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 Alec Clark (Aberdeen)

Alec Clark was born on 22nd July 1922 in Virginia Street, Aberdeen. The second eldest child, he came from a large family of thirteen children, although four of these died young.  The family’s father protested to their doctor that the cause of death on the children’s death certificate should have read “poverty & malnutrition” but pneumonia was recorded instead.

Leaving school at 14, the young Alec was first employed as message boy. He joined the Young Communist League at 14 years of age and has remained a life-long Communist. Later, he worked at a saw mill on North Esplanade West, where he tried to organise union, albeit with no success.

Alec’s father, Alec Senior, was politically active in hunger marches and in the unemployed workers movement. A regular attendee himself at all the local unemployed protest marches in Aberdeen, Alec Junior once cycled up the farms on the way to Stonehaven to collect money and food from the farm workers.

He became aware of the fascist Blackshirts at the age of 12 and cycled around Aberdeen to spot when and where they were having public meetings, which he would report back to the anti-fascists gathering at the Castlegate area of Aberdeen so that they could turn up to disrupt the fascist rallies.

Alec recalls fund and food raising for Spain, with collection points being placed in many local shops, especially the Co-ops. He attended many rallies in Castlegate with his father, especially being very inspired by the speeches of Bob Cooney [see separate entry] against fascism, unemployment & poverty. He remembers the men who went to fight fascism in Spain in 1936/1938 and their secrecy surrounding their disappearance from Aberdeen; and he kept a copy of Bob Cooney’s letter from Spain to his father.

At this time Alec had moved jobs to Crombie’s at Grandholm Mill and, along with late Bill Morrice, organised mill workers into the Dyers & Bleachers Union.

At the start of the Second World War, Alec Junior and Alec Senior argued about the son’s decision to join up to fight fascism, since the father kept to the Party’s initial line about it being an imperialist war.  Alec Junior was only 17 when he tried to enlist but the army was alert to the problems of malnutrition from the Hungry Thirties in its potential recruits. Because Alec was so small and young-looking for his age, the recruiting sergeant told him to “go sit on a flower pot and grow a bit more”.

So, he joined the Local Defence Volunteers, which he was in for the next two year before applying to join the RAF as an air-gunner and failing the eyesight test. In 1941, he joined the Gordon Highlanders and was posted to Egypt, fought at El Alamein, through North Africa to Tunisia, sailing to Sicily in middle of 1943. Like many of his compatriots, Alec fought his way up through Italy, alongside the Canadians, having landed at Regio Calabria, an Italian naval base.

He fought in the battle of Arnhem and at Remagen bridge, the famous `bridge too far’, having landed in Normandy as part of D-Day plus one. Then he fought through France, Belgium and Holland as a sniper, using only a Lee Enfield rifle. Whilst this got him paid an extra four pence an hour, he was also wounded when Nazi troops spotted him on a farmer’s roof and landed a mortar directly onto it. He was injured by shrapnel on the side of his head, also sustaining a punctured lung and a few broken ribs. Alec was finally sent home to recover in the winter of 1944.

Four years after the war, Alec took his eldest daughter, Kathleen, then a teenager to the concentration camp at Belsen, so she could see for herself the consequences of fascism.

After the war, Alec joined the council to work as a labourer at the waste disposal site at North Esplanade west. In time, he became a weighbridge clerk and eventually head storeman. In all, he worked for the corporation for 38 years and retired in his early 1960s due to ill health.

He signed off the sick shortly after retiring from the council and started with Vetco Gray as a post messenger for about two years. He became a member of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers union – now the GMB. He was a member of his union branch committee and the chairman of its retired members’ section in Aberdeen. Alec was also instrumental in establishing, with Bill Knight, the Grampian Senior Citizens Forum in the late 1980s and remains highly active in local campaigns and demonstrations.

Source: edited version of local Aberdeen briefing celebrating Alec’s life; thanks to Tommy Campbell