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Clark, Robert (Bob) (1910–2000)

by John Farquharson

The name of Bob Clark, who has died in Canberra aged 89, will always be associated with the early days of Scottish country dancing in the social life of the city.

He was one of a small band, mostly Scottish migrants, who got together to form a group devoted solely to country dancing in accordance with the standards set by the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society (RSCDS) in Edinburgh. Thus was founded, in 1954, the Scottish Country Dance Club of Canberra, which is still active today.

Throughout his 49 years in Canberra, Bob remained closely associated with the club. He was an office holder for many years, but even when he no longer danced himself, he maintained his interest by keeping an official fatherly eye on the club and its fortunes.

Bob, who was born in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, and married there in 1941, came to Canberra in 1950, contracted as a quantity surveyor to the Department of Works for three years. He stayed for the rest of his life.

The Department of Works contract had come about through Bob responding to a newspaper advertisement when he was attached to the War Damage Commission assessing war damage in Glasgow.

After living near Glasgow's busy Clydebank shipbuilding yards through the German bombing raids of World War II, the prospect of a new life away from the postwar devastation and rubble, had a certain allure.

So Bob, with his wife, Jean, and three small daughters, arrived in Canberra in December 1950, and moved into a house in Narrabundah, which is still the family home.

Respected in his profession, he was involved in many major buildings and construction projects in Canberra.

The last of these was the Black Mountain communications (Telstra) tower. He had begun working on this before he retired in 1973, but was retained by the department through 1974 as a consultant, to complete the job.

During the 1950s and into the early 1960s, Bob had been prominent in the affairs of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, having served on the board of management for some years and been involved with the building of the church hall. However, these ties were severed, after a difference of opinion with the then Minister, the Rt. Reverend Hector Harrison.

But his abiding interest was Scottish country dancing, in which he and his family were involved from the time of their arrival in Canberra.

At first they attended dances run by the Canberra Highland Society and Burns Club, in the Friendly Societies Hall, in Wentworth Avenue, on the site of what was the Government Printing Office.

However, the scope of the dances was limited and the style in which they danced was by individual preference. With standardised style and footwork virtually non existent, the Clarks and several other like-minded people, with a knowledge of country dance music and the publication of the RSCDS, decided to form a group of their own. They set about learning and then teaching dances in the way laid down by the RSCDS.

They affiliated with the Good Neighbour Council of the ACT, giving them access to one of the Council's old Riverside Hostel huts, where the first classes were held. The group formalised their status in 1954 adopting a constitution and the name Scottish Country Dance Club of Canberra.

So far as the club was concerned, Bob always had an eye for the "babwees" and as treasurer for many years, ensured its finances were on a firm footing.

Devoted to his family, he was a friendly man with a quiet sense of humour and invariably a twinkle in his eye. Through Scottish country dancing he made a distinct contribution to Canberra's cultural and social life while holding to his Scottish heritage.

He is survived by his wife, Jean, three daughters (Isobel, Jean and Ann) and their families.

Robert (Bob) Clark, born August 15, 1910; died July 26, 2000.

Original publication

  • Canberra Times, 18 August 2000, p 13

Citation details

John Farquharson, 'Clark, Robert (Bob) (1910–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/clark-robert-bob-1563/text1626, accessed 11 August 2020.

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