Anthony J Clarke 1923-2013
Wallingford Castle Chapter No.1165
Tony Clarke 31° was a founder of the Wallingford Castle Rose Croix Chapter. He was born in 1923 and died in Lord Harris Court on 26th December 2013. His Masonic career started by his being the 3rd initiate into Goring Gap Lodge and was WM in 1983. He was an exuberant member, irreverent of authority, did not suffer fools gladly and was contemptuous of those who thought themselves superior in any way, with a sense of humour that stemmed from his RAF days and a direct way of expressing displeasures - which upset some. It took a long while to find that behind all that and the bristling beard and the handlebar moustache was a very kindly, helpful brother. Provided he was asked he was a mentor to many in an effective, non public manner and conducted all his business in lodge and outside straightforwardly in the best ways that masonry can teach.
Tony's war service was as an RAF fighter pilot. Stories were legion, all funny of course. He told me that he was the only pilot not have his commission confirmed for passing his wings exam. He reckoned that he overdid the celebrations, but his war was real and active. Flying Spitfires from Bolt Head (near Salcombe) escorting bomber sweeps over France, his squadron was ordered to Burma and in 24 hrs Tony dashed to Yorkshire, persuaded the local vicar to forget the rules, married Pat and went off to Burma. Pat predeceased him just 2 years ago after Tony had his first stroke. They had 3 sons, 2 being PMs of Goring Gap, and a daughter. He was very proud that the reigning masters of Goring Gap allowed him to initiate one son and in due course install both sons as masters. After the war he continued in the RAF completing 25 years service, as one of the earliest RAF helicopter pilots and being awarded the Air Force Cross for helicopter operations. Retiring to live in Moulsford he founded and ran his helipilot training company initially out of Oxford and later at Booker (Wycombe).
A very busy man he was much involved in local affairs as Pat was a South Oxfordshire District Councillor but he joined several Masonic orders including Rose Croix, the Royal Arch, Knights Templar and KT Priest as well as other craft lodges. He was the first member of Goring Gap Lodge to have an active Provincial rank, as Provincial Grand Sword Bearer - a truly impressive sight at Provincial Grand Lodge. He never pushed for high rank in any order though he took a full part in governing this chapter and other units he did not aspire to an active establishment role. He mellowed considerably over the years allowing his more Masonic traits to come to the fore to the benefit of many of us and indeed most would not realize how he assisted brethren in many ways.
His lot in recent years was not easy but he bore his infirmities stoically without complaint and with apparent good humour but he retired from most Masonic activities after his stroke nearly 3 years ago. He will be missed but leaves many memories of an interesting life and a Masonic career that touched many of us.
Alasdair B. Milne, 32° 18/01/2014