William Robinson Clarke

‘Man of many talents who landed on his feet’

1917 - 2010

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Jamaican-born Everard Ralph Leopold Peart did not come from a privileged background and as a young child would often walk more than 57 miles from Mandeville to Kingston to sell the produce of the family’s smallholding.

He was expelled from school following an altercation with a teacher and never completed his compulsory education. But he was a talented jack-of-all-tradesman and it would stand him in good stead for the future.

Born on August 15, 1917, in Lincoln May Hill, Manchester, he served as a gunner with the Jamaica Military Artillery from September 1939 until November 1944. His military conduct was assessed as ‘very good’.

In 1945, he worked in the USA but found racial attitudes unacceptably hostile. As a British passport holder, he decided to try his luck in the Mother Country. When he disembarked from the Windrush his total possessions consisted of one suitcase and 10 shillings, worth around

£15 at today’s prices.

He spent his first week in England at the Clapham South Deep Shelter in London. It had been built as an air raid shelter during the war and he remembered it being cold, dark, damp, and crowded. But he was soon moved under the direction of labour scheme to Chippenham in Wiltshire where he got a job at an engineering firm.

On Christmas Day, 1948, Ralph met the woman he would marry, Doreen Coombes. Ralph and Doreen were reluctant guests at a gathering in

Bath and politely joined in the singing of carols around the piano. Romance followed and they married in Reading in 1954, going on to have three children, Icah, Adrian, and Sheine.

Life was not easy for the families of mixed marriages. Doreen recalls one incident when a woman saw her with Ralph and told her, “If you were my daughter, I’d wish you were dead.”

In June 1958, Ralph and Doreen moved to Jesse Terrace, Reading, where Doreen still lives. For a time, Ralph worked at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire, but as a trained electrician and skilled French polisher and cabinet maker, Ralph could turn his hand to anything.

When not working, Ralph loved making things with wood. He also enjoyed playing cards and dominoes, and was a great fan of cowboy films. On the sporting front, he relished watching the West Indies cricket team in action. In 1966, he was able to travel to Jamaica for the first time in 18 years.

Ralph expected nothing less than success from the children, and so it proved. After studying law, Icah Peart was called to the Bar in 1978, appointed a Recorder in 1997, and took silk in 2002. Dr Sheine Peart is an expert in education, a published author, and has served as a Justice of the Peace for 30 years. Adrian died in 2003. Ralph passed away in Reading on June 24, 2010.

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