Greg Clark (journalist)
25 September 1892
|Died||3 February 1977
|Occupation||newspaperman, soldier, outdoorsman, humorist|
|Awards||Order of Canada
Order of the British Empire
Major Gregory Clark is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
Clark in World War I
Surviving three years (1916–1918) in the trenches of World War I, Gregory Clark returned to Canada in 1918 a major with the Canadian Mounted Rifles with the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry at Vimy Ridge. After the Armistice, Clark returned to his job as a newspaper reporter for the Toronto Star.
Effect of World War I
With about 10 times the per capita casualty rate of the United States spread out over four full long years of debilitating declared war, Canada in 1918 had whole villages and neighbourhoods stripped of most of their young men. Armless, legless, blind, and insane veterans returned to scarce if any public services. Profound social, demographic and political consequences took decades to work their way through a Canadian nation newly aware of its sacrifice and strength. With his short story "None Else of Name," Greg Clark expresses regret, loss, pride of accomplishment, and respect for fallen comrades with an anti-triumphalist, self-deprecating subtext.
Clark’s comrades, Tommy Holmes, Victoria Cross at 19 at Passchendaele, Corporal James Post, Distinguished Conduct Medal (second only to the VC) at 16, a sergeant at 17, and returned to England a private before 18 for misdemeanours behind the lines - and a dozen more - merited respect and mention by name. So too did the hundreds of others Clark could have written if he had had time. Canadian experience of the war is a story in large remarkable part for its impossibility of fair description. Pithy example must suffice.
Three officers and seventy-eight men of the 4th Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles, answered the roll call on 4 June 1916 out of the 22 officers and 680 men who had stood at Sanctuary Wood on 2 June 1916. The 4th CMR reformed. The battalion fought bravely and well to the bitter end on 11 November 1918. They knew what they had done. Others could sing their praises.
Clark in World War II
Too old for active service, in World War II Greg Clark returned to the battlefield as a reporter. To his peers he was Dean of Canadian War Correspondents. Clark reported on the German Blitzkrieg from France in 1940, on Dunkirk and Dieppe from England, and on the Italian and North-West Europe campaigns from the Front. Awarded the OBE for his service as a war correspondent, Clark left the Star for the Toronto Telegram at the War’s end. Clark's having been denied leave by the Star after the death of his first son (Murray Clark). This may have inspired his move in 1945.
Career as a writer
Both before and after World War I, Clark worked for the Toronto Star. After the war, he soon became a leading correspondent and reporter. At the Toronto Star, Clark befriended and mentored a young Ernest Hemingway, who said that Clark was the best writer on the paper. In later life Hemingway called Clark one of the finest modern short story writers in the English language. During World War II, he worked as a war correspondent for the Toronto Star. For his service, he received the OBE. At the end of the war, Clark went to work for the Toronto Telegram. Some of Clark's best-known work was from weekly columns that Jimmie Frise would illustrate. For the most part they were humorous pieces about hunting and fishing or family life.
Memoirs of World War I
Clark’s later war reporting and reminiscences of soldiering have a poignancy uncommon to first person reflective writing about war.
Clark’s haunting memoir "The Prayer" is perhaps the definitive description of a young officer having to bury his dead after his first battle. Beginning "Along about sunset, I began to think of the dead ... " it follows with a tight, telling description of the field interment of seven dead young Canadian soldiers. The exhaustion and shock of battle having purged the Lord’s Prayer from his memory, Clark leads his surviving men in prayer over the grave with "Now I lay me down to sleep ...". The hardened sergeant approved. Clark had done his best to proper effect. War is about compassionate respect for one’s dead comrades "God Bless these seven men", not punctilious memory of Orders of Service.
Mass syndicated in the 1950s, Clark’s superb parable "One Block of Howland Avenue" puts face, name and consequence to the demographic catastrophe of World War I to Canada. Clark’s elderly father asked his two decorated veteran sons never to walk up the street past the neighbours to their house at 66 Howland Avenue again. Go the long way around so the neighbours won’t see you boys. All the young men of their block were dead, except Greg and his brother Joseph. Clark senior tried to balance his pride and joy of both sons back home with his grief and concern for his neighbours and friends - who might be looking out their windows.
