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Obituary: Peterhead Prison riots hostage negotiator Dr David Clark, 93

A stalwart of Banff community life, the consultant psychologist kept in touch with freed hostage Jackie Stuart for years after the siege.

During his tenure as Banff Arts Club president, Dr David Clark.
During his tenure as Banff Arts Club president, Dr David Clark.

The daughters of Dr David Clark, pillar of Banff community life, consultant psychologist and the man who negotiated with Peterhead Prison rioters to free Jackie Stuart, have paid tribute to their father.

The 93-year-old, who spent most of his career at Ladysbridge Hospital, was well known and loved in the Aberdeenshire town where he grew up.

A world-renowned lecturer who was made OBE, to his daughters he was simply the extraordinary man they got to call dad.

Son of the manse

David Findlay Clark was born in Banff on May 30 1930, the son of St Mary’s Church minister David Clark and his wife Annie, a midwife. Both his primary schooling and secondary education took place in Banff where he was raised in the church manse.

He advanced to Aberdeen University where he achieved a joint first-class degree in English and psychology. And it was there he also met the love of his life, Angus-born Janet Stephen who became a teacher.

After completing his National Service in the RAF, the couple married in Brechin in 1954.

Banff homecoming

David’s first job was in England, working as a psychologist in Leicester Industrial Rehabilitation unit. He’d later become the principal clinical psychologist in Leicester Area Clinical Psychology Service and part-time lecturer at the city’s university and technical college.

In the mid 1960s he and Janet returned to Banff where they raised their daughters Morag and Linda.

Dr David Clark, in Banff.

A consultant clinical psychologist at Ladysbridge Hospital in Banff, David also travelled the world lecturing in Canada and the USA before taking on a secondment with the World Health Organisation in Sri Lanka.

A sought-after voice, in 1976 David appeared on the BBC’s James Burke show to discuss body image and dysmorphia. A leader in his field, he was appointed chairman of the clinical division of the British Psychology Society for a time.

Committed to his community

Though he excelled in his career, also lecturing at Aberdeen University, David was just as enthused about his own corner of Scotland and her people.

He served on Grampian Children’s Panel between 1970 and 1985 and was a Deputy Lieutenant of Banffshire in 1992. There were also spells as honorary sheriff and as a town councillor for Banff and Banffshire.

David Clark with replacement heritage plaques for Banff buildings.

Other roles included a governorship of the former Aberdeen College of Education.

David was honoured with an OBE in 1990, in recognition of his service to psychology, and received the award at Buckingham Palace.

Peterhead hostage negotiator

In 1987, when news of a riot at Peterhead Prison hit the headlines David’s expertise was required. He was appointed key negotiator tasked with securing the release of besieged warden Jackie Stuart.

“It wasn’t something my dad spoke of an awful lot. My sister Morag remembers him coming home absolutely drained,” said Linda.

Jackie Stuart, former Peterhead Prison warden who survived the riots as a hostage. Image by Heather Fowlie / DC Thomson

“It was the one and only time he ever encountered a situation like that. It stayed with him for the rest of his life.”

The event was eventually concluded by the SAS but David kept in touch with Jackie Stuart for many years.

“The warden had been through so much. It was an incredibly traumatic experience. My dad understood that better than anyone else and remained in close contact with him (Jackie Stuart),” Linda added.

Author and artist

Over the years David authored multiple books. They included tales of the church manse, his friends escaping the Nazis during the war, and aspects of the practice of clinical psychology.

In his role as Banff art club president, Dr David Clark looking at entries for an annual competition.

His love of painting and local history saw him become president of Banff Art Club, a notable member of the Heritage Society and via his photography, a documenter of Banff’s life and legacy.

He also loved to sail, play chess, guitar and piano, and to draw. While fit enough he also enjoyed golfing and hillwalking. It was his 68-year marriage, however, that gave him most pleasure.

A good long life

“They were soul mates. When mum passed away nine months before dad, he just wasn’t happy like he used to be,” said Linda.

Morag added: “He felt very fortunate to have enjoyed a life long enough to take great pleasure from the company of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

David with his book, Chancer, detailing the death by fire of the magician Lafayette, and his father’s role officiating at the funeral.

“He’ll be long remembered. Not just for his contributions to the field of psychology but to his community, family and friends. All of which were such an important part of his life.”

David is survived by his daughters, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, for whom he was their beloved “Gramps”.

Dr David Findlay Clark OBE, DL, MA, Phd, cPsychol, FBPS, ARPS. May 30 1930 – July 3 2023.