THE friends of an “elderly widower” who helped form a writing group to deal with the grief of losing a spouse have paid tribute to him by scribing their memories of him.

John Clarke, from Durham was a integral part in the writing group the Elderly Widowers Living Alone (EWLA) – A group set up to write about member’s experience of losing their wives

The former Durham University lecturer and pro-vice chancellor, died in May, aged 89, and his fellow writers have now put together a collection of their own memories of the eminent geographer.

The Elderly Widowers Living Alone at one of their book launches

Half a dozen writers helped put together the short book, recalling anecdotes about his field work in north Africa, his sporting achievements and love of music, and his friendship.

Contributor Philip Tattersall, who was friends with Mr Clarke for 58 years, said: “Since he was the driving force of the books, we thought we needed to do something. This was really a memorial to John and his enterprise of persuading us to do the books.

“He was a remarkable man.”

Mr Clarke was born in Bournemouth but lived in Durham for 63 years after moving to take up a position as lecturer at Durham University’s geography department.

He was married to Dorothy, who was known as Dig, until her death in 2008 and was a father-of-three, grandfather and great-grandfather.

He retired in 1990 but took up a role as chairman of the Durham Health Authority from 1990 until 1996 and in 2003 received an OBE for service to the community.

He was also a Rotarian, a deputy Lieutenant and a founder of the Durham Community Trust.

John Clarke, pictured in his youth

In his latter years, he was the driving force behind the writing of six books, penned between 2011 and 2015.

Their endeavour began with Without Her, inspired by the writers’ experiences of losing their spouses, but later books focussed on other life events.

Each booklet was in aid of a different charity, with some of the causes they helped including St Cuthbert’s and the Butterwick hospices, Age UK County Durham, the British Red Cross and Durham Cathedral.

Contributor John Freeley said: “As a first-time writer, it was a great joy for me to meet and work with John Clarke. As a founder of the writing group, John was our motivator and inspired leader.

“He was a most remarkable man, patient, enthusiastic, and, most of all, inspiring.

“He is a great loss to all his co-writers. He will be remembered fondly by all who came to know and love him.”

A long-time resident of The Avenue, he was living at St Margaret’s Care Home prior to his death on May 10.