Arthur Walter Clarke (1854-1893)
Phoebe Isabel Flockton (1863-1960)

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Arthur Walter Clarke was a son of Charles Clarke & Elizabeth Stoddart. He was born on 20 Apr 1854 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. He became a chemist, and in the 1881 census he appears as an assay chemist working in the mines in Cornwall, living in the village of Calstock, about 28km north of Plymouth. His father was a religious minister who had moved to Barbados and then Puerto Rico.

A descendant, Louise Johnson, has researched Arthur Walter Clarke extensively; her monograph can be read here.

Arthur Walter Clarke (pictured) migrated to Australia on board the Chyebassa, arriving in Townsville on 19 Nov 1881, aged 25. He worked firstly for a couple of private companies in Brisbane before becoming a government analyst.

From The Queenslander, 24 Oct 1885:

The offer of the Charters Towers Committee, to prepare a pamphlet on their goldfield, was accepted with thanks, and it was also decided to ask Mr. A. W. Clarke to write a report of his tour through the colony for the object of collecting minerals for the exhibition.

From The Australian Star, Fri 13 July 1888:

Mining in Queensland.

Brisbane, This Day. — Mr. A. W. Clarke, one of the travelling Government mineralogical lecturers, has resigned, and intends to settle down at Charters Towers. He has made a recommendation to the Government, which is now under consideration. Mr. Clarke intends establishing classes in mining and assay work at Charters Towers, and it is possible that the Government will assist him, as the classes will be a good substitute for a school of mines, which the Government are not in a position financially to establish.

Isabel Phoebe Flockton, known as Phoebe, was born on 17 Apr 1863 at 14 Russell Place, St Pancras, London, England, her parents being Francis Stephen Flockton (of the Fatt family) and Isabel Mary Flockton. Phoebe (scanned incorrectly as Rhoebe in had arrived in Mackay, Queensland on 16 Dec 1882 on board the Merkara along with her sister Dora and Maria Flockton, the latter being a 30 year old sister of Phoebe and Dora’s mother.

Arthur most probably met Phoebe in Brisbane she had set up a dance school (there were a number of advertisements for her dance school in 1883).In any case they married on 14 Dec 1886 in Bundaberg, Queensland.

The couple had two children (see below). In 1993 he became worried by his financial affairs and took his own life in Toowong, Brisbane, on 31 May 1893. In her book Margaret Flockton, A Fragrant Memory (Wakefield Press, 2016), Louise Wilson points out that there was a bank crash at the time, and speculates that he could find no way out; however the banks were soon after shored up by the Government, making his death an enormous tragedy. His death was reported in the Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser on Sat 03 Jun 1893:


The friends of Mr. A. W. Clarke, Government Analyst, had yesterday morning been on a state of anxiety since the previous day owing to his having been missing from home. Inquiries were made as to his whereabouts, but no information could be obtained till yesterday morning, when his dead body was found at Toowong. The unfortunate man had apparently committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth, as a revolver was found in his right hand. Sergeant Dunne, of Toowong, had the body removed to the morgue. Two letters were found in his pocket, the one addressed to his wife and the other to a friend at Charters Towers. Mr. Clarke was at the Government Laboratory on Wednesday morning at 9 o’clock, when he seemed in good spirits. He told Mr. Wain, his assistant, that he was going to the Geological Museum to do some scorifying, and took some dishes with him for the purpose. He afterwards remarked that he was going to call on “that effervescing joker,” meaning a gentleman who had been to consult him about the quantity of carbonic acid gas in some soda water. After completing some assays at the Museum he left that institution at about 11 a.m., and nothing further could be learned as to his movements. A post mortem examination of the body was held yesterday afternoon, and Dr. Tilston certified that the deceased had apparently met with his death by shooting himself. It appears that Mr. Clarke was in financial difficulties, and had on two or three occasions, when speaking to his friends about his troubles, said in a jocular manner, that the best way to put an end to them was with a pistol. Great sympathy is felt for his widow and two young children, The Under Secretary for Mines (Mr. Selheim) and the Government Geologist (Mr. Jack) broke the terrible news to her during the afternoon. Mr. Clarke, who was about 36 years of age, was an Englishman by birth. He was at one time engaged at some chemical works in Cornwall, and subsequently studied at the School of Mines, London. He emigrated to Queensland about eight years ago, and on his arrival in Brisbane was employed by Mr. B. Sparks, merchant, and subsequently by Messrs. A. Shaw and Co. He was next engaged by the Government to prepare a catalogue of the minerals that were sent as an exhibit to the Colonial and Indian Museum. This led to his being appointed mineralogical lecturer in North Queensland, which position he resigned two years afterwards and entered into partnership with Mr. Coane, of Charters Towers, as mining agents and analysts. In January last he was appointed Government Analyst in succession to Mr. R. Mar. It is thought that in addition to his financial troubles he was worried owing to there being a rash of work in his department. Mr. Clarke was not well known in Brisbane, but his small circle of friends speak of him with the highest respect and esteem.-Courier.

