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Clark family background
by Alex. C. McLaren

Andrew Inglis Clark was born on 24 February 1848 in Macquarie Street, Hobart, the sixth son and eighth of the nine children of Alexander Clark and his wife Ann, the youngest daughter of John Inglis (1775-1846), a stocking maker of Kirkaldy, and his wife Ann Wyllie. The house has not been identified but it was probably not far from Barrack Street where, at No 4, Alex Clark and his partner Henry Davidson were the proprietors of the Derwent Foundry. Alexander Clark, together with wife, his father and mother, and other members of the family, had emigrated from Scotland in 1832.

Andrew Inglis Clark's father
Alexander Clark

The earliest known record relating to the family is the birth of Andrew Clark in 1775 in Kinghorn, a small town on the northern shore of the Firth of Forth, almost opposite Edinburgh. Although Kinghorn has a long and noble history (at one time being the home and resort of royalty), by the end of the 18th century its only importance appears to have been due to its command of the ferry service which provided the main means of transport along the east coast. However, in time, new methods of transport brought an end even to this usefulness.

Kinghorn, Scotland (A. McLaren)

Kinghorn, Scotland (A. McLaren)

When Andrew Clark was born, Scotland was still an agrarian, pre-industrial society. However, by the early 1830s, urbanization and the development of steam-powered manufacture and transportation, as well as the drastic reorganization of agriculture, had turned Scotland into an industrial society. Thus, by becoming a cart- and ploughwright and joiner, Andrew Clark adopted a trade which was highly appropriate to the times. In July 1796 Andrew married Agnes Peers in Kinghorn. They had eight children, of whom Alexander, born in 1809, was the youngest son.

It is clear from the letters and other documents which Alex Clark wrote in later life, that he must have received a sound basic education. After some years in his father's employment, he served a second apprenticeship with Alexander Russell who owned and operated the Kirkaldy Foundry and Engineering Works. Alex Clark's subsequent career indicates that by the time he had completed this apprenticeship he would have been experienced in the techniques of the iron foundry and in the construction of windmills, watermills, and steam engines, and their application in agriculture and the manufacturing industry. Kirkaldy, being on the coast and near coal fields, was also admirably situated for him to gain special experience of steamers (there were probably as many as 40 on the Forth at the time) and the use of the steam engine in coal mines.

We can only speculate as to why the Clarks decided to emigrate. It is likely that the motivation came from Alex, and it is not hard to believe that he was influenced by the decision of Alexander Russell's brother Robert (also an engineer) to settle in Van Diemen's Land. The view that Hobart Town offered good opportunities for engineering was probably widely held at the time because three other Scottish engineers, James and William Robertson, and Henry Davidson, also emigrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1832.

The death of Andrew Clark during the voyage and the later departure of David (Alex's elder brother) for California where he died in 1849, meant that Alex may be legitimately called the founder of the Clark family in Tasmania.

Walker's Mill with chimney erected by Alexander Clark in 1836.
Pencil drawing by Fern Rowntree from her Hobart Town sketch book. Enlarge.

In Tasmania, Alex Clark established a highly successful engineering business and over a working life of nearly 50 years, he applied his skills to agriculture, flour milling, timber milling, coal mining, shipping and ship-building, soap manufacturing, and water supply. He undertook a number of Government contracts and undoubtedly made a significant contribution to the economic development of Tasmania in the 19th Century. His most significant single engineering achievement was surely the supervision of the construction of the granary and flour mill (powered by a water-wheel and a treadmill) for the Royal Engineers at the Port Arthur penal settlement on Tasman Peninsula from January 1843 to June 1845. The building was later converted to a penitentiary, the ruins of which are still Port Arthur's most prominent architectural feature. The correspondence between Alex Clark and the Commanding Royal Engineer (Major James Conway Victor) reveals the breadth of Clark's engineering knowledge, his attention to detail, practical expertise and ability to organise a large and complex undertaking, as well as his directness, honesty, confidence in his own ability, impatience with bureaucratic interference and uninformed criticism, readiness to acknowledge support, sensitivity to the aesthetic aspects of his work, and his somewhat sardonic wit. Perhaps more importantly, his letters also reveal his humanity: his concern for the welfare of his men (both generally and individually) and his abhorrence of "inhuman laws" and magistrates who fail "to administer Justice with the unsparing hand of Impartially to the Needy and to the opulent".

