Musician, composer and priest



Frederick Scotson Clark, born on 16 November 1840 in Southwark, was the son of merchant Michael Clark (born c.1810 Ireland, died 1877 Richmond, Surrey) and Adelaide (known as Adele) Cusack Kearney (born c. 1816 London, died 1899 Hampstead district), who were married at St John the Evangelist, Lambeth on 30 January 1840. Michael's occupation was given as warehouseman on the marriage certificate and that was still his occupation when he died, but I think this meant that he ran a trading warehouse, since he was sometimes described as a cotton manufacturer's agent.

The Kearney side of the family probably possessed the musical genes. Adele's father was Richard Cusack Kearney, who seems to have died when she was quite young. He was an Irish 'gentleman', who appears a few times in those obscure old books of lists that you find via google searches. For example, he is named in an interminable procession of people detained by the French in Verdun at the time Napoleon came to power. However, it is useful to place him in France, since it supports the claim that Adele studied piano with Chopin in Paris at some stage (Chopin lived in Paris from 1831 until his death in 1849 and, surprisingly, gave his very last recital at the London Guildhall in 1848 - I would not be surprised if Adele Clark attended and took Frederick with her). She also studied under Lucy Anderson. It seems that she played in public, as this comment from the West Middlesex Advertiser of 4 May 1861, covering a soirée at the Literary and Scientific Institution in Chelsea, shows. 'Mrs Scotson Clark performed with much skill a beautiful and difficult fantasia on the piano.'

The Kearneys are fairly elusive people in terms of records, but there are a few odd facts about them which may or may not be a case of two and two making five - you decide.

One wonders where the Scotson part - and, perhaps, the Frederick - of our subject's name might have come from. Fact 1: A Frederick Scotson, variously a warehouseman, hotel keeper and wine agent, born c.1795 Peterborough, married a widow called Adelaide Lanor Kearney in Clerkenwell on 29 April 1826. This lady appeared only once in a census (1841) and was supposedly born somewhere around 1797 in 'Foreign Parts': however, on her burial record in December 1841 her age is given as 46, which would make her date of birth 1795.

Fact 2: On the same 1841 census sheet, living with the Scotsons, was Ricarda Kearney, aged 23 (therefore, apparently born c.1818, again in Foreign Parts - which later proved to be Paris). Adelaide and Ricarda were described as Frederick's wife and daughter and this was then crossed through, presumably because the enumerator forgot that he was supposed to be as unhelpful as possible to future family history researchers. (This man was a maverick anyway, since he did not round up ages to the nearest 5 years, and had obviously not read any of the 1841 rules - well done!)

So, the inference I have drawn (maybe wrongly) is that Adelaide Lanor Scotson was the widow of Richard Cusack Kearney and that Ricarda Kearney was her daughter. This would suggest that Frederick Scotson was the step-father of both Ricarda Kearney and Adele Kearney/Clark and might well explain how our subject got the forenames that he did.

There is a Fact 3, which is not strictly relevant to our Reverend Clark, but I will throw it in the pot for interest's sake. In the 1851 census Frederick Scotson was living with a wife called Ricarda, born c. 1811 Paris, and they had three young children. I am aware that the age does not tie up with the 1841 Ricarda, but there could be various reasons for that. Oh, and a Ricarda Kearney was a witness when Michael Clark and Adelaide Cusack Kearney were married on 30 January 1840. I can find no marriage record for Frederick Scotson and Ricarda and perhaps that is unsurprising, since she appears to have been his step-daughter. (Additionally, one of Frederick and Ricarda's sons named his daughters Frederica Florence Ricarda Cusack and Adele Marcella Cusack Scotson, so safe to say that all these people are closely connected.)

Let's move on!

Michael and Adele Clark had five children in total - Adelaide Ricarda (1842-99, unmarried), Michael (born 1843), Marcella Cusack (born c.1850, married Achille Felix Néré in 1888) and Henry (born c.1855).

Education and career beginnings

As I said, there were musical genes in the family: at least four of the couple's five children (Frederick, Adelaide, Marcella and Henry - I think Michael Junior possibly died young) were involved in the profession. Frederick exhibited talent at a young age and, even during his early schooling in Ewell, played the organ in the local church. By the age of fourteen, in 1854, he was the organist at Regent Square Church in London (believed to be St Peter's rather than the Presbyterian establishment also in the Square). He also played the violin, piano and harmonium and sang.

