PEOPLE – McCLEAN, Robert – Death of a Town Clerk

End of Civic Epoch
Brilliant Career of Public Service
Practical Friend of the Unemployed

          Redcar has suffered a grievous loss in the death on Thursday of its Town Clerk, Mr Robert McClean. A man of forceful personality, tempered by a charming geniality which made him a friend of all, he had been so much identified with the progress of the town’s development and had figured so prominently in public life in the district, that this death is mourned by the community as the passing of a personal friend.
His life was characterised by his zest for work and the fact that he never spared himself in this direction was a factor which hastened the end of a brilliant career at a comparatively early age.
By hard work, Robert McClean, the miner’s son, passed through the ranks of journalism to become Robert McClean, Town Clerk and barrister, but in the successful pursuit of a career he never, as is the case with many public men, forget the friends of his humbler days.
Mr. McClean for some time in the past had not enjoyed the best of health, and earlier in the year his friends persuaded him to go to the South Coast to recuperate. Even on his holiday Mr, McClean could not refrain from working and attended a Local Government Conference, making affective contribution to the debate.
It was seen on his return that his health was none to robust, but he continued actively to carry out his duties until Saturday, 25th, August, when he had a sudden seizure while in his office at the Municipal Buildings. He was removed to his home and, although the news was kept from the public for fear it might reach the ears and prejudice his recovery, it was known by his intimate friends that his condition was serious. He made satisfactory progress towards recovery and his friends were endeavouring to persuade him to take a long rest to recuperate from his illness and strain of over-work. A relapse, however, occurred and death took place at 5.40am on Thursday morning.
Flags on the Municipal Buildings and elsewhere in the town were lowered to half-mast as a token of respect.
Mr. McClean was born 53 years ago, the son of a Durham miner at Leadgate, in North West Durham, and throughout his whole career he ever remained a friend of the working classes.
For journalism he had a natural bent and on leaving school he entered the office of a local weekly paper. He quickly gave evidence of his unusual capabilities and before long was forging ahead in his chosen profession to more important posts. He joined the staff of the “Northern Eastern Daily Gazette” and for thirteen years served as their representative in Cleveland.


          A man of forceful personality, tempered by a genial disposition, he became a power in his profession in the North and extremely popular among his community in which he worked. He was an active member and for a time Chairman of the Northern Society of Journalists. To the end Mr. McClean was proud of his connection with journalism and colleagues will always remember the cordial reception he accorded them when they had occasion to interview him in his capacity as Town Clerk.
During the years he was a journalist Mr. McClean was prominently identified with the Irish Nationalist movement on Teesside. He was a fluent and eloquent speaker, and there was no more acceptable orator on local platforms.
He abandoned journalism for business towards the end of the war and became associated with Mr. A. M. Hall in the local coal trade at Middlesbrough.
Later he accepted the office of Food Controller at Redcar, his first administrative post. His practical common sense stood him in good stead and he discharged difficult duties with great success.
Mr. McClean had always been interested in politics and in matters of local government. His work as a journalist gave him and intimate acquaintance with the affairs of the district. In a public speech he once outlined his ideas of a policy for the development of Redcar. This speech was met with approval of the Civic Association then in existence.
On his resignation of the late Mr. A. H. Gill, the Clerk to the Redcar Urban District Council, a deputation of influential members took what Alderman B. O. Davies on occasion of the presentation, “to fill the position. We knew our man and we have never regretted the ‘choice.’ “
Mr McClean accepted the post, and that decision was the first vital step in the town’s rapid post war expansion.
His vigour and enterprise ushered in a new epoch. One of the first biggest steps forward in which he was concerned was that for Redcar’s incorporation as a Borough. Mainly owing to his energetic prosecution and persuasive advocacy of the town’s case Redcar obtained its Charter in record time.
In his efforts to raise the status of Redcar Mr. McLean was ably supported by Alderman B. O. Davies, who became the town’s first Mayor, with Mr. McClean as Town Clerk.
By his death an epoch has ended and a new one begins. No man, it is said is indispensable, and the town’s affairs must go on, but Redcar will never find another Robert McClean.
It was typical of his prodigious energy and capacity for work that while he was engaged in working for the incorporation of the town and pressing forward relief schemes, he was studying for the Bar, to which he was called in 1923.
During his tenure of office as Town Clerk unemployment was rife in the district and filled with a profound sympathy with the working classes in their struggles and trials, he pressed for the adoption of relief works in the area.
Under his regime the borough was responsible for several important precedents in the realm of local government.
With shrewd practical sense lie saw in unemployment situation a chance not only of helping the unemployed but one of getting a great deal done at the expense of the Government, and for development of the town as a resort. A progressive Council gave him ready support, and like himself, showed itself fertile in the production of schemes for increasing the town’s attractions.
These were presented to the Ministries concerned, with such convincing eloquence by the Town Clerk, that Redcar received, in the ways of grants, more than, perhaps, any other town of its size in the kingdom.
He pioneered the plan by which Councils who provided work for men on the out-relief lists received, as contributions to their wages, the amounts which would have been paid by the Guardians to the men. In Redcar it was a boast for years that not a single able bodied man had received relief without doing some useful work in return.
Energetic efforts to get this principle applied to transitional benefit did not meet with success, however.
No man could have worked harder or with a greater love than he had done, and in deepest sincerity it can be said that Redcar is the poorer for his passing.
He leaves a widow, four sons, and two daughters, for whom the deepest sympathy will be felt. The funeral his to take place this (Saturday) morning,, a Requiem Mass at the Sacred Heart Church preceding internment at the Redcar Cemetery.
Early next week a special meeting of Redcar Town Council is to be called, when a civic tribute will be paid to the memory of Mr. McClean.


