Rathmore House BB Warden was ‘a man of strong conviction’

Bobby Clark.
Bobby Clark.

Robert (Bobby) Hamilton Clark, who died peacefully in hospital on September 20 at the age of 86 years, was a well-known member of the Larne community.

For many connected with the Boys’ Brigade from across the province, he will be remembered as the Warden of the former BB training centre at Rathmore House at Glenarm Road in the town.

Bobby Clarke on parade with RBP 47.

Bobby Clarke on parade with RBP 47.

Bobby Clark went through the ranks of the Boys’ Brigade himself from Life Boys onwards and he was an active member of the First Larne Presbyterian Church, serving as an elder from his election in 2007.

He was born on March 29, 1932, in Stranraer, where his parents Johnie and Tillie then lived and when he was three years old the family moved across the North Channel to the Roddens in Larne.

His siblings were Ian, Joanne (who died aged 2), Sylvia, Billy, Derek, and Martin, with Bobby being eldest child in the family.

He often fulfilled his functions as a big brother owing to his mother suffering from chronic asthma - for which there was little medication or treatment at the time - with Bobby on many occasions preparing breakfast for his younger siblings and getting them ready for school as well as helping with homework when they returned.

His role assumed even greater responsibility with the sudden death of his father in Stranraer in 1959.

After his elementary education at the Parochial School in Larne, Bobby moved on to Larne Technical College and thence to an apprenticeship at the Pye Radio factory in the town, followed by a stint as a trainee motor mechanic at Farquhar’s Garage.

He decided, however, to pursue painting and decorating, and was engaged to a few employers including Larne Borough Council. He was highly regarded for his skills as a painter.

His working life also saw him embark on a career with the Prison Service, initially at Walton in Liverpool and then Sheppey in Kent.

The lack of married accommodation in the latter resulted in his return to Ulster, where he took up employment at the newly opened Imperial Chemicals Industry plant at Kilroot, Carrickfergus.

He finished working there in 1980, holding the post of senior shop steward for the GMBU – General & Municipal Boilermakers Union – at that time in Kilroot.

His taking up the position of Warden at Rathmore House was one in which he came into contact with many from across the province.

In addition to his working life, he was a well-known figure in choirs in the town and in the Loyal Orders, being a long-standing member of LOL 22 in Larne District.

He originally belonged to LOL 1039 based in Clifton Street in Belfast and transferred to LOL 22 in Larne when the former lodge handed in its warrant.

He was Worshipful Master of LOL 22 between 1990 and 1998, then acted as Deputy Master in 1988 and 1989 and again in 1999. His total service in the Institution exceeded 50 years.

Mr. Clark was also chaplain of the lodge between 1984 and 1987 and was re-elected to the post in 2003, still holding the office at the time of his death.

He was also a member of Royal Black Preceptory No. 47 in Larne, serving in the roles of Worshipful Master and Treasurer of the preceptory in past years.

He was also a keen sportsman, his involvements over his lifetime including badminton, table tennis, golf, bowls and opening bat for Larne Town Cricket Club.

Paying tribute at the funeral service in First Larne Presbyterian Church, Rev. Dr. Colin McClure said that he had first gotten to know Bobby Clark when he was training in the NI District of the BB and had come to Rathmore House.

“I, of course, became reacquainted with Bobby when I became minister of First Larne and soon came into contact with him pastorally and in the various roles he fulfilled in this fellowship. That commitment was recognised when Bobby was elected as an elder of the Kirk and ordained on 29th April 2007” he said.

He said that Bobby Clark was “a man of conviction and strong opinion, who might even on occasion be described as headstrong”.

“It was of course a mark of his commitment and conviction that he was prepared to say it – whether popular or with some personal cost,” Rev. Dr. McClure said.

He paid tribute to the way in which Mr. Clark cared for his late wife Margaret when she became ill in her latter years.

He reminded the congregation of the words in Hebrews 6, v.19 which refer to ‘sure and steadfast hope’.

“In a world of so much uncertainty, we work in the simple confidence and hope which is ours. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, both sure and stedfast,” the clergyman added.

Interment took place following the service, in Larne cemetery, with arrangements carried out by Fleming & Cuthbert Funeral Directors, Mill Road, Ballyclare.

Donations in lieu of flowers were encouraged to Dementia UK.

Mr. Clark was predeceased by his beloved wife Margaret and is survived by his son Muir, daughter-in-law Kelly and grandchildren Andrew, Peter and Rebekah.