It has not been possible to prove beyond doubt where and when Frederick went to school in Ewell (his family lived in South London), but I think it has to be Ewell Academy, run by William Richard Monger, who was the organist at St Mary's Church for very many years (and his father before him) and also played at St Martin's, Epsom. The Academy was located at The Old House, at the junction of Epsom Road and Mongers Lane. This would make a lot of sense, implying that Frederick went to the Academy having been taught the piano by his mother and was then tutored and mentored by Mr Monger as an organist. He probably would have been there somewhere within the period from 1849-54.

The exact chronology of Frederick's schooling after Ewell is not clear either (he is not particularly well documented, being regarded by history as a very minor musical figure), but he had some musical tuition in Paris, attended King's College, London (confirmed by the archivist at Exeter College, Oxford) and the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied under Sir John Goss, Sir William Sterndale Bennett and other distinguished teachers. By 1858 he was teaching at the Royal Academy.

Frederick was an incredibly busy young man. As well as studying and playing the organ in several churches, in 1865 he founded the London Organ School and College of Music at 18 Exeter Hall on the Strand and went up to Exeter College, Oxford, where he was the organist, graduating as a Bachelor of Music in 1867. In Frederick's time there the organ was a 'two manuals' (two keyboards), built by the notable William Hill & Son.

Exeter College
Exeter College Chapel, built 1860.
Photo by Julian Nitzsche via Wikimedia Commons.

He then became headmaster of St Michael's Grammar School, Victoria House, Victoria Place, Brighton: this is not as grand as it sounds, since at that time Brighton was filled with small private schools, but it was in an upmarket area - now run down in parts - and the Grade II listed house still stands.

Victoria House
Victoria House.
Photo by Tony Mould and used by kind permission of

In 1868 he was ordained deacon and he became a priest in 1869. Whether or not he was particularly religious and saw the priesthood as a vocation, I do not know, but somehow I doubt it. I think it was a means of earning some money which allowed him to accommodate his musical activities. At one point he was the curate of St Michael's Church in Lewes (very near to Brighton) and some newspaper reports from around 1974 say that he was also at St Michael's, Brighton. This may be a reporting error but it is possible (see note below photo of that church later).

St Michael's
St Michael, Lewes.
Image © Linda Jackson 2013


On 14 July 1869 at St Nicholas, Brighton Frederick married Catherine Eliza Brown who lived at that time in Powis Road, very near to the school where Frederick taught. Catherine was the daughter of James Cowley Brown, of the Bengal Civil Service and was born in Kishnagur, Bengal on 19 February 1841. It seems that the widowed Mrs Matilda Brown (née Chinnery) did not think much of Frederick and his financial situation, which was poor, as will become clear.

Powis Road
Powis Road, with the church of
St Michael and All Angels in the foreground.
Image © Linda Jackson 2013

(It is likely that the nearby St Michael's Grammar School was named after this church and the Browns and Clark possibly worshipped there. The building has been enlarged since their time but the original church still forms part of it).

St Nicholas
St Nicholas, Brighton, where the Clarks were married.
Image © Linda Jackson 2013.

How much part Mrs Brown played in influencing her daughter after the marriage is open to speculation, but there is little doubt that she expressed her views. Mrs Brown may or may not have something to do with the fact that in 1869 the Clarks decamped to Leipzig, where Frederick continued his musical studies; he then officiated at an English Chapel there. The following year he moved to Stuttgart for more studies, apparently alone, and he was assistant chaplain of the Lutheran Church. Meanwhile someone else was minding the London Organ School.

The marriage seems to have gone wrong almost immediately, with frequent arguments and violence, punctuated by two babies. The Hastings and St Leonard's Observer of 25 October 1873 went to town on the details (although the events strike me as pretty tame for Brighton, then or now!)


