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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Easter 2024 issue

Andrew Neilson Clark, 1934-2024

Eulogy for Andrew

Andrew was born in Coventry on the 4th February 1934 to parents John and Nellie Clark.  The family lived above the surgery at Heath House on Foleshill Road in Coventry, where his father, John, worked as the local GP.  Andrew had an older brother, John and a younger sister, Charlotte, and always commiserated with his grandson, Declan, for the injustices of being the middle child!  

As Andrew was about to start school and join his older brother at Coventry Prep School, the Second World War was looking likely. The headteacher of the School had foreseen this happening and had secured a property in Wales, not far from Oswestry. Andrew and his brother were evacuated with the rest of the school to Bryn Aber Hall where they remained for the duration of the war. Andrew talked fondly of Wales. He described games of war in the hedge rows and damming the local stream – a sharp contrast to the nightly air raids back in Coventry. In 1989, one of Andrew’s proud achievements was to organise a Bryn Aber reunion – he was able to track down many of the boys and along with partners and wives, they had a weekend staying close to Bryn Aber and were able to relive their childhood experiences.

On passing his Common Entrance at thirteen, Andrew continued his education at Bromsgrove School in Worcester, staying until he was eighteen. Despite petrol rationing, Andrew was lucky enough to learn to drive in the summer of 1951 as his mother, an eye specialist at Birmingham Eye Hospital, was considered an essential car user. Andrew and his brother would delight in taking turns to drive their mother to her clinics around Warwickshire, during their summer holidays.

On leaving school, Andrew undertook his National Service with the Warwickshire Regiment, being commissioned soon after.  This took him on Active Service to Korea in the summer of 1953. Later, through the Korean Veterans Association, Andrew was able to return to South Korea, as a guest of the Government, a trip which clearly created long lasting memories. He also valued the many friendships he made through the association.

Having completed his National Service, Andrew embarked upon an apprenticeship in Production Engineering at Alfred Herbert in Coventry, a company which manufactured machine tools. Once qualified he continued to work at Herberts and secured himself a role within Export Sales. It was here he met Wendy. One of Wendy’s duties was to record the names of overseas visitors that the directors would be entertaining at lunchtime and to ensure the correct national flag was displayed. This task required her to go to the export sales office on a daily basis, where a dashing young man, Andrew, gave her the information she needed …. And the rest is history.

However, in October 1962, in response to an emergency and with only a weekend to think it over, Andrew took up a post in Germany, working alongside an agent in Cologne. He relished the challenge and set about learning German whilst on the job, determined to make the most of his new environment. Andrew loved Germany and the German people he met and slowly his German improved, although he always modestly said his German was learnt ‘on the street’ and was not grammatically accurate. Interestingly, Andrew shared that he was required to end his involvement with the TA, when he announced his move to Germany, as cold war tensions grew. The following summer, Wendy holidayed with Andrew in the Black Forest, they became engaged in the autumn and then, following Wendy’s 21st birthday, they married on 9th May 1964.

Wendy moved to Germany where Andrew continued to work, however, Wendy found it difficult to settle so far from home, and they returned to Coventry six weeks before Judith was born, happy to have the extended family all within a few miles. Perfect you might have thought – however, in search of a better job and always relishing a challenge, Andrew, Wendy and six week old baby, moved 120 miles north to Halifax, where they knew no one! Undeterred, they went along to the local church, making friends with other young families in the area, some of whom went on to be lifelong friends.

Unfortunately, with the company struggling, Andrew was forced to find alternative work, allowing them to move back to Coventry, where Fiona was born soon after. Andrew and Wendy enjoyed being back in their home town and the girls were able to start school, literally next door to granny Hilda.

In January 1973, with the opportunity of promotion, Wendy and Andrew moved again – this time to Peterborough. Through their many activities, Wendy and Andrew made new friendships, joining the local rambling club, helping to set up a folk dance club where they frequently found an excuse to party. Andrew’s faith remained important to him and they joined the cathedral congregation. It was during this period, that Wendy and Andrew also became a host and hostess for CHA rambling holidays, particularly enjoying holidays in the Lake District, where Andrew led the walking in the daytime and the entertainment in the evening.

As the girls finished school, Wendy and Andrew were on the move again – this time relocating, with Fiona, to Waterlooville where they have remained ever since – the longest they have lived anywhere! Andrew started work at Marconi and Wendy and Andrew threw themselves into the local community, joining the congregation of St George’s, rambling with the local CHA group and becoming part of the German church, through their own past experience of living in Germany. Andrew took part in many of the legendary St George’s pantomimes, was the hall manager for some twenty years, did a brief spell as Church Warden and in the latter years, did the accounts for the Mothers’ Union. We did ask him how come he got the job when he clearly didn’t meet the job spec – glad to see some positive discrimination in the Mothers’ Union! Andrew also volunteered as a governor at Waite End School for many years – supporting the head teacher with the challenges of school leadership.

