William Robinson Clarke

Brother-in-law of the first Black pilot to fly for Britain in First World War

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Frank and Marjorie Aris were among the 597 passengers that boarded the Empire Windrush in Kingston, Jamaica, in May 1948. But while 437 of them headed below deck to C class, father and daughter entered a first-class cabin, befitting Frank’s status as a dental surgeon.

Frank was travelling to England for a brief visit, giving his address in London as the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch. Marjorie, a 32-year-old civil servant, was to stay in more modest accommodation at the London Centre of the International Friendship League in 39 Ladbroke Grove in the west of the capital.

Francis ‘Frank’ Lionel Aris was born on September 19, 1890, in Linstead, St Catherine, Jamaica. His current home was in Bray St, Brown’s Town, St Ann’s, where he lived with his wife May, née Clarke, who was described as ‘a gentlewoman’ on the couple’s marriage certificate. She was the sister of Sergeant William Robinson Clarke, the first Black pilot to fly for Britain in the First World War. Frank and May had married in St George’s Church, Kingston, in April 1914, and Marjorie, the first of seven children, was born on August 2 the following year.

In August 1919, Frank travelled to Baltimore in the USA, where he was about to embark on a change of career. Previously working as a journalist, he had enrolled into the School of Dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania, qualifying as a dental surgeon in 1923.
He would go on to be the school’s dentist for the parish of St Andrew in Jamaica. Frank’s son, Frederick, followed in his father’s footsteps, studying dentistry at the same university.

Frank left England for Jamaica before his daughter, departing from Liverpool on September 2, 1948, on the SS Orbita. Marjorie’s next journey to England was in 1953 when she flew from Kingston to New York. After a 13-day break, she boarded the MV Georgic, which arrived in Southampton in May of that year. Her immediate destination was 57 Eardley Crescent, Earls Court, London, though by the end of her stay she was at 689 Wandsworth Road in Clapham. In October, she was off again, sailing back to Kingston on the MV Jamaica Producer.

Frank played cricket to a high standard and was captain of the Kensington Cricket Club in Kingston, the second-oldest club in Jamaica. Marjorie, who never married, was a leading amateur tennis player in Jamaica. Frank died in 1964. His daughter died in St Andrew on September 29, 2015, aged 100.

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