The Hove magistrates were engaged on Monday in hearing evidence in a somewhat singular case. Frederick Scotson Clark, a clerk in holy orders, of No.8, Sackville Street Piccadilly, London, was summoned for unlawfully assaulting Mrs Matilda Brown, his mother-in-law, at her residence, No.3, Stanford Road, Preston-ville*, on the 7th inst. Mr J W Howlett, of the firm of Clarke and Howlett, Ship Street, Brighton**, appeared on behalf of Mrs Brown; Mr W H Herbert, of 27 Sackville Street, London representing the Rev Scotson Clark. There was also a cross summons for assault. From the opening remarks of Mr Howlett it appeared that proceedings were now being instituted in the Divorce Court by Mrs Scotson Clark on the ground of her husband's cruelty towards her. On his marriage with Miss Brown, the defendant went to reside with the complainant, who entirely supported her daughter, the defendant having done nothing for his wife's support since their marriage. The union did not prove a happy one, and steps were taken to bring about a divorce. By an order of the Divorce Court Mrs Scotson Clark was to have the custody of her two children, the defendant, however, being allowed access to them once a fortnight, and to remain with them two hours. At these visits the defendant had behaved in the most reprehensible manner; in fact they were a source of fearful annoyance to Mrs Brown. On one occasion the defendant forced his way into Mrs Brown's room and declared he was commissioned by God to cast her into the depths of hell, and that, being a priest of the Church of England, this curse would cling to her everlastingly. On another occasion he drew caricatures of his mother-in-law and gave them to the children, in order that she might be a laughing-stock with them. And on a further occasion he asked the children to tell their grandmother that a great black man, with a long black tail, and a large black fork, would come and pitch her into the fire, where she would burn for all eternity. Mr Howlett then referred to the assault in question, and it appeared that on the evening of the 7th instant, about half-past seven o'clock, Mr Scotson Clark went to his mother-in-law's house and commenced violently ringing the bell and knocking at the door. As soon as the door was opened by the servant the defendant tried to force his way in, but could not do so on account of the chain being up. Finding he could not effect an entrance, the defendant resumed his knocking and ringing, and put his foot in the door so that it could not be closed, at the same time indulging in the most ignominious observations with regard to his wife's family. Ultimately Mrs Brown went herself to the door and tried to close it. It was then that the assault complained of was committed. The defendant seized hold of her by the arm just above the elbow and used such violence that he tore the sleeve of her dress quite away. Her arm, too, was much bruised. Evidence was given by Mrs Brown to substantiate the opening statement and in the examination the Chairman of the Bench made an observation to the effect that extraneous matter had better not be introduced, as the magistrates 'could not go for a fortnight like this'. Mrs Brown, her servant, Emma Sawyer, and a builder named Holloway gave evidence. Mr Holloway stated that he saw Mr Clark standing in a cab at the door of Mrs Brown's house addressing the people, and he (Mr Clark) said the Confessional had been the means of separating himself and his wife, and that he only wanted an opportunity to expose the abuses of the Confessional. He wished to be given into custody, he said, and then he should be able to make it all public. When he was knocking at the door some of the people called out 'Shame', but when he spoke against the Confessional they cheered him. For the defence Mr Herbert stated that at the time when Mr Clark married Miss Brown, her mother agreed that they should live with her and that she would keep them. She knew her son-in-law's pecuniary resources and that he not only had no money but was actually in debt. It appeared that the parties did not live very agreeably together - at any rate after some friends of the Brown family came upon the scene. Mr Clark then went abroad to pursue his musical studies at Stuttgart. About Christmas 1872 he became aware for the first time that his wife was a nurse in a public hospital and that she had or was about to join a Protestant sisterhood. Now he knew that he was able to support his wife and children, though not in quite such style as the Brown family would like. He came back to England at once, and on arriving found that his children had been taken away, their whereabouts even being refused him. Having some things at his mother-in-law's, he went for them and it was then that he was designated a'thief', a 'liar' and a 'blackguard'. Mr Herbert then alluded to proceedings which he had no doubt were instituted by Mrs Brown, whereby her son-in-law had been disappointed in two curacies - one in Richmond, Surrey and another in this town. But the proceedings in the Divorce Court were not taken on one side alone; Mr Clark had himself prayed for a judicial separation. The defendant, Mr Clark, in his examination, explained that he had been to Germany and on returning to England in December 1872 he found that his children had been taken away and that neither his wife nor mother-in-law would give him any information regarding them. On going to Mrs Brown's house (Mr Clark stated), on the evening alluded to, for a pair of gloves he thought he had left there, he knocked at the door, but they would not let him in. When Mrs Brown came out she banged the door and squeezed his arm in it a great many times, fifty perhaps. He had a lump on his wrist as large as a plum. Several policemen were present while this was going on. On the conclusion of the evidence the Bench retired for a few moments and on their return the Chairman, in giving sentence, said the Bench did not believe that Mr Clark went for the purpose of getting his goods. They thought he had other purposes in view; but if he went for the goods he would be perfectly unjustified in his conduct on that occasion. He seemed to have been engaged for an hour and a half in ringing and knocking at Mrs Brown's door, which was quite unnecessary. Mrs Brown came down, and did her best to close the door. In doing so Mr Clark appears to have squeezed her arm, while his own arm got crushed in the door. She was perfectly justified in doing what she did. Under the circumstances they would fine Mr Scotson Clark £5, including costs; or in default, one month's imprisonment. The money was paid.