Fate of his work
Though he was probably Canada’s most honoured journalist, an initiate Officer of the Order of Canada, and decorated as both a fighting soldier and as a war correspondent, Clark’s work is out of print. Rather randomly published in anthology compilations between the late 1950s and the early 1970s in Canada by Collins, Ryerson Press and McClelland and Stewart, Clark’s work may have had so little serious academic attention in part because it was mostly written by a working journalist for publication in newspapers and popular magazines—hiding in plain view, as it were.
Clark wrote about four or five dozen disarmingly charming, granite-hard war stories. Many have a profound point well told. Some are just a fine read. All are a good read.
Clark’s three stories "The Prayer," "They Might Be Looking out Their Windows" and "None Else of Name" resonate today as the insights and memories of a toughened, gallant veteran who bore the scars, yet emerged with enhanced compassion, dignity and a still-effective sense of duty. Free of bombast and triumphalist cant, Clark's work is long overdue for a modern compilation.
Theory of Traffic
The Gregory Clark Theory of Traffic states: "Let everybody leave the car at home. Let everybody use buses, street cars, taxis, suburban trains — and the traffic problem is solved in a mere twenty-four hours."
- "A sportsman is one who not only will not show his own father where the best fishing holes are but will deliberately direct him to the wrong ones." —from a speech to the Empire Club of Canada in 1950
These books are collections of essays or newspaper columns.
- Greg's Choice, ISBN 0-7700-6025-0, Ryerson Press (1961)
- The Best of Gregory Clark, ISBN 0-7700-6024-2, Ryerson Press (1962)
- Hi, There!, ISBN 0-7700-6026-9, Ryerson Press (1963)
- War Stories, Ryerson Press (1964), winner of the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 1965
- May Your First Love be Your Last, ISBN 0-00-216692-5, McClelland and Stewart (1969)
- A Bar'l of Apples: a Gregory Clark Omnibus, ISBN 0-07-092952-1, McGraw-Hill Ryerson (1971)
- Outdoors with Gregory Clark, ISBN 0-7710-2108-9, McClelland and Stewart (1971)
- The Bird of Promise, ISBN 0-88890-010-4, McClelland and Stewart (1973)
- Grandma Preferred Steak, ISBN 0-88890-024-4, (1974)
- Fishing with Gregory Clark, ISBN 0-88890-033-3, Prentice-Hall of Canada (1975)
- Things that Go SQUEAK in the Night, ISBN 0-88890-053-8, Prentice-Hall (1976)
- The Best of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise, ISBN 0-00-216683-6, Collins (1977)
- Silver Linings, ISBN 0-00-216699-2, Collins (1978)
- Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise Outdoors, ISBN 0-00-216607-0, Collins (1979)
- Ten Cents off per Dozen: a Gregory Clark Omnibus, ISBN 0-88890-116-X, Optimum (1979)
- A Supersonic Day (from the Packsack of Gregory Clark), ISBN 0-7710-2112-7, McClelland and Stewart (1980)
- Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise Go Fishing
Greg Clark contributed to
- The Face of Canada, Clarke, Irwin & Company (1959)
Greg Clark also wrote
- With Rod and Reel in Canada, Canadian Government Travel Bureau (1947)
- Greg Clark at The Canadian Encyclopedia
- Mount Pleasant biography
- a speech by Gregory Clark, Canadian humorist, sportsman, and veteran at the Empire Club of Canada in 1950
- link to page from the cartoon Birdseye Centre with art by Jimmie Frise and commentary by Gregory Clark
- Canadian newspapers and the Second World War
- Library and Archives Canada description of Gregory Clark fonds: "0.72 metres of textual records, 22 photographs and 2 sound recordings. This material contains personal diaries, fishing journals and correspondence documenting Clark's 60-year career...."