Kenneth John Clarke
Ken was born in Southall, Middlesex on the 21st of September, 1927. As I write this he will be looking forward to his 90th birthday in his current home, which is in Castle Cary, Somerset. Like almost all other ‘old boys’ Ken remembers his Fegans’ number; at first he was number 152 and latterly 99. He spent from 1939 until 1943 in Fegans’ care, firstly at Stony Stratford and then in Goudhurst on the training farm.
Ken quotes his circumstances of being a Fegans boy as “somewhat bizarre”. Here follows Ken’s own story:
‘BY COINCIDENCE OR DIVINE PROVIDENCE?’
“The manner of my entering into Fegans in a worldly sense was somewhat bizarre but I have no doubt in my own mind that it was over-ruled by the hand of Divine Providence, some would say that it was just a sequence of events that occurred by chance, you can draw your own conclusion as the story unfolds.
My father and future step mother had set up home together while my mother was ill for some years in hospital. A Form of Consent had been make and signed by the Vicar in the Parish where we were living, namely C. J. TAPSFIELD, WYKE VICERAGE, NORMANDY, NEAR GUILDFORD. He was a kindly man, I attended his Sunday School and he knew, as did others in the village, that I was being ill treated in my father’s absence by my future step mother.
My father and future step mother tried to get me into the Military Hospital School at Dover for which I went through an extensive medical examination at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot, but I failed to meet the criteria, being just over the age limit.
Then at the same time as the application for Fegans was made, the Rev. G. P. Cooper, the Vicar of St Pauls C of E at Tongham (where I was now attending school having moved from Normandy, was negotiating a place for me at the King Edward School for boys in Witley in Surrey and had already signed the form for my acceptance into this school. I was completely unaware of what was going on at this time but have been able to piece together the sequence of events from my records at Fegans.
The acceptance by Fegans, obviously preceded that of the King Edward School. I had been at St Pauls C of E school for nearly three months, when my father came to the school gate during the mid-day play time. I went over to him and he said “you have got to come with me now”, so without any further word of explanation and not notifying any of the school staff off I went and spent the rest of the day being prepared for travelling to London early the next morning. I still didn’t know where I was going until we arrived at Fegans’ head office in Horseferry Road and met Mr Walmsley who took another boy and myself on to Stony Stratford. There was no emotional parting; it just seemed that my father was relieved to be rid of me at that time.
Judging by a letter written by G. P. COOPER from the Tongham School to Fegans, he was not best pleased at the manner of my departure from the school, after it was discovered when and where I had been taken.
About a month after being admitted to the Home, I was surprised to receive a letter from the teacher whose class I had been in at the time. She asked after my welfare and expressed her concern over my sudden disappearance, so I wrote back and told her that I had settled in, was quite happy and coming to terms with my new situation at the Orphanage. It was really kind of her to take the trouble to find out where I had gone, she always sent me a gift of a Postal Order at Christmas, and thereafter I kept regular contact with her until she died.
My Grandfather and Grandmother on my father’s side were not informed of my whereabouts until some while after I had been at Stony Stratford. I went to live with them when I left Fegans. They told me that had they
known at the time, they would have taken me then. But I now know that a loving Heavenly Father had other plans, that I was destined to become a Fegan boy, and I will never be able to praise Him enough for taking me and settling me in the family of Fegans.”
Ken had one sister, who sadly died at the age of eight months. After his father’s remarriage, he gained a step sister and step brother. Ken’s only sad memory of being at Fegans’ was that his mother died when he as at Stony Stratford. He had not seen her since he was five years old. Apparently she did ask to see him, but circumstances would not allow this to happen. Ken reflects that things would be very different now, with more social care and understanding.
Remembering that Ken went to Fegans in 1939 and remained there during World War Two, he recalls eating rather well, despite rationing being imposed country-wide. He was not a fussy eater and in fact put on weight and noticed his health and physique improve greatly whilst in the care of Fegans.
Like many boys he also remembers enjoying lots of physical activities; inter-house sports, football, cricket, indoor games during the winter and gymnastics.
Most of the time he got on well with the staff, except for two housemasters, who Ken feels didn’t seem to be able to differentiate between real mischief and good clean fun between boys. One of them had a nasty habit of banging boys’ heads together which was stupid and dangerous, and certainly wouldn’t be tolerated today. Ken became wary of these two Masters, understandably.
Ken remembers being taken out on one occasion for a day with another boy, but can’t remember where they went. He also remembers a Summer Camp on the Dunstable Downs. When Ken worked as the Superintendant’s wife’s houseboy, he was granted the privilege of being able to go out on his own for just half a day a week.
Of course, as do all Fegans boys, Ken did ‘chores’. General duties and washing up of course! He also did a spell as relief Boiler Boy, where some of the cooking was done. As a working boy, he proudly did the job for three months. He was also Mrs Bennett’s House Boy for three months before he went to the Farm at Goudhurst.
Ken also recalls that some boys were always getting into trouble doing stupid things, but he adopted a middle-of-the-road approach of not being an “out and out goodie, and avoiding things that other boys were getting into trouble for”. He did receive a couple of bad marks, but nothing too serious.
Ken was asked if he was a good scholar; “Before entering Fegans I had an interrupted and spasmodic education for reasons of family breakdown and ill health, but I settled down at Stony Stratford, and finished my schooling there as top boy in Mr Swell’s class. I still have my final school report from him”.
The War came to an end before Ken’s 18th birthday and as he was involved in farming and agriculture, he was exempt from any military action and was also exempted from National Service.
When Ken left Fegans he continued for the next ten years to work in farming, agriculture and horticulture whilst living with his grandparents in Ash, Surrey. After they passed on, he retrained in the construction industry. During this time, he also started his preaching ministry and was very involved in Church life, working with young people, the Kings Own Bible class etc.
His career in construction allowed him to train as a Bricklayer, and finishing his career as an adult education and training officer. During an interim period between a change of jobs Ken occupied his time by working with another Evangelist, using a Gospel tent and caravan to preach the word of the Lord.
Ken married Shirley in 1957 at St Peter’s Church, Ash, Surrey, but sadly Shirley died in 2016. Ken has fond memories of Shirley and met her when they both attended a local Chapel in Ash. They had two daughters, Anne and Christine and they are both married. Ken enjoys six grandchildren, three boys and three girls and at the time of writing, the youngest is 25 and the eldest, 34.