*now called Preston, an area just north of the Brighton city centre

**still in Ship Street today after 240 years of existence

The paper went on to report the case of Clark v La Barte, which was heard immediately after the first proceeding. On the night before Mrs Brown crushed Clark's arm in the door, the Rev William White La Barte shut Clark's arm in a different door (Mr La Barte's front door this time) to prevent his entry. Clark seems to have blamed La Barte for assisting Mrs Clark in her endeavours to become a nurse and a Protestant sister and for the fact that the children had been taken away. The inevitable crowd that gathered seems to have supported Clark. The case was dismissed, the magistrates no doubt being thoroughly bored with the whole door-crushing saga.

The affair rumbled on. In June 1874 the case of Clark v Clark (judicial separation) was heard before a jury in the Divorce Court and details of the behaviour leading to the proceedings were reported. 'She complained of the overbearing and tyrannical way in which he treated her and of the insulting language which he made to her mother and sister. She charged him with having on one occasion struck her with a candlestick and on another occasion thrown a candlestick at her. He had also, as she alleged, slapped her face and boxed her ears, he had twisted her arms and on one occasion he had kicked her in the elbow in the course of a quarrel. Since the filing of the petition he had gone to Brighton and molested her in the streets and on one of his visits he created a disturbance at her mother's house, and a crowd having collected he addressed them from the top of a cab, making various charges against herself and her family. One of the chief complaints which she made against him was that he had stated to friends and publicly that he had been obliged to marry her because he had seduced her before marriage, an imputation which was utterly unfounded.'

So what did Frederick have to say about this? He 'denied that he had been guilty of the principal acts of violence of which he had been accused and attributed the differences between himself and his wife to the hostility of her mother, who was dissatisfied with the marriage on account of his poverty. He alleged that the petitioner frequently provoked him by her exhibitions of temper and that she had slapped and pinched him and pulled his ears until he cried, and had struck off his spectacles. On the occasion of the alleged kick he was sitting in a chair with his legs crossed and seeing her coming towards him in a threatening attitude he involuntarily put up one of his feet which came in contact with her elbow. He said he never intended to convey the imputation that he seduced her before marriage and denied that he had ever made such a statement either in public or private. He expressed his regret for having cursed Mrs Brown.' It goes on, but I am now as bored as the Hove magistrates. The Divorce Court did not believe a word he said and the separation was granted.

March aux Flambeaux
Frederick's most successful organ composition -
the 'Marche aux Flambeaux', (torchlight procession).

(This piece was much played at Victorian weddings. It was certainly composed by April 1969 and one wonders if it was played at the Clark wedding that July. Something warlike might have been more appropriate).

As an aside, Mrs Matilda Brown had another family scandal to contend with before she died in 1879. Her grand-daughter, Annette Hannah Campbell (daughter of Matilda Frances Brown), had married a man called George William Heaton in 1864. There were six children of the marriage, four of whom survived. If Matilda did not think much of Frederick Scotson Clark, who was merely poor, then eventually she must have been appalled by Heaton (who became a barrister and changed his surname to Scrope-Ferrers): he sounded excellent on paper but was a serial wife-beater. Annette filed for divorce in 1876, describing a catalogue of foul language, threats, assaults and adultery; she then withdrew the petition and went back to him, finally biting the bullet and obtaining a decree in 1886. That same year Heaton/Scrope-Ferrers remarried and in 1897 his second wife divorced him, telling a similar story to Annette.


Frederick Scotson Clark has been described as a composer of light music without profundity, but people should judge for themselves.

There are three youtube clips of his work:

Alternatively, if you can read music, you may wish to hum along tunefully to the sheet music pictured earlier.

