|3 Dec 2020|
|Archives & History|
The Reverend Sydney Herbert Clarke MA (Cantab) Senior Scholar, Trinity College, Cambridge and Wrangler Maths. Tripos. The Rev Sydney Herbert Clarke served as the eighth Headmaster of St John’s College Johannesburg, from January 1935 until his retirement from that post in September 1954 after which he came to teach Maths and Divinity at Bishops from 1955. Born in Yorkshire in 1894, he attended school in Leeds before going up to Trinity College in Cambridge taking first-class honours in both parts of the Mathematical Tripos, with a special distinction in Part II. After studying at Cuddesdon Theological College in Oxfordshire followed by a period of teaching at Radley he joined the staff of Tonbridge School, teaching Maths and coaching cricket until 1935 when he went to Johannesburg. Mr H N P Sloman at the time the Head of Tonbridge referred to Clarke as “passionately sincere” even when in disagreement. During his time at St John’s he regularly came to Cape Town to attend school meetings and being an avid mountaineer enjoyed climbing up Table Mountain. It might have been the prospect of mountain climbing that made him want to come to Bishops. He taught here until 1962 after which he returned to his home country. He died at Eastbourne in Sussex on 11 September 1974, aged 80. The March 1955 edition of the DC Magazine welcomes The Reverend S. H. Clarke, (at the same time as Mr Charles P Currey) to the staff at Bishops. Referring to Clarke it says: ‘He has recently been giving us an inspiring series of Lenten addresses’.
In the same edition of the college magazine, it says: ‘we hope he will be with us for many years’. He stayed until 1962 and the editor of the June 1962 edition of the DC Magazine regrets that the Reverend S H Clarke ‘is to leave us at the end of the year’. In the magazine, it reads: ‘None, perhaps, will regret his leaving us more than those whose very real privilege it has been to have him instruct them in Mathematics’. M J Simpson, who was taught by the Rev. Clarke at Bishops in the late 1950s, wrote the following: ‘During his years at Bishops, Sydney almost always took the top set for both Mathematics and Divinity. … His Divinity classes amounted to very general instruction in the formulation of sound and rational religious views, and he often referred to such diverse and surprising authorities as Freud and Bertrand Russell. He set out to ensure that we would never be susceptible to ‘crackers’ religious ideas, and I am sure he succeeded in this.’ We previously published an article in the magazine on The Reverend Leslie (Agape) Irving and wish to express our sincere gratitude to those who contributed with their own stories which now greatly add to our archives. And whilst there is already quite a bit written about S H Clarke from the perspective of St John’s College, it would be great to receive contributions specifically from ODs about their experiences of The Reverend Sydney Clarke in the classroom, from the Chapel and sports fields, at Bishops. Their stories will further enrich our archives, about Bishops staff from days gone by.
Dr Paul Murray
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