Obituary: Wallace Clark, Sailing adventurer, historian and writer

Wallace Clark, sailor and author. Born: 20 June, 1926, in County Derry, Northern Ireland. Died: 8 May, 2011, in County Derry, aged 84.

Wallace Clark was a charismatic Irish sailor who delighted in taking on some extraordinary naval challenges in historic boats. He was also a businessman and the author of a number of books including Sailing Round Ireland, an account of his voyage in his 30ft wooden yawl, Wild Goose. Clark was one the characters of sailing - his Irish exuberance matched with a shrewd knowledge of the sea and of navigation. He was once sternly asked by a harbour master if he knew the sailing directions for a small Irish port, "I wrote them." came his brisk reply.

One of his most stirring adventures came in 1963 , when he sailed from the north of Ireland to Iona, retracing the voyage made 14 centuries earlier by St Columba in a curragh (a simple canvas-covered boat). On arrival, Clark was greeted by members of the Iona Community and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsay. Clark retold the story of the trip in a fascinating book - Lord of the Isles Voyage: Western Ireland to the Scottish Hebrides.

It was neither easy nor comfortable: the seas were rough and rowing the wooden boat was a huge challenge. Into the book Clark cleverly introduced information about Hebridean folklore, geology and history.

Wallace Clark's son, Bruce, has remained in close contact with the Iona Community and is secretary of the Friends of Orthodoxy on Iona. In January of this year he sent a warm greeting to all friends, but sadly had to announce that the pilgrimage organised by the Friends to Brittany this July had been postponed as Wallace Clark had been knocked down by a lorry near his home.

In 1991, Clark was again in the Hebrides when he skippered the maiden voyage from Galway to Stornoway in a wooden galley. It was a somewhat cumbersome boat that was similar to those seen in the Hebrides in medieval times.

Henry Wallace Stuart Clark was educated at Shrewsbury but never quite took to academic life. He was keen to play his part in the Second World War and joined the Royal Navy as Victory in Europe was declared. Clark stayed in the RN until 1947 and then spent a year as a merchant seaman on a cattle ship