A tribute to
Gerard (Arden) Clay
17.03.1871 - 23.02.1955
Capt. Clay, Staffordshire Yeomanry, 1900
Gerard was born on 17 March 1871 at Stapenhill House, Burton-on-Trent, the second son of Charles John Clay and Aggie (Agnes Lucy) née Arden. One of his Godfathers was the Rev. John Harden Clay, the son of his great uncle, the Rev. John Clay.
He went to Elstree Preparatory School, and then, like his elder brother Arthur a year ahead of him, he went to Harrow. He hated it, and vowed that if he had sons, they wouldn't go there (they both went to Lancing). His younger brother Ernest went to Marlborough, while his youngest brother Wilfrid reverted to family tradition by going to Repton.
Despite his dislike of the school, it instilled in him a love of poetry, and of Latin, and for many years he amused himself by writing poetry, and also translating Horace.
Gerard went on from Harrow to the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester. He was very keen on soccer and rugby, and played for the College – upon his death, his photographs of that period were passed to the College, who were so kind as to provide copies.
Gerard in the RAC Football team
From 1892 to 1900 Gerard managed his father's Holly Bush estate at Newborough, Burton-on-Trent.
Gerard was a recognised expert and breeder of smooth-haired fox-terriers, and judged at the Fox Terrier Club at Crufts, and in Austria and the U.S.A.
In 1900 Gerard, as a 29-year-old Lieutenant, with five other officers and a hundred and thirty yeomen, volunteered for active service in South Africa in the Boer War. This contingent formed the 6th (Staffordshire) Company of the 4th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, the Queen's Own Regiment of Rifles, under the command of Captain Bromley-Davenport.
Gerard was promoted Captain, and appointed to command a Company. He was wounded twice, and then invalided out with enteric fever. He was awarded the Queen's Medal with four clasps.
He kept a diary throughout his life, but the entries for this period are pretty dull, principally because he carried it with him, and there was always the chance of capture and it being read by the enemy.
Upon his return to England, Gerard joined Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton, and went "through the Works" as training, before joining his father and elder brother on the Board of Directors. He remained a member of the Territorial Staffordshire Yeomanry.
In 1904 he agreed to be Godfather to Gerard Leigh "Peter" Clay.
He was married on 25 April 1906 in Stretton, Burton‑on‑Trent to (Ella) Violet Thornewill, then aged 21.
They had two sons :-
Gervas (Charles Robert), born on 16 April 1907
Ralph (Arden), born on 18 April 1908
They lived at Needwood Lodge, Rangemore.
In 1914, when Gerard was 43, he became seriously ill, and, though he recovered, he was not passed fit for service in the First World War. Also, his three brothers (q.v.) told him that as he had fought in the Boer War, he had done his duty, and they, all three, joined up.
Gerard was a member, and then for some years President, of the Trademarks Federation of the British Isles.
He became what would now be called Personnel Director of Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton, and he worked there every day. In the early days, he would ride down into Burton on horseback, and leave his horse in the stables vacated by the dray horses out at work. Later he went by car, although he frequently walked the five miles home. This he continued to do until 1926, when he retired at the age of 55, with a "golden handshake" following a Boardroom re-shuffle after the merger with Charrington's, which he had opposed. He, as a very minor share-holder, was out-voted.
The family then moved south, to Weston House, Albury, in Surrey, leased from the Duke of Northumberland. He moved away from Burton partly because he felt that workers who had spent their lives with the Company might appeal to him for redress, and he was now powerless to help them. By this time, his elder son was up at Oxford, and his younger son was undergoing engineering training in London.
He took up beagling, and became Secretary of the Guildford and Shere Beagles.
In 1937 he moved again, after selling his collection of antique silver to enable him to buy Abbotswood, Hurtmore, Godalming, Surrey, a large house in a hundred acres, where, during the Second World War he cleared some of the woods to grow potatoes - "Digging for Victory". Gerard's elder son was refused leave to enlist, and spent the War in the Colonial Administration in Northern Rhodesia. His younger son served throughout the War in the Royal Air Force.
After the War, with both sons settled in Northern Rhodesia, and a Socialist Government making it impossible for him to continue in his way of life, in 1948 he and Violet emigrated to join their sons, and built a house in Essex (now Pamo) Avenue, Kitwe, which they called "Arden".
Gerard was a "family historian". He was 5ft 8ins in height, of slight build, but of erect and military bearing. Always very fit and active, he did a great deal of walking. In his younger days he wrote poetry, and had a volume privately printed. He was also fond of translating Homer from the Greek.
Gerard died of a coronary thrombosis, on 23 February 1955 in Kitwe, N.Rhodesia at the age of 83, and was buried in Nkana Cemetery, in the country now called Zambia.