Former mill owner dies (89)

John Clark. (S)
John Clark. (S)

A family man and former Barnoldswick mill owner has died at the age of 89.

John Drummond Clark, who died in Airedale Hospital on December 31st, ran Edmondson (Fernbank) Ltd until it closed in 1980 and continued in textiles until the mill came down in 2011.

Mr Clark was the son of the Rev. and Mrs Robert E. Clark, a Methodist minister and missionary whose first appointment was in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where John was born on July 19th, 1926.

The family moved to Jamaica when he was two years old where his brother Keith was born and they returned to England when he was four. A second brother Brian was born in 1936.

Mr Clark was educated first at Sherborne Preparatory School in Dorset and then, having attained a scholarship, attended Rydal School in North Wales, which was evacuated during the war from Colwyn Bay to Conway.

In 1944, he attended a War Office Selection course and was accepted to train for a commission into the army, spending six months training at Worcester College in Oxford before volunteering and being accepted for a post in the Indian army.

Mr Clark remained in England until the end of the war and celebrated VE day with friends in Trafalgar Square. He told stories of surveying the scene from on top of one of the lions.

He sailed for Bombay and was stationed in Secunderabad, joining the 11th Prince Albert Victor’s Own Cavalry (Frontier Force), spending 18 months with the Indian army before returning home to Dockray, in the Lake District, with the rank of Captain.

Mr Clark’s mother had spent the war years there while his father was a Chaplain with the army in Africa.

On his return, Mr Clark gained a degree in French and English from Manchester University and taught for a year in Macclesfield.

He came to Barnoldswick when his father was appointed Superintendent Minister at Rainhall Road Methodist Church, and it was here that he met Joan Tillotson at the Christmas Choral Ball in 1949.

Joan’s father Ted, owned Fernbank Mill, and Mr Clark was offered and accepted the opportunity to train for work in textiles.

He spent three years at Burnley Technical College, learning all aspects of the trade during term time and working in the various departments at the mill during holidays.

He graduated and was awarded the Associate of the Textile Institute qualification.

Mr Clark married Joan on August 4th, 1954, and they had three children, Peter, Susan and Richard. He was very proud of his children and they gave him great joy and were always a priority in his life.

Following the death of his father-in-law, Mr Clark managed Fernbank Mill until it stopped weaving cloth in 1980.

The company continued to trade; buying, finishing and selling cloth until 2011 when the site ad its iconic chimney was demolished.

Outside of work in Barnoldswick, Mr Clark was fully involved in local community life.

For over 65 years he was a member of St Andrew’s Methodist Church and took various leadership roles including Circuit Steward twice and for many years he was a Society Steward. He always cared for others and expressed this in many practical ways.

He was President of the Barnoldswick Conservative Association for 20 years and as a founder secretary of the Barnoldswick and Earby Rotary Club, Mr Clark served as President and ran the Youth Exchange Committee for many years, sending young people for holidays abroad to and from the area.

Travel and photography were two of Mr Clark’s passions and he often gave talks and showed slides at local events about his adventures.

He touched the lives of many and will be dearly missed by his wife Joan; three children Peter (Paula), Susan (Richard) and Richard (Feray); seven grandchildren Doug, Joanna, Alex, Jonathan, Lucy, Tom and Daniel, and his wider family and friends.

Mr Clark’s funeral will be held at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Barnoldswick tomorrow at 1-30pm.