          The Mayor of Redcar (Councillor William Morris) paid high tribute to the personal character and capabilities of Mr. McClean.
“It is with the deepest regret that we mourn the loss of our dear and worth Town Clerk,” he said. “in my year of office I have been in constant touch with his good work. To have been called away in the prime of life is a great blow to all the citizens of Redcar. The name of Robert McClean, however, will ever be remembered in our borough.
“No one will ever know the time he spent on large and small matters appertaining to the private lives of those who sought his advice and help.
“The Mayoress and I deeply mourn the loss of a dear friend, and our sympathy goes out to his wife and family.”



Thousands of people on Saturday, (08/09/1934) mourned the passing of Redcar’s popular Town Clerk, Mr. R. McClean, who died suddenly following a short illness, early on Thursday morning. Simultaneously some 20,000 people – the population of Redcar – were plunged into deep sorrow.

Redcar has never before been so deeply touched.

Five mayors and representatives of many municipal and administrative authorities marched in a procession over a mile in length.

Unemployed, whom he had fought for in his life, honoured him in death and walked with civic dignitaries in their official robes.

The crowds which lined the route of the procession were so dense, the procession itself so long, that traffic was held up for some time.

The profound shock and sense of loss occasioned by Mr. McClean’s death was reflected in this funeral procession, the town’s last tribute to a wonderful man.

Windows were covered. The mace was shrouded in crepe.

As the procession passed Redcar Parish Church the bell was tolled. People of all denominations mourned together.

Mr. McClean’s passing was the second great loss the Roman Catholic population of Redcar had suffered in a short time, as it was only a few weeks ago that Canon Gryspoert died equally suddenly.

The death of ‘Bob’ McClean struck at the whole town.

The Scared Heart Church, Coatham, where Requiem Mass was sung, was crowded, many people standing. Outside throughout the service which lasted almost an hour, hundreds of people waited. From every staff flags fluttered at half-mast.

As a further token of respect the illuminations were not switched on in the evening.

A special choir, who sang the Mass, consisted of Canon Sullivan, Canon Wright, Father’s Redmond, Dunn, Baker, McGlone.

Headed by a contingent of police under Inspector Harrison and Sergeant Metcalfe, the cortege included the outdoor staffs of the Redcar Corporation, members of the Town Council in official robes, members of almost every local body, the Red Cross Society, Knights of St. Columba, the Chamber of Trade, and members of the junior organisations of the church.


* the report at length goes on to state, family mourners, Saltburn and Marske Councillors, Redcar and Saltburn Councillors, others present and wreaths. This site is in receipt of the complete list.



dean March 16, 2010 People & Characters