The Brisbane Courier reported the magistrate’s findings on Tue 06 Jun 1893:


A magisterial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Arthur Walter Clarke (Government Analyst), who was found dead in a paddock in South Toowong on the 1st instant, was held before Mr. P. Pinnock, P.M., at the City Police Court yesterday afternoon.

Philip Frederick Sellheim, Under Secretary for Mines, said that he remembered Thursday last. In consequence of something he heard he went to the hospital morgue, where he saw the dead body of Arthur Walter Clarke. He had known deceased for about ten years. He last saw him alive on the day before the body was found, when deceased walked from Teneriffe to town with him. He did not notice anything in his demeanour which would lead him to suppose that he would commit suicide. Deceased was in slight financial difficulties. He was of temperate habits.

Sergeant Dunne said that he remembered the 1st instant. About 11 o’clock in the forenoon he was at South Toowong with a William Cross. They separated, but Cross returned in about two minutes and said that he had found a dead man. They went into Mr. H. S. Wilson’s paddock, where they saw the dead body of the deceased. The body was lying on its back and the two hands were grasping the revolver. His legs were stretched out full length and were close together. He was fully dressed when found. There were no marks on his face, but there was a small quantity of blood under his head. Witness examined the revolver, and found one chamber had been discharged and the other five were loaded. He removed the body to the morgue, and was present when Dr. Tilston made a post-mortem examination of the body. After removing the scalp Dr. Tilston handed witness a bullet which he had extracted from the brain of deceased. Witness searched the clothing and found two letters – one addressed to Mrs. Clarke and the other to Mr. Cole, Charters Towers. He also found a large number of cartridges by the side of deceased. The body was quite cold.

William Cross, a labourer residing at Toowong, corroborated the evidence of Sergeant Dunne. He left the sergeant and went into a paddock. He then saw a dead body, and returning, informed the sergeant.

Dr. Tilston said he remembered the 1st June. He made a post-mortem examination on the body of Arthur Walter Clarke. He found a gunshot wound in the roof of the mouth, which was charred with powder. He also found a fracture of the skull in the back of the head. He removed the skullcap and found a bullet (produced). The bullet dropped out when the skullcap was removed. The injuries described were the cause of death. There were no marks of violence on the body. In his opinion the wound was self-inflicted. Instantaneous death must have resulted.

The inquiry then closed.

Like her parents Phoebe was an artist. As recently as 29 Jul 2012 geologists had their interest piqued by Susan Taylor’s research into women in Australian geology, and wrote this:


Susan Turner … has been continuing her researches into the role of women in Australian geology and has found yet another unsung geo-heroine to add to her list. She reports as follows:

