Clark, Keith (1 of 11)  National Life Story Collection: Legal Lives

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  • Recording date

    1995-06-11, 1995-13-11, 1995-14-12

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  • Interviewees

    Clark, Keith 1944-  (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Born 25 October 1944 in Chichester, West Sussex. Father owned a decorators' merchants shop in the town as had his father and grandfather before him. Mother from Sussex - of farming stock on her mother's side. Her father had owned and run a milliner's shop in Chichester. Describes how his parents met during the Second World War when both involved in theatricals. Father could recite well and mother was a musician. Talks about the site on which his father's shop was situated - originally the old South Gate of Chichester. Large number of Roman remains still to be seen there. Describes the actual building - part-Georgian, part Tudor. Father moved shop to another in North Street and converted the premises in South Street into an hotel. Old ship's timbers discovered at this time. Premises back onto 16th and 17th century cottages and an old Roman wall - area steeped in visible history. Great-great grandfather had come from London with a reputation for using marvellous marbling techniques in the interiors of the great houses of the time and established himself in Chichester. Mother still lives there. Father and father's younger brother ran the business jointly in period after the War - both had been on active service. Father in Artillery in aerodromes around the U.K.- uncle at Dunkirk and the North African campaigns. Father invalided out end 1943 - uncle served through War. Says War and its aftermath ever present as subject for discussion throughout his childhood - reminiscences of the uncles who had been involved in trenchfighting during 1st World War as well as comparisons of the two wars and changing types of warfare. Here describes the merchandise that decorators and builders needed and which the business would supply. Customers included owners of the big houses round about -notably Goodwood House. Throughout his childhood and teen years they lived 'over the shop' and met a huge variety of people. Here mentions a brother, five years his senior, with whom he has always had a close relationship. Felt bereft when his brother went up to London University but says it forced him to think about his future and what he wanted to do. Liked and got on well with both his parents. Describes his father - great boxer. great sportsman, also sensible and well-read - a strong personality. Studied Eastern religions and philosophies - K.C. recalls an atmosphere of constant questioning and an interest in yoga in all its manifestations. Father also interested in art and an excellent draughtsman and later on potter. K.C. feels blessed in having such parents. Mother younger than father by 8 or 9 years. She also had a great interest in the arts especially music. She had had the benefit of a Secondary Education. Father had to leave school aged 13 to help his father in the business. Consequently advantage of further education a constant theme in the family during growing-up years. Here describes decision to convert premises into an hotel. A huge departure and his father took a catering training course to equip himself with necessary skills to oversee kitchen staff. Uncle did likewise. Thinks his father was very astute in foreseeing emergence of the big chainstores and supermarkets and the virtual death of family businesses. Did not expect his children to go into the business. Mentions the good fortune that premises adjoining the paint business became available for purchase and simultaneously a shop in North Street which was a prefereable shopping area. The operation of the hotel in the first 3 or 4 years was extremely difficult and put them under huge pressures which they did not enjoy. Finally they converted the hotel into small flats - not difficult. He reflects here on the sound investment then in bricks and mortar. Talks of the enormous influence his father had on him and describes both his parents' qualities with immense affection and enthusiasm. Says what an extremely happy family it was. Describes older brother - very good sportsman - good all-round athlete - also very good at maths. He decided to have no interest in such subjects - reaction of a younger brother. Brother developed a good sports career - ran for the English Youth team and played Rugby at County level. He shared these interests but only as a spectator. Became very interested in drama and brother introduced him to modern literature, lent him books by Steinbeck and Hemingway - particularly remembers reading 'The Old Man and the Sea' when he was 13 or 14. Talks generally about reading prose and poetry at that period. Became interested in jazz - always enjoyed traditional jazz - mentions Christmas present of a Charlie Parker LP. Shared an interest with brother Colin in West Coast jazz. On visits to New York likes to spend an evening at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. Describes his schooling and that of his brother. Parents scraped cash together to send the latter to private preparatory school in the area although he had been through the State system at the Infant and Secondary stage. K.C. a State pupil throughout. Schools then extremely good - a result of the Butler Education Act and creation of the grammar school system - one of the great achievements in U.K. of post-war society. Describes his primary school (called Central School) as rambling, cold, Victorian building but education efficient. Gained 11 plus entry to Chichester High School for Boys - marvellous time there. Voices his thoughts about teachers - and the essence of good teaching - also the influence on him of a few outstanding individuals. Became interested in History and English - took a wide range of subjects at 'O' Level. Tells of the effect on him of Jo Manton's book on Albert Schweitzer which was given him as a present. Thought of becoming a doctor but realised he was not cut out for it at all - switched from science to arts with the help of a very understanding headmaster. Talks about teenage years and the physical turmoil of adolescence. Also of his interest in modern literature, poetry, jazz. Saw 'Rock Around the Clock' when he was 13 and was aware that social attitudes were changing. Describes the difficult years of growing up and trying to decide what would ultimately be his career. Realised he needed to broaden his horizons beyond those of Chichester. Missed the contact with his brother - his only real confidant he felt. Thinks he was a'bit a a pain in the neck'- became quite introverted for a time. Says Chichester was a good environment in which to experiment and try to work things out. There were 25 to 30,000 inhabitants in the old market town then. Set in superb countryside. He spent a great deal of time on the South Downs and walking in the beech woods. Talks about examinations and interviews. Found both easy thanks to a highly retentive visual memory and an ability to condense all relevant material and carry the image in his brain. After exam - within 48 hours - would promptly forget all of it. Sat his 'A' Levels at Chichester High and remembers Kenneth Anderson as a marvellous headmaster. School's academic results excellent - increasing number of fellow students went on to Oxford and/or Cambridge while Anderson was Head. Enumerates subjects he took at 'A' and Scholarship Level - describes stay in Hertford College in bitterly cold winter to take Oxford entrance exams.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Keith Clark (1944-), senior partner of Clifford Chance between 1993 and 2002

  • Related transcripts

    Keith Clark interviewed by Louise Brodie: full transcript of the interview (PDF)

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