Friday, 11 November 2011

Sepia Saturday: Ten Tens, Through a Lens


As is often customary on landmark occasions, one or two thank-you's are in order. So, I'd like to begin by thanking Alan Burnett and Kat Mortensen for dreaming up this wonderful idea of a place where living memories, carefully researched family histories, and speculative tracings that reach into the past, meet on a weekly basis. I've learnt so much from the stories of other contributors, worldwide, and enjoyed a privileged peep into treasured family albums and collections. Long may it continue.

Okay, now down to business.

For the second week in a row, I make no apology for re-posting. This slightly edited item first saw the light of day in January, 2010, and as Sepia Saturday reaches its first century, it seems perfectly appropriate to write about the very first centenarian I ever knew.

Captain William Clark, or ‘Pop Clark’ as he was known to neighbours, Spent more than fifty years on sailing ships, having left home at 12 years of age to work on a Thames sailing barge.


He graduated to seven week fishing trips on the North Sea and was sailing round Cape Horn when Queen Victoria was celebrating her Diamond Jubilee.

As youngsters, we would sit with mouths gaping wider and wider as he told tales of life under sail and towering seas that threatened to swallow the ship and all hands alike.

He captained a sailing ship for eleven years and took part in several transatlantic races.

I remember him walking up and down the length of his garden to ease his arthritis. For years, the doctors had been telling him his walking days were numbered. In the event, he was still managing the two mile round trip, with the aid of a stick, to tend the grave of his late wife, even after he had reached 100.

I have an abiding memory of him walking to his woodshed in the summer. The sun hat perched lightly on his head was always partially obscured by clouds of smoke from his charred pipe. His objective, to saw logs for the coming winter. He was ever the optimist, and eventually passed away aged 106. The pipe smoking stopped a couple of years beforehand though, as the medics considered it might damage his health.

20 comments:

  1. I do enjoy reading about these wonderful characters who live on well beyond their hundred years. I’m going to show this to my mother who keeps saying "Of course we shouldn’t be here.” and she’s a youthful 91! I always think it must be a privilege to have known someone like that, but for me it would be tinged with regret at not writing down some of those wonderful sea stories.

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  2. Damage his health after he was already 100 and walking 2 miles a day or was that 4 miles round trip? Wow! Good post for the 100.

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  3. Martin, you have been with us from the very beginning so I need to equally say to you : thank you for all the support. Over all those weeks I don't think you have ever posted a Sepia Saturday contribution that hasn't been not just fascinating : but well-written as well.

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  4. I haven't known any centenarians. That's the second one I have read about on Sepia Saturday today and both reached 106.

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  5. What an amazing character. I once remember a geriatric nurse telling me that he hadn't met many 90-year-olds who weren't essentially happy people. How great that 'Pop Clark' kept walking - and how funny that he gave up smoking after the age of 100! Thanks for reposting, Martin.

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  6. Age "Seasons" us i think.....& Pop's 106 years seem to have fashioned a remarkable man.Plus a good advert for smoking!

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  7. His walks at that age put my daily walks into perspective. I now have a target to beat.
    Pop Clark must have ben a great man. I would have loved to see him as a youngster on that Thames sailing barge.

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  8. Thank you for sharing Pop with all of us. What a fascinating life he must have led.

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  9. Wow, Pop was quite a guy. It is interesting how some people can get away with smoking for so many years with seemingly no ill effects. Hurray for him!

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  10. Someone else shared stories this week about a lady she knew who lived beyond 100. Your Pop Clark and her Winnifred had something in common: optimism. Pop lived an interesting life. Thanks for sharing him with us.

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  11. The pipe couldn't have done much damage, if he lived to 106! LOL

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  12. I wish I'd be around to hear Pop's seafaring tales too. Jo

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  13. It is characters like Pop who so richly people this world and enhance the stories of our own lives. A beautiful tribute, Martin. I enjoyed it very much.

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  14. I remember this post and enjoyed it all over again!

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  15. I saw a Thames sailing barge in London on my last visit and marveled at the skill needed to come up such a twisted river. The old sailing masters like Capt. Clark were the most important part of Britain's maritime heritage. That was quite a privilege to know him.

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  16. What a fascinating guy. I'm glad he lived so long!
    I'm going to work on my optimism.
    Barbara

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  17. Thank you for sharing a bit about this interesting fellow. Your closing line makes me smile.

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  18. Fine writing to accompany a very fitting photograph, and a worthy tribute/

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  19. It is a wonderful posting about such an interesting man. His age never stopped him from the things he needed to do. The cemetery walk impressed me and touched my heart.

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