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Local man starts new life in Scotland after discovering he is one of 17 children

(L-R) Siblings Ian Savage (born Peter Clark), Bernard Clark,
Andrew Clark, James Clark and Joan Clark – from BBC website

AFTER 14 years living in Melksham, Andrew Clark has departed for a new life in Scotland after making the life-changing discovery that he is one of 17 siblings.

Andrew, who has lived for the past 12 years in one  of the five 19th-century almshouses managed by the Melksham Almshouses Charities, received a call from BBC Scotland in 2016, informing him that his long-lost brother George had been searching for him.

Talking about his amazing story to the Melksham News, Andrew said, “I was sat here one night and I got a call and the lady said, “Are you Andrew Clark? I hope you are sitting down!” She went on to tell me that they had been trying to find me for 10 years and that I was one of 17 children.

“I couldn’t believe it and I was so overwhelmed. They asked me if I was willing to fly to Scotland and meet the family who had been searching for me.”

Andrew joined the reunion, which was filmed for a BBC Scotland documentary titled ‘A Family Divided,’ which was screened last year.

Unfortunately, Andrew’s brother George, who led the search and made the shocking discovery that there were 17 siblings, died in March 2015 before Andrew and one other brother could be located.

The 17 children were all born to the same mother, Elizabeth Clark, who in 1958 had eight children removed from her care in what was described by the Greenock Sheriff Court as “one of the worst cases of child neglect” he had ever seen.

Research by George also discovered that some of the siblings had been given up for adoption and that six had died in childhood – some at just a few days old.

Originally from Greenock in Scotland, Andrew grew up with two brothers, Billy and George. “I grew up knowing I had two brothers, but my parents never told me about the rest of them,” said Andrew. “Whether they were shielding me from it, as the story is horrific, I don’t know. But I never knew anything about it.”

Andrew left Greenock in 1976 to join the army and initially remained in contact with his two brothers, but because he moved around the country with the army and his brothers also relocated, he lost contact with his family after 1981. “I did try to track them down, I went to the council in Dundee for information, but they were unable to tell me anything because of data protection.”

Andrew has now made the move to Gourock, 10-miles away from where he grew up, to be close to four brothers and one sister. “I’m apprehensive about moving to Scotland as I am going there to be with people who are still strangers, people that I don’t really know, even though they are family. But I have to give them a chance. They are all looking forward to me moving there.”

About his life in Melksham Andrew said, “I’ve loved living in Melksham as it is a lovely small town and it’s quiet, you get to know everybody around.”

Andrew’s departure leaves a vacancy at the 19th-century almshouses managed by the Melksham Almshouses Charities. The accommodation, comprising of a lounge, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and ensuite toilet, is available for one individual over the age of 50 years who is need and has financial hardship. The resident will be responsible for a weekly payment, currently £100 and the payment of council tax, electricity and contents insurance.

Any applicant should currently be living in districts administered by  Melksham Town Council or the Melksham Without Parish Council. Applications should be made to the secretary, Russell Lewis, by Thursday 15th February on 01380 830372 or email Russell.lewis7@btinternet.com

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