice, and sister-in-law Martha.

Belfast Telegraph