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John Clark, ‘the bandstand man’

By Ashleigh Murch

JOHN Clark was born in Shettleston (near Glasgow) in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1879.

He emigrated to Australia in 1910 with his wife Elizabeth and children Margaret, Daniel, Elizabeth, Naomi and Mary, arriving in Fremantle.

It is believed that he moved to Denmark not long after his arrival, but we know little of his first few years in the town.

John Clark. Photo courtesy Denmark Historical Society.

In 1919 he bought the Federal Boarding House from a GH Morgan, who had owned it for a number of years. ‘Federal House’, as Clark preferred to call it was on Hollings road, slightly south of the barbecue shelter across the road from today’s IGA Express.

It had been built in the Millars’ era, around the turn of the 20th century, and been refurbished and extended by Morgan during his ownership.

The business prospered under Clark’s management, with regular advertisements in the Albany Advertiser.

Clark kept the business until the Lands Department required demolition of the building and those on either side of it in 1927.

In early 1926 Clark entered into a partnership with one Albert McClintock to build the Denmark Hotel, which opened in early 1927 with five public rooms and 17 bedrooms. Clark was the licensee and McClintock manager.

Like Federal House before it, the business was a success, and Clark retained his interest in it until early 1935, when the partnership was dissolved and the business sold to Noble Norwood from Perth.

Clark’s next major enterprise was the building of Clark’s Buildings on the corner of Strickland street and High street (now South Coast highway) in 1940. The building originally contained a guesthouse and four shops. The guesthouse dining room on High street was later converted to another shop.

The original guesthouse was called Edinboro House (sometimes spelt Edinborough in Road Board and newspaper documents). Once again the business was an immediate success, with extensive summer guest lists appearing in the Personal columns of the Albany Advertiser in 1941.

The war appeared to affect business, and Edinboro House closed between late 1943 and 1945, when it reopened. Clark retained ownership of the building until his death, but he and his family relinquished management of the guesthouse in the mid 1940s.

In addition to these major businesses Clark owned a number of vacant blocks in Denmark, many of which he sold off to fund the building of the hotel. He also owned a number of houses, which he rented, many of them in Federal street.

Clark was a major contributor to the development of tourism to Denmark, with the hotel and Clark’s Buildings showing enormous faith in the development of a tourist industry. With the success of both properties Clark should be remembered with gratitude, as both are still thriving.

Clark was a man with strong views, strict beliefs and a strong sense of community service. He served three terms on the road board – the predecessor of the shire council – from 1921-22, 1940-1945 and 1954-1956. He was a generous man, too, donating large amounts to assist in the purchase of land for a golf club (now the Country Club), and for the refurbishment and extension of the war memorial in 1949.

He also made many smaller donations to bodies such as the Agricultural Society and the local hospital. In addition to the £2000 he bequeathed for the bandstand he also left £3500 to the high school P&C for musical instruments and uniforms for a silver or brass band, and £6000 to the Agriculture faculty at UWA to set up a scholarship for research in the fruit and dairy industries.

On November 9, 1956 John collapsed from a stroke, following a public meeting to oppose the closure of the Albany-Nornalup rail service. He died the following day.

John Clarke was a major contributor to the development of Denmark, and the shire should honour his memory.

Categories: Featured news, HISTORY

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