Willie Clarke was a miner and he manifested all of the great qualities which mark apart that breed of workers. He was hewn from the rocks that he crushed from the moment of his descent to the grim coalface as a child. Miners learn interdependency in one of the most dangerous occupations on earth. They are part of a close-knit community withits transparent honesty, network of support and cultural traditions
Willie brought these qualities to credit union in his native Benarty where he served as founder President for most of its lifetime until ill health, in recent times, forced his retirement. Respected throughout Fife and beyond as a leader and one who had dedicated his life to the community, he was an inspirational choice to promote our movement. His mining past was knitted in his bones and in Willie they were big ones; he came from a culture of caring which the mining communities demonstrated in times of tragedy down the pit or during the violent, Tory-led and police- driven assault on their livelihoods in the 80s.
Mining communities were constructed on beams of empathy and mutual respect for your neighbour. Those who knew Willie , immediately recognised these as the driving forces of a life of service in this great son of Fife. He cared deeply about how people should be able to live their lives, raise families in a genuine, welfare state and share legitimate aspirations for their bairns. The local media have chosen to mark his passing by noting that he was the last elected Communist councillor in Scotland. The man that I was proud to call a friend , always struck me as more of a comunitarianist who was not hidebound by rigid ideology.
In 2003, despite his massive workload as a Fife Councillor, he joined the Board of the Scottish League of Credit Unions where his in-depth experience of people, knowledge of local government and the structures which gel communities together were incalculable assets in decision making at a formative stage in the League’s development. His common sense, long experience of negotiation, warm interpersonal skills and good humour were always on display during his regular participation in meetings, conferences and workshops..
Willie will be sadly missed in the wider Benarty community and particularly by his colleagues on the Board and members of the credit union. To his widow , Betty , son, Willie and wider family , we offer sincere condolences.
‘Comforted years will sit soft-chaired,
In rooms of amber;
The years will stretch their hands, well-cheered
By our life’s ember;’