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Obituary: Tom Clark, police officer who became Orkney minister dies aged 78

Rev Tom Clark.

Tom Clark moved from the police ranks to the pulpit but considered both callings vehicles to help others.

He worked closely with those struggling with drink and drugs problems in city tower blocks, and then went on to bring together different denominations to pray for the Highlands and Northern Isles.

For 16 years he worked as a police officer in Lothian, then Dundee where one of his roles was to mentor recruits.

Calling

In 1980, Tom felt called to the ministry and began divinity studies at Aberdeen University.

He travelled up weekly from Dundee and spent nights and weekends working as a security guard to support his family.

In 1985, he was called to parish of Orphir and Stenness in Orkney where he remained for 23 years until his retiral to Burghead.

Beginnings

He was born in Legerwood in the Borders where his father, Thomas, was a minister. He was one of three children born to Thomas and Betsy and the family later moved to the Inverness area where Tom was educated.

When he left school, Tom had a spell working on farms and attended agricultural college but had his heart set on joining the police.

He was turned down by Scottish forces because of height restrictions but joined an English force and spent his probation in Luton.

Return

This made a transfer to a Scottish force possible and he moved to Lothian.

Around this time he met his future wife, Margaret, and they married in Grangemouth in 1968.

The following year, the couple moved to Dundee where they lived in the recently built Ardler area. Tom had transferred to Dundee police, served in the warrants office and trained new recruits as well as undertaking general policing duties.

Margaret became involved in Chalmers Ardler Church which met in a strikingly modern building at the north of the city and was led by Rev Jim Powrie.

Commitment

Gradually Tom became involved in the church and its mission to the surrounding area and made a commitment of faith.

He worked closely with those in difficulty in the police and extended this pastoral care through the church to his neighbourhood.

In 1980 when he felt called to full-time mission, Tom enrolled at Aberdeen University.

His daughter Karen Clark, a former GP, said: “The family remained in Dundee and dad travelled to Aberdeen on a Monday, stayed during the week and came home on a Friday.

Rev Tom Clark.

“He had a family to support so worked in security in the evenings and at weekends. After graduating in 1984, he began a year’s probation at Roseangle Ryehill Church in Dundee before being called to Orkney.”

Rural Orkney was a world away from a Dundee housing scheme but Tom found that parishioners were not free of all stress.

“It was a huge contrast to a big city but people were experiencing farming stress,” said Karen.

Community

“Dad was also involved in crisis management and I remember him supporting the community and the families of two Prince’s Trust volunteers who died when a wall collapsed at North Ronaldsay.

“I remember he stayed in close touch with the families of the boys who were killed.”

In Kirkwall, Tom provided marriage counselling and was one of the founder members of Churches Together in the Highlands and Islands.

He also served as a moderator of Orkney Presbytery.

Retiral

Tom retired in 2007 and he and Margaret moved to Moray to be closer to Karen.

They became involved in the Baptist Church there where Margaret, who died in 2017, was active in the street pastors movement.

Their son Martin has recently retired after 30 years with the police in London, latterly on royal protection duties.

In 2020 Tom remarried, to  Gillian Mooney from Finstown in Orkney and, she moved to live with him in Burghead until his death.

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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