Robin Chichester-Clark

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Sir Robert "Robin" Chichester-Clark (10 January 1928 – 5 August 2016)[1][2] was Member of Parliament for Londonderry in the British House of Commons from 1955 until February 1974, and to date was the last member representing Northern Ireland to be a British government minister.

Early life[edit]

Chichester-Clark was born at Moyola Park, Castledawson, County Londonderry, his family's ancestral home. He was the eldest of three children of James J. Lenox-Conyngham Clark and Marion Caroline Dehra, née Chichester. His brother was James Chichester-Clark, who became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and his sister was Penelope Hobhouse, the garden writer and historian. In 1924 James Clark, Snr. changed the family name to Chichester-Clark by deed poll, thus preventing the old ascendancy name Chichester (his wife's maiden name) from dying out. On his mother's side the family are descended from the Donegall Chichesters and were the heirs of the Dawsons of Castledawson, who had originally held Moyola Park.

He was educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He began work as a journalist in 1949, worked as public relations officer for Glyndebourne 1952–3, before joining the publishing house Oxford University Press.

Political life[edit]

Chichester-Clark was elected for Londonderry at the 1955 general election. He was the third generation of politicians from his family. His grandfather represented Londonderry at Westminster; his grandmother and father were members of the Northern Ireland parliament. His brother James Chichester-Clark was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1971, but resigned in the face of increasing violence and internal Ulster Unionist Party splits. The family were also active in politics in the 19th century and Chichester-Clark's great great grandfather, The Rt. Hon. George Robert Dawson was Member of Parliament for Londonderry, later for an English constituency, before joining the Government of Sir Robert Peel whose sister Mary he married. They lived at Castledawson.

Chichester-Clark was consistently either a Front Bench Spokesman for the Opposition or a member of the Government of Harold Macmillan and, later, Edward Heath. He held the position of Assistant Government Whip, Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, Comptroller of the Household, was Conservative Spokesman for Northern Ireland and on the Arts, Shadow Minister of Public Building and Works and, ultimately, Minister of State for Employment. In 1970 he remained outside the UK government because of the Premiership of his brother in Northern Ireland. When Edward Heath suspended the Stormont Government and Parliament in 1972, he asked Chichester-Clark to go with William Whitelaw to Northern Ireland as Minister of State. Chichester-Clark did not accept but later joined the administration as Minister of State for Employment. Before the first 1974 Election he announced his retirement from the Londonderry constituency and did not put himself forward for reselection.

Later life[edit]

Since 1974 he has worked as a director of companies in the construction industry, as a political adviser to the NFBTE, as a management consultant and as Chairman of the medical research charity RAFT ( and The Arvon Foundation. He has also helped with fundraising for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and is now involved with the development of the Museum of Illustration. Chichester-Clark was interviewed in 2012 and 2014 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[3][4]

Personal life[edit]

He was first married to Jane Helen Goddard, daughter of Air Marshall Sir Robert Victor Goddard, KCB, CB. With Jane Goddard he had three children, Emma, Mark and Sophia. His second wife was the barrister Caroline Bull, daughter of the transport executive Anthony Bull. The couple had two sons; Adam and Thomas.[5] Chichester-Clark's sister, Penelope Hobhouse, is a gardener, gardening writer and historian.


8. James Johnston Clark, DL, JP, MP
4. James Jackson Clark DL, JP of Largantogher, Co. Londonderry
2. James Clark
20. William Lenox- Conyngham
10. Sir William Fitzwilliam Lenox-Conyngham
21. Charlotte Melosina Staples of Lissan House
5. Elizabeth Mary Lenox-Conyngham MBE
22. George Arbuthnot (d.3/11/1843)
11. Laura Arbuthnot
23. Elizabeth Fraser
1. Robin Chichester-Clark
24. Edward Chichester, 4th Marquess of Donegall
12. Lord Adolphus John Spencer Churchill Chichester
25. Amelia Spread Deane Grady
6. Robert Peel Dawson Spencer Chichester MP
26. Col. Robert Peel Dawson
13. Mary Dawson of Castledawson
3. Marion Caroline Dehra Chichester
14. James Ker Fisher
7. Dehra Kerr-Fisher MP
15. Annie Kerr-Forsythe


  1. ^ The Times 10 January 2009, Retrieved 2010-01-09
  2. ^ "Obituary: Robin Chichester-Clark – Unionist MP who was an early critic of Paisley".
  3. ^ "Oral history: CHICHESTER-CLARK, Robin (b.1928)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  4. ^ "Sir Robin Chichester-Clark interviewed by Andrew Hyams and Rosa Gilbert". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  5. ^ Mosley, Charles, (Ed.) Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage (107th edition, 3 volumes, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 581

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Wellwood
Member of Parliament for Londonderry
Succeeded by
William Ross