Robert was born on 20 April 1942, the eldest of 4 children to Robert and Bunty Clark.
The family moved to the new "Wimpy" housing estate in Musselburgh in 1953 and he lived in the same house until his until his untimely death in October 2009.
A brand new church was build to serve this new estate in 1956 and was named St Ninian’s. The 14 year old Robert was delighted to become a member and attend Bible Class there. He went on to become the Sunday school teacher and became an elder at the age of only 23. At the age of 15, he started a youth club and many happy nights were spent with hundreds of children of all ages playing table tennis, dancing, singing and listening to the latest rock n roll records in the church basement.
A concert had been held in the new church in the year of its opening in aid of Hungarian refugees and this consisted of local children going onto the stage and entertaining an audience. The talent and dedication of the children so inspired Robert, he decided he would start a junior concert party and after much knocking on doors and dropping of leaflets, St Ninian’s Junior Concert Party was born in November 1959. The first show took place in the summer of 1960 and he called it a "Summer Show(er)" The children played to packed houses over 4 nights and was a huge success. His organisation is still going strong and now has children from the 3rd generation.
Robert’s ethos was a simple one – every child over the age of 8 was welcome, he never charged any child for being a member and there was always a part for every child to play – either singing, dancing or acting. He always found the best in a child and brought it out. This ethos is still followed to this day – and will continue.
Week in, week out for 50 years, Robert took rehearsals on 3 nights a week – this commitment increasing to 7 nights a week when performing. He drove every single child home after rehearsals and asked 20p for doing this. These 20ps were collected – and in December of every year, he made a donation to Save the Children in the Concert Party’s name. He raised thousands of pounds over the years for this organisation. The Concert Party not only performs for parents & friends twice a year, it also goes out into the community to sheltered housing, residential homes, hospitals, day care centres etc to entertain people who can no longer get out & about as they did.
As well as rehearsals, Robert took children all over Britain and Europe on holidays – travelling to such exciting places as Alton Towers, London, Albania, Tunisia and Euro Disney to name a few. He took children swimming every single Saturday morning (and knew the best place for chips in Edinburgh), he also took them to concerts every Friday evening – either in Edinburgh or Glasgow. He took them ice skating, hill walking, to the theatre, to the cinema, on picnics to Gullane and St Andrews – and always let them walk back across the Forth Road Bridge – what an excitement that was for a young person!
By day, Robert was a Chemistry Teacher and taught at both Musselburgh Grammar and Newbattle High schools. At both schools, he was responsible for the extra curricular activities – childrens’ wellbeing was his passion and his life’s work and he firmly believed in fun while learning.
He retired at 65 years old and was made Musselburgh’s Citizen of the Year in 2009 – an accolade he could not understand as he did not feel he especially deserved it. Musselburgh did though – he influenced thousands and thousands of children – by teaching in his unique, special way – by day, by night, at week-end and during holidays.
Six months after this honour, very suddenly and unexpectedly, he died at the age of only 66 – just 2 weeks before a grand reunion was to be held for the Concert Party’s 50th birthday party. The reunion went ahead – just as he would have wanted it and it was an extremely poignant evening full of wonderful memories – with almost 200 people there to say to a very special man, "Thank you for the Music" and "Thanks for the Memories".
Following this reunion, an intergenerational choir was formed with some ex and current members of the Concert Party – aged between 80 and 8 and an invitation was thrown open to the whole community to join in with "Generations Singing Together". It was named the Clark Community Choir in tribute to Robert and both it and the Concert Party continue to go from strength to strength – we are all proud to sing out in his name and shall continue to sing the praises of a man who was "Simply the Best."
Robert receives his Citizen of the Year Award from Sir Tom Farmer - April 2009
Surrounded by generations who attended St Ninian's Concert Party
from the 50s through to the 00s
Clark Community Choir | firstname.lastname@example.org