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Obituary: The Revd Robert Clarke

by
17 July 2020

Geoffrey Duncan writes:

THE Revd Robert Clarke, Honorary Chaplain to the Queen, died of cancer at his home in Romsey on 1 June, aged 84. The greater part of Robert’s career was spent as a hospital chaplain and, at retirement, he had served as Secretary to the Hospital Chaplaincies Council in Church House, Westminster. This is where I first met him when I was Secretary to the Board of Education and the National Society.

Robert was educated at St Dunstan’s College, London, and trained for the ministry, some time after his National Service, at King’s College, London. He finished his National Service as an infantry officer self-deprecatingly saying to me, “I was a failure as a soldier. Firstly they sent me to Kenya to kill Kenyatta and he ended up as President. Then they sent me to Cyprus to kill Makarios, and he ended up as President!”

Perhaps Robert’s most noteworthy service to the military, however, happened as a result of the horrific attack of the IRA in Hyde Park in 1982. While chaplain to Westminster Hospital, Robert found himself ministering to those wounded by the bombing; at that incident, he stayed with a dying soldier, holding the exposed brains of the soldier in his hands until the man died. It was in recognition of this ministry that Robert was appointed Honorary Chaplain to the Queen.

In retirement, Robert continued to minister in the diocese of Winchester, gave lectures on medical ethics in the US, and helped at the cathedral in Gibraltar. He was also assiduous at keeping in touch with and visiting old friends and colleagues and the bereaved of any who had died. After my wife became ill, he regularly visited us in Eastbourne, and, only last year, twice visited us in Spain after we had moved there to live with our daughter.

It has to be said that Robert could be irascible and bloody-minded, and some, particularly those senior to him, might lean towards describing him as impossible. Certainly, I would rather be on his staff than have him on mine.

He was indisputably a character and a bit of a rascal, but there is no doubt that many will have fond and grateful memories of his kindness, concern, great generosity, and, when it came to friendship, his loyalty and commitment.

He was appointed OBE for his services to hospital chaplaincy.

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