“Reading through Robert Logan Jack and Robert Etheridge Jnr’s classic (1892) Geology of Queensland to seek information of geological collectors and collecting last year in preparation for the HOGG conference in London in April (Turner 2011), I had an unexpected surprise. I discovered the name of a contributor to this classic work that I had not ‘seen’ before and it was a woman! Jack had asked his friend the chemist Arthur Walter Clarke F.G.S. of Charters Towers, former Government Mineralogical Lecturer, to do assays on rocks collected as well as petrological assessments. Clarke had become a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1889 (Branagan 2009). He provided a chapter of notes, which Jack says in his preface (p. xiv) was the result of “at least two years’ assiduous labour”. These are to be found in Chapter XL (40); some of the specimens were in the Geological Survey of Queensland collection and he did present some specimens to the Queensland Museum (Donor Register). The accompanying illustrated plates 60–68 (16 figs) are hand-done and “painted from the microscope” and beautifully executed by his wife, listed as he notes as “J. Phoebe Clarke”, who was working with most of the sections “under crossed nicols” (Clarke 1892, p. 699). Are they watercolours? Interestingly, Arthur is listed in the ‘Index to persons quoted or referred to’ (743–748) but she is not.”

“Not much more is known about her at present, or how she and Arthur met, although in his chapter (in Jack & Etheridge p. 699), Clarke notes that he is an adopted Queenslander and so presumably a British immigrant. A Google search brought to light a box of papers of their daughter Phyllis (1891-1989), in the State Library of NSW; she became a noted artist and illustrator with work done for Royal Worcester. In the box is a “faint photograph” of her mother, whose name in fact is Isabel Phoebe Clarke, née Flockton. Isabel’s aunt and Phyllis’s great aunt was also a noted Australian artist, Lilian Margaret Flockton (1861-1953), and the family came from Essex around 1880. Phoebe and Arthur met and married in 1886. Apparently there is also a family tree so I am seeking all these items.”

“So why the slip up with Isabel’s name in the Jack and Etheridge plates? A pure typographic error? So why didn’t Arthur explain it in his introductory notes? John Blockley noted to me when I told him of my find that A.W. actually committed suicide in 1893, but what occurred we do not yet know”. I would appreciate anyone sending me any information they might come across about the Clarkes. I shall try a search of local Queensland papers as well as British and shipping archives.” “Does anyone else know of other 19th Century examples of hand-painted rock sections?”

While this proves that Phoebe was a fine illustrator, the following newspaper article published in The Northern Mining Register on Thu 24 Dec 1891 is intriguing in that the by-line is written and illustrated … by Mrs A. W. Clarke. It would suggest that either she knew much about geology or that it was written by her husband with her illustrations but with no attribution to Arthur. (The illustrations are not shown here because they could not be scanned clearly enough):

Notes on Charters Towers Granite.
Written and Illustrated for the Northern Mining Register
By Mrs. A. W. Clarke.

In the illustrations on this page will be seen two different kinds of granite, highly magnified, and viewed with a polariscope.

Fig. I. represents a true granite composed of orthoclase, quartz, and mica. The section belongs to R. L. Jack, and was prepared by Fuess, of Berlin from a German typical granite.

In Fig. II. we see a granite made up of hornblende, triclinic felspar, and quartz, differing from the true granite by the absence of mica and orthoclase. and the presence of hornblende and triclinic felspars. The latter is a type of the country rock of this field.

When hornblende occurs in any great quantity the rock is termed hornblendic granite.

The rough and ready way of examining a rock is to use one’s pocket knife and a rnagnifying glass, by which means we can frequently identify the different minerals of which it is made up.

Let us take for example a piece of typical granite.

The orthoclase is of a pale pink color, sometimes white, often with smooth, cleaved surfaces, which can hardly be scratched with the point of a knife.

Mica is in thin shining plates or layers, usually dark in color, and so elastic that when split and raised with the point of a knife it springs back into its former position.

Quartz is easily distinguished by its trans parent appearance, generally looking like pieces of dull glass; the cleavage is irregular; it is harder than either of the other two minerals, the penknife making little or no impression on its faces.

Hornblende, which occurs so much in the granite of this field, is of a dark green, almost black, color, not so hard as orthoclase, though harder than mica, and is often fibrous. Hornblendes also vary in their crystalline form.

Quartz crystals are hexagonal, i.e., six sided, and terminate in a point at the top.

Orthoclase varies in its crystalline form, aud it is difficult to say sometimes whether the felspar is orthoclase or not. The most usual form is a six sided figure, having two large well developed planes parallel to each other, giving the crystal a tabular form, the other facets being small.

The micas are either six sided or four sided (rhombic), having unequal angles.

