The widow of a Darlington man who died from asbestos-related disease is appealing to his former workmates for information that may help determine how he came into contact with the substance that claimed his life.

William ‘Bill’ Clark, from Darlington died aged 89 in November 2021. Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung associated with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously was a contributory factor.

June Clark, 88, is now appealing for any of Bill’s old work colleagues to come forward. He worked as a fitter for British Rail at Darlington Locomotive Works on North Road from September 1948 to August 1954 as an apprentice fitter and returned to work for the company after completing his National Service in 1956 until the mid-1960s as a qualified fitter.

Bill’s role involved a variety of work, in terms of both repairs and installations on new locomotives, working directly on the steam engines themselves, rather than being based in a workshop.

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June recalled Bill saying he used a lot of asbestos string as a sealant, which he cut and applied as required and also used asbestos to lag the pipework and other parts of locomotives as necessary.

Speaking about her husband and the appeal, June Clark said: “Bill was a wonderful man and his loss is more than I can bear. I miss him every day and he didn’t deserve to have his final years blighted by this terrible disease.

“We both had our hearts set on reaching our 70th anniversary, which sadly was not to be thanks to mesothelioma. Bill wanted to pursue the matter further but was too ill in the end so now I want to get to the bottom of his asbestos exposure in his memory.

“From conversations we had, it sounds like Bill came into contact a lot with asbestos in the steam trains, using it as both insulation and a sealant. I only know what Bill told me so any additional information his old workmates could give us would be a huge help.

“It’s so difficult now to think of a future without Bill and I’m not sure how to move forward from what has been a devastating experience. Getting to the truth is the one thing that keeps me going and I know Bill is by my side as look to get at the truth.”

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June Clark has instructed asbestos-related disease experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness and see if it could be linked to his past work history.

Emma Bell, the asbestos-related disease specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell supporting June, said: “Six months on, June is understandably still struggling to come to terms with Bill’s sudden and unexpected death.

“Mesothelioma can be a cruel disease and while nothing we can do will bring Bill back, we’re determined to support June as she seeks to discover where Bill encountered asbestos and the truth about his exposure to the substance.

“If anyone who remembers Bill, or who also worked at the Locomotive Works in Darlington could come forward, their recollections could prove invaluable. Any detail, no matter how small, could be vital to the investigation and in giving June the answers she is looking for.”

Anyone with information that can help June is asked to contact Stephanie Denham on 0191 434 0731 or email

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