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John D. Clark (Headmaster, Malsis 1975-1994)

posted Apr 1, 2015, 3:00 AM by Tim Birdsall   [ updated Apr 2, 2015, 1:49 AM ]

Born in Long Preston in Ribblesdale, son of a Brigadier, Old Sedberghian John Clark came to Malsis in September, 1961 after investigating the possibility when at Durham University of entering the world of what were then Approved Schools.  A lack of interest shown in him by the maintained sector led to him ringing Bernard Gadney to ask if he could have an interview.  Bernard suggested he should be with him by 9.00 the following morning and he had the job shortly after 11.00.  

Promotion quickly followed, first of all as tutor to the New Wing and then as the first Housemaster of Coates when four Houses replaced the original two, Gadney being appropriately enough the other addition to Lund and Montagu.  He introduced audio-visual and audio-lingual French teaching using the Nuffield, Bon Voyage and above all the Bonjour Line schemes and became 1st XV rugby coach, after learning from the great BCG himself.  He also ran the scout troop, taking the boys on camps to Littondale and in the school grounds, and walking the Three Peaks, Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and Great Whernside. This was the beginning of even more ambitious treks over the next few decades.

Pam & John Clark
In 1966, John married Pam Griffiths, whose father was running the Further Education in the Calder Valley.  He and his wife Barbara later became vital cogs in the Malsis machine from 1975 when John returned as Headmaster - more of that later.  From Christmas 1971 to 1975 the Clarks were on the Wirral learning under the Silcocks to run a prep school, namely the Leas at Hoylake.  They did not move there until Christmas so that their second child, Jeremy, could be born in Yorkshire where Victoria had been born in 1969.

It became apparent that John and Pam would be welcomed back to Malsis, their first love, which had the advantage of being an Educational Trust rather than a privately owned establishment.  They began their 19 year second innings in September, 1975 and oversaw many improvements to the buildings, often achieved by the direct labour force which they added to.  The Greenwood family - Cedric, Andrew, Mark and brother-in-law Danny - were totally devoted to the cause for many years, as was Mick Stevens. 

 New buildings appeared on average every eighteen months and numbers were buoyant, varying from 175 to 196.  Apart from a few home boarders, so called because they committed much more time to the school than mere day boys, full boarders predominated.  The fees thereby brought in were crucial for this ongoing development and the generous salaries and wages paid to the staff.  The involvement of parents in so many school activities, even extending to the holidays, was crucial in the maintenance of buoyant boarding numbers, Cross Hills not in the Clark's view being an ideal place to run a day school.  It was, however, fairly central with huge opportunities to recruit from the Lake District, all of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire and the North East.  Pam's parents, Leslie and Barbara, served the school in a voluntary capacity, generously allowing their house to be used for overnight stays of visiting Heads, in Barbara's case being a flower arranger and hostess for important occasions and, in Leslie's, sharing his ponies and love of and expertise in woodwork.

After being Chairman of the North East (No 8) District for a number of years, John was honoured to be the youngest ever Vice Chairman (1983) and Chairman (1984) of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools.  He ran a successful conference at Trinity College, Cambridge as a culmination of his year of Chairmanship and then represented the prep schools on the East Coast of America.  He was also instrumental in ensuring that there was a link-up with the National Association of Head Teachers after fruitful discussions with the General Secretary of the time, David Hart.  He was much in demand as a Governor/Advisor, namely at Richmond  House in Leeds, Cargilfield, Ampleforth College and then Casterton, where he was Chairman during the Headship of Tony Thomas, who had two boys at Malsis.  None of this would have been possible without the amazing support and expertise of Assistant Heads such as Roger Beaufoy, surely one of the greatest teachers of English of his generation, Tom More who became a successful Headmaster in his own right, Bob Davies and Trevor Wilson.

After their retirement from Malsis in 1994 John and Pam were young enough to pursue other interests in Scotland and Yorkshire. They have been so fortunate, not least in their home in semi-retirement in Burnsall.