But when we want to make a more careful examination of a granite, the best way is to take a very thin section of the rock mounted on glass, and place it under the microscope; we can then distinguish the different minerals by their appearance when magnified.

In comparing the two drawings it will easily be seen by the structure of the rocks that the constituent minerals of which each is formed are not the same.

Quartz appears clear and pellucid, and may be recognised in the lightest parts of the drawing, with only a few marks or lines on the surface.

We recognise the felspar by its opaque, (in the drawing dark) long shaped crystals, which in the case of triclinic felspars are traversed by bands of color running length wise with the crystals.

The mica can be identified by its transparent appearance and clear coloring, having fine lines, i.e. planes of cleavage.

An important fact to be noted with regard to quartz is the presence of fluid inclosures. Under the microscope these appear as small cavities in the quartz, each containing a minute bubble, which in some cases can be observed moving from one part of the cavity to the other, not unlike the bubble of a spirit level.

The small discs show the differences between the inclosures of the two rocks, those in the typical granite being smaller than our own.

With reference to this subject, Mr. Maitland draws attention to a recent paper by Professor Davidson on “The associated minerals and volatility of gold,” published in Vol. II. Plate III. Records Geological Survey, N.S.W., in which the author states: “As a rule good gold quartz contains far more microscopic fluid inclosures and cavities than barren quartz, and in the former such inclosures show a tolerably uniform parallelism and arrangement, whereas in the latter they are somewhat irregularly distributed.” By this we see that the study of these inclosures might lead to the determination of whether it is worth while continuing to look for gold and other minerals in certain belts of country, and therefore that the microscopic structure of rocks and their constituent minerals is of as much practical as theoretical value.

In conclusion I would draw attention to the chemical constitution of the two contrasted rocks, which, though of lesser importance to petrographers than the mineralogical constitution, is yet of sufficient interest to be worth printing.

Phoebe lost Arthur when she was just 30 years old, the older of her two children being just 5 years old. She passed away in Sydney on 31 Dec 1960, aged 97 (Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens, inscription #1162393; her age is stated there as 96).

Arthur & Phoebe’s family:

01. Harry Flockton (b. 16 Jul 1888, d. 13 Oct 1969 in St Leonards, Sydney) his death notice has Arthur William as his father

02. Phyllis Flockton (b. 18 Jan 1891 in Charters Towers, d. 13 Dec 1989 in Paddington, Sydney)

photos of Phyllis taken in Charters Towers

Hall & Phyllis

Phyllis with Hal (L) and Phyllis (R)

thought to be Phyllis and Hal

Generation 2

01. Harry Flockton Clarke enlisted in Bathurst as a private in WWI on 21 Feb 1916 in the 41st Infantry, 2 to 8 Reinforcements (as a munitions worker); his service record can be read online here.. He gave his occupations as sugar chemist, living in Chatswood NSW. His mother was stated as “Mrs. Isabell Phoebe Clarke, ‘The Hill-side’, View-street Chatswood, N.S.W.”. He embarked on board HMAS Wiltshire on 22 Aug 1916.

Harry also enlisted in Paddington in the Army Citizen Military Forces during WWII (Service Number – N173066, not yet available online).

Harry worked for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, spending some time in their Fiji offices; from The Telegraph in Brisbane, Tue 08 Feb 1927:

Queensland is to be represented at the second triennial convention of sugar cane technologists at Havana, Cuba, on March 14, by Mr. W. F. Seymour Howe, general manager of the Mulgrave Central Sugar Mill, Cairns, who left by the Sonoma on February 5. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company will be represented by Messrs. Reginald Clayton, of the engineering department, Sydney, and Harry F. Clarke, one of the field experimentalists in Fiji…

Harry was still involved with the CSR nearly 20 years later. In a report of an address he gave to cane growers on the Clarence River area in the Grafton Daily Examiner on Thu 25 May 1944, he was described as being in charge of their field experimental work in Australia and Fiji:

Address to Canegrowers
By Mr. H. F. Clarke

A meeting of cane growers, convened by the manager, Harwood mill, was called for May 22, by the Clarence Sugar Executive, to hear an address by Mr. H. F. Clarke, who is in charge of the field experimental work of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Australia and Fiji and who is visiting the three N.S.W. mills to give growers the latest information on the above subject.

