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Reverend Robert William Wylie (Bill) Clarke, who spearheaded healing ministry in Omagh dies at 92

The Rev Robert William Wylie (Bill) Clarke, a former long-serving minister of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Omagh and a noted educationalist in the area, has passed away aged 92.

Rev Clarke was the father of the Belfast Telegraph's former Political Editor, Liam Clarke, who died in December 2015.

Born in 1924 in Co Monaghan, Rev Clarke was educated at Trinity College Dublin where he obtained a BA and MA, and was installed and ordained in Dundalk Presbyterian Church in October 1949.

He remained there until May 1971 when he became minister to the Trinity and Gillygooley congregations in Tyrone.

Rev Clarke served there until his retirement in 1992.

He was the first occupant of the new manse at Trinity which was completed shortly after his installation and during his ministry a further extension to the church hall was planned and completed. The church organ was also fully restored.

During his time in Omagh he was officiating chaplain at Lisanelly Army base - standing in for the padre when required - and he was also a driving force behind the establishment of a healing ministry in the area which still continues today.

Rev Robert Herron, who succeeded Rev Clarke at Trinity, said: "Bill had a great empathy with those who were sick or disadvantaged and that may have resulted from his own experience of losing his father when he was quite young."

Rev Clarke was chairman of a number of boards of governors in the Omagh area and also a member of the Western Education and Library Board for a time.

At one stage he was appointed president of the Association of Education and Library Boards.

After his retirement Rev Clarke and his wife Alice went to live in Eglinton, Londonderry, where Alice died in April 2011.

In his later years Rev Clarke stayed at a nursing home in Ballymena.

During his earlier life he was a keen fisherman and enjoyed boating on the lakes of Fermanagh.

He kept a boat moored near Castle Archdale and he was also a keen shooter.

Another pastime in which Rev Clarke took great pleasure in was making his own wine - and according to friends he was generous in sharing the fruits of his labour.

His father William was a noted piper and one of the first people to make a commercial recording of uilleann pipe music. He also played the traditional Scottish bagpipes and pipers from all over Ireland, and of all traditions, would call at his home in Monaghan to discuss the music.

A clockmaker and jeweller by trade, he died just short of his 45th birthday from tuberculosis.

Rev Clarke's funeral service will take place at Faughanvale Presbyterian Church in Eglinton tomorrow and he will be buried in the adjoining graveyard.

He is survived by his daughter-in-law Kathryn, grandchildren Adam, Daniel and Alice, and sister-in-law Martha.

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