When asked why Waterlooville, and not the coast or the Downs, when they moved south, Andrew simply said he wanted to be able to walk to work – he was clearly ahead of his time, soon becoming a fervent member of the bus users’ group and once retired, making very good use of his free bus pass.

Unfortunately, Marconi wound down its operations in Waterlooville and Andrew faced early retirement.  Determined he wasn’t ready to retire, he joined Social Services down in Southsea, as a clerical officer. His role was to process Blue Badge applications and soon questioned why they filled out forms in triplicate and surely there was a way to make the process more efficient. This was at the time when computers were just emerging – Andrew did not shy away from the new technology but embraced it – buying himself a computer - and spending hours in the little bedroom at home working out how to use it. He really was ahead of his generation. He had soon written programmes, produced a database and reduced the time needed to process a Blue Badge application. His new colleagues were delighted and Andrew really did experience success in his final working years. Andrew also helped Gabriel as he started his company by creating reports and a database to track business – some of his reports are still being used today.

In 1995 Andrew and Wendy became grandparents for the first time when Conor was born, followed soon after by Dec and Niamh. They enjoyed spending time with their grandchildren and could always be relied upon to babysit for weekends to allow Jude and Gabriel time away with friends. Andrew would patiently read the same stories over and over, build Lego and play endless games of Lotti Carroti, a German game he himself had bought!

When he retired, as Wendy was still working, Andrew made sure he kept busy. He took himself off to Nice for a month to rekindle his spoken French and made numerous trips to Germany. Closer to home, he joined the local Probus group for their monthly lunches, enjoyed the stimulation of the U3A, participating in German classes, the Rummicub group and going regularly to the Bridge Club. He enjoyed his iPad and continued to write letters, a dying art, but one which Andrew loved – always writing in ink with his Mont Blanc pen.

When Wendy eventually retired, Andrew and Wendy decided on a new adventure – to own a camper van. They were very much novices of the caravanning world but threw themselves into the rally scene and enjoyed many trips both in the UK and in Germany.  In addition, Wendy and Andrew were able to make two extended trips to Australia to visit Wendy’s brother Peter and his family as well as trips to places such as Canada and New Zealand.

When Wendy passed away suddenly in 2019, it became clear how much they had supported each other, despite their many disagreements! Andrew’s mobility and health declined but he was determined to maintain some routine in his life. He joined the Age Concern lunch club at the Borrows Centre and was really supported by them, as he adapted to his new circumstances. When lockdown came  his world became much smaller, only regularly seeing Fiona and Glynn,  but Age Concern continued to deliver lunch to his house, providing much needed connection with the world beyond his front door. As life returned to its previous rhythm, Andrew’s mobility had reduced further and he was constantly worrying about falling.  He was supported by carers from Right At Home who did a fantastic job, always smiling and ensuring Andrew was well looked after, even when he was grumpy! He also started to attend Sunshine Club, which allowed him time away from the house in a supported environment.

Last October, Andrew moved to Pear Tree Court, as he was finding it increasingly difficult to live on his own. He embraced his new home, joining many of the activities and making friends. It gave him a much-needed boost and he was able to relax, knowing there were people around him 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, he spent Christmas and New Year in hospital but was determined to go back to Pear Tree, to his own bed and his television. This he managed and we were able to spend a precious weekend with him before his death a couple of days later.

Andrew had a good innings – passing away just short of his 90th birthday. However, it is still the end of an era and we need to adjust to life without him. Andrew loved his sayings and always had an appropriate ditty for every situation; if we had a difficult decision to make, he had a German saying ‘If you have a choice, you have a problem’, (thanks Andrew – not helpful!), to make us go walking on the worst of days, he’d proclaim ‘Rain before seven, shine before eleven’ – I’m really not sure that’s true these days, and when life was tough, he loved to quote from Virgil’s Aeneid – ‘one day this will be pleasing to remember’.  It’s hard to accept his passing, but we will be able to look back and remember Andrew with love and fondness; his smile, his sharp mind, his ability to speak with anyone, his desire to help others, his love of all things German.  Andrew, rest in peace.

Merv Allen, Standard bearer for the British Korea Veterans Association, pictured at Oaks Crematorium.