Corporal John St Claire Clarke



John St Claire Clarke was born on 13 January 1897 at Milltown, Killarney, County Kerry, the third of seven children of land agent's assistant (later auctioneer) Nathaniel Milligan Clarke and his wife Agnes (nee Warbrick). The family moved to Antrim around 1899, where they lived at Massereene Street, Muckamore Grange. By the time of the 1911 Census, however,  John was boarding at the Dundalk Educational Institution. He then commenced work as a school teacher.

Clarke enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 20 April 1916 (No.2154 – later Corps of Hussars No.71701). He was made acting lance corporal on 4 August 1916, lance corporal on 25 November 1916, and acting corporal on 19 January 1917.

Soon after this, however, Clarke began to have problems with his eyesight. According to a medical board report at Antrim on 12 February 1918:

After joining [he] passed musketry as a first class shot. He states that eye sight remained in same condition until 5/3/17 during cold snowy weather when he suddenly took violent pain in forehead & became almost blind. Since then sight of left eye has improved to 6/36 without glasses 6/24 with glasses. There has been no improvement for 5 months. Cannot be exposed to cold & ordered by eye specialists not to attempt clerking work.

The board concluded that his poor eyesight, although pre-dating his military service, had been aggravated by "exposure to cold at Antrim during snowy weather in March [19]17 when undergoing training." It recommended that he be discharged as permanently unfit for war service.

Clarke was discharged on 13 March 1918 (paragraph 392 xvi, King's Regulations). His character was recorded as 'good' – "Sober & honest. No offence is recorded during his service." He was awarded a 30 per cent disablement pension, but this ended in November 1919 when a review concluded that his poor eyesight had not been aggravated by his military service.

After the war Clarke returned to teaching. From around 1922 to 1931 he worked as a teacher and school inspector in Nigeria and Ghana. On 16 July 1924 he married Janet Chisholm Adams, daughter of the Reverend W.A. Adams, at Kells Presbyterian Church, Ballymena. He was married a second time, to Florence Isabella Gregg, on 6 January 1943.

Clarke worked as an official in the Bank of England in London and later as an official in local government offices in Stormont, Belfast, until his retirement in 1962. He died on 20 February 1966 and was buried in Clandeboye Cemetery, Bangor, County Down.



First image kindly provided by Paul von McKeown. Second image sourced from the Billion Graves website.