Mr. Clarke was introduced to the meeting by the manager of Harwood mill; and in the course of his address traced the growth of the work done, giving the following facts;-

“The present experimental work in N.S.W. was begun at Broadwater mill in 1919, to try to save Mahona, which was by far the most important variety there, from leaf scald disease, which was causing heavy losses in it.

“In 1922, a field chemist was stationed at Harwood mill because Fiji disease had become such a serious menace to N.G. 16, then the main variety on the Clarence River.

“In 1919 there was an outbreak of gumming disease on the Richmond River. In 1924 the disease was found on the Tweed River in Badila, a susceptible variety, which constituted 90 per cent. of the crop, and a field chemist was, therefore, appointed to Condon’s mill. Gumming disease was found on the Clarence River in 1925.

“Methods for controlling these and other diseases, such as Mosaic, were developed by using both the company’s experience in Queensland and Fiji, and the results of many trials at the N.S.W mills. The best method is to replace a susceptible variety with a resistant one, but other methods such as planting only disease-free seed, destroying the diseased stools in young crops, and ploughing out badly diseased crops soon after cutting them, are also important.

“Resistant varieties are obtained either by introducing canes from, other countries, or by raising seedlings specially for the local conditions. A great deal of work is involved in testing varieties and seedlings, and it generally takes about 10 years from the raising of a seedling to its establishment as a suitable commercial cane.

“In the last 25 years the most valuable introduced varieties were P.O.J. 2878 and P.O.J. 2883, which together constituted 35 per cent. of the crop at Condong in 1943, over 70 per cent. of the crop at Harwood from 1938 to 1943, and over 80 per cent. of that at Broadwater from 1937 to 1939. But, although these two canes are highly resistant to gumming disease, they are very susceptible to Fiji disease, and consequently that has become a major problem at all three mills in recent years.

“The seedling work has been very successful in the fight against gumming and Fiji diseases. Last year N.S.W. seedling varieties were used on 40 per cent. of the area planted at Condong, on nearly 70 per cent. of the area planted at Broadwater, and on over 80 per cent. of that at Harwood.

“It is clear that for many years the growing of cane on the Northern Rivers has been a hard fight with diseases, and the fight is not over yet. The success so far obtained is due to the combination of technical experience and work of the company’s officers with the interest and co-operation of the growers. Success in the future depends upon a continuance of the same factors.”

At the conclusion of his address, Mr. Clarke invited questions, and. the resulting replies and discussion brought out much instructive information and showed that many growers are keen observers of the varieties, their diseases and pests.

Mr Clarke urged all concerned to realise that the fight against cane diseases was still on and that the measure of success achieved in combating them in the past emphasised the value of and necessity for continued co-operation of all hands in all phases of the control of disease and the testing of new varieties.

A representative gathering of growers followed the discussions with interest, and at the conclusion the president and the treasurer of the executive moved a vote of thanks to the company and Mr. Clarke for his instructive address.

Harry Flockton Clarke married Olive Kate Spencer at Burwood in 1921 (record 1955). From Olive’s death notice in The Sydney Morning Herald on 26 Jan 1979 it would appear they had three children:

CLARKE. Olive Kate January 23 1979, at hospital, (nee Spencer), in Auckland, N.Z. (result of accident). Formerly of 39 View Street Chatswood and late of Lindfield and Auckland, widow of the late Harry Flockton Clarke, beloved mother of June, Geoffrey and Hal (deceased), mother-in-law of John and Dorothy and grandmother of their children, beloved sister of Annie (deceased).

Generation 3

June Olive Clarke married John Joseph Morgan in 1948 (record 15713).

Hal Spencer Clarke passed away in 1965.

Harry Flockton Clarke married Dorothy May Vaughan at Chatswood in 1954. Geoffrey was born on 22 Sep 1928 and passed away on 19 Jul 2001 (Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens, inscription #1162369).

We have little information on this family, if anyone can assist please contact the author (

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