All of the sons of Alex Clark (with the exception of another Andrew who died in infancy in 1843) were involved in the family business at various times. John, the eldest, managed the Salamanca Place branch of the business (which Alex Clark started in 1859) until about 1885 when he was appointed Government Inspector of Machinery. The works were then operated by Robert Kennedy & Sons, who later bought them. James took over the management of the foundry and timber mills in Collins Street after his father nominally retired in 1869. However, from about late 1870s James became more involved in other business enterprises in Hobart and the management passed to his younger brother Henry. Under his leadership the engineering activities were gradually wound down and by the time Alex Clark died in 1894, the business was solely concerned with saw milling and the sale of timber. After Henry's death in 1921 the business was sold to Risby Brothers. Alexander, the fourth son, died as the result of an accident in a mill near Geelong in 1857, in his 19th year, and Andrew Inglis left the family business to study law in 1872, at the age of 24.

Andrew Inglis Clark's mother,
Ann Clark Enlarge

Although Alex Clark was nominally a Presbyterian and freemason, he was apparently not a religious man in the usually accepted sense, and there is nothing to indicate that his humanism and social consciousness were anything but secular in origin. However, his wife's concern for human welfare seems to have been based firmly on her passionate devotion to the Baptist Church. Her influence within the family was considerable. All the children attended the Baptist Sabbatical School. John does not appear to have been much influenced, and there are no indications that he was particularly involved in the affairs of any church in later life. Annie and Janet remained more-or-less regular church-goers throughout their lives and Agnes (who married D.B.McLaren) inherited her mother's religious zeal with a vengeance. James Clark was active in the Harrington Street Baptist Chapel from the early 1860s. He was elected a deacon and made chairman in early 1868, a position he retained until 1872 when the Church was dissolved as the result of a motion put by Andrew Inglis who had previously withdrawn from the Thursday meetings for a time because of "the lack of discipline and proper order of government in worship." Andrew never returned to the Church, but James is listed among the trustees in 1879 and when the Church was reformed in 1882, Henry was a member of the committee.

Agnes Clark,
Andrew Inglis Clark's sister

Janet Clark,
Andrew Inglis Clark's sister

In short, Andrew Inglis Clark's Scottish background was Lowland, artisan. As a consequence of his father's professional success in Tasmania, he grew up in a large and elegant house alongside the family foundry in Collins Street. The house was furnished with solid, unfussy colonial cedar furniture, good china, paintings, and books; in fact, with all the creature-comforts expected by a middle-class professional family of the time. Both parents had the traditional Scottish reverence for education; John was even sent to Scotland in 1848 to be trained as an engineer and Andrew Inglis was sent to the High School, near the Domain. The Clarks were democrats and would "ne'er forget the People." They put the highest value on professionalism, integrity, compassion for their fellow human beings, and the basics of Christian morality. There can be little doubt that liberal discussion of moral and local political issues, as well as of religion and the arts, was a part of their home life.

By the standards of 19th Century Tasmania, Andrew Inglis Clark was among the radicals. However, I suggest, that by the standards of his family he was essentially a conservative. Even though he gave up engineering for the law and the Baptist Church for Unitarianism, his thinking and philosophical development were not fundamentally in conflict with the basic ideals of his family. He was a natural product and extension of his parents, and his career reflects their values.

The history of Andrew Inglis Clark’s family and descendants is related and discussed more fully in Alex McLaren, Practical Visionaries. Three Generations of the Inglis Clark Family in Tasmania and Beyond, Hobart; Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, forthcoming.

See also: Clark's Biography and Tasmanian and family background

Clark's Family Tree

Clark family group at Rosebank, Battery Point. From left to right:
Andrew, Carrel, Esma, Wendell, Ethel, Grace, Andrew and Alex
(Clark Papers, Archives, University of Tasmania)



Last Modified: 01-Nov-2003