After the events at Brighton Frederick had moved to London, where he concentrated on giving music lessons at his Organ School, and he performed in public many times as a singer, pianist and organist; the reviews were varied, but everyone seemed to agree that he was highly competent.

Liverpool Mercury 1875

'Mr Scotson Clark, who is well known as a composer and a clergyman, is an educated and refined player, without much brilliancy, but with all the usual empressement of a thorough artiste.'

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 1882

'...gave two recitals on the Albert Hall organ on Saturday last, one of them having taken place in the afternoon and the other in the evening. It speaks unfavourably for musical taste in Sheffield when it is said that so important an event as Mr Clark's visit should have excited so little interest amongst us that only a small number of persons availed themselves of two opportunities thus presented of hearing one of England's most gifted performers on, and composers for, the organ. Those who were privileged in being present will long bear in remembrance the great treats afforded, especially in the evening's recital, when Mr Clark's playing was irreproachable.'

Note: There was much more of this effusive review, the general gist being that Clark was wonderful and the residents of Sheffield were philistines.

A review of a piano performance in Guernsey, which took place on 21 March 1882, noted that Clark stood out in a generally mediocre group of soloists, but that he was not up to his usual form: this may have been because he was ill and he died on 5 July 1883 at 3 Prince's Street, London W1, which by then was both his home and his music school. His sister Marcella also composed and gave public performances and his younger brother, Henry, took over the London Organ School. This advertisement appeared in April 1887.

LONDON ORGAN SCHOOL AND COLLEGE OF MUSIC. Established 1865 by the Rev. Scotson Clark, Mus. B. Patron, his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. Among the numerous advantages of the London Organ School and College of Music are the following: - Pupils can enter at any time. Beginners and advanced. Pupils receive equal attention. No entrance examination. Public Concerts take place in St James's Hall. Pianoforte Pupils receive Instruction in Organ Playing (if desired), without extra charge. Teaching and Office hours from Nine to Nine daily throughout the year. Omnibuses from all parts. The next Students' recital (Organ, Pianoforte, Violin and Vocal) will take place Saturday, April 30th, at Four o'clock. Ticket and prospectus for one stamp. 3, Prince's Street, Cavendish Square (close to Oxford Circus).

HENRY CLARK, Principal

As time went on Henry Clark seemed to take a back seat, with the musical side being headed by Dr Thomas Henry Yorke Trotter, originally a barrister, who later became Principal of the Incorporated London Academy of Music. And eventually the Ewell musical wheel turned full circle, for in the 1911 census Dr Trotter was to be found living at The Red House, 7 Church Street, Ewell with his wife and two children. I do not know what happened to Henry Clark.

Meanwhile Mrs Catherine Eliza Clark had trained as a nurse and was a sister in a religious organisation (not a nun); after Frederick's death she married Alexander Bassett Stephen Shairp (born c. 1837 Canada), who was Secretary of the Central Lying In Hospital, Lambeth, where she was the matron at the time. Alexander had previously been a Major in the Royal Marine Light Infantry and was a widower (his first wife, Julia, née Duesbury, having died in 1876).

Alexander Shairp died in 1893 and Catherine followed on 25 November 1914, ending her days in the Whittington College almshouses in Highgate.

Kathleen Scotson Clark (born 1870/71) became headmistress of Allerton High School for Girls in Leeds; she never married and died on 28 March 1959 in a nursing home at St Leonards-on-sea, near Hastings.

George Frederick Scotson-Clark (born 1872 - he used a hyphenated surname) was a schoolmate of Aubrey Beardsley at Brighton Grammar School and also became a noted artist, spending much of his adult life in America: his particular speciality was designing theatre posters and these were somewhat Beardsleyesque but did not display the same flair. He also wrote cookery books, sometimes in collaboration with his wife, Ethel Crabb Scotson-Clark.

Site of Brighton Grammar School
The site of the old Brighton Grammar School,
attended by George Scotson-Clark and Aubrey Beardsley.
Image © Linda Jackson 2013.

(The building later became the Sussex Maternity Hospital and was demolished in the 1970s. This newer building, on the same site at the corner of Buckingham Road and Upper Gloucester Road, is a community mental health facility).

One of George's cookery books
One of George's cookery books, 1925.
Image source: Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Linda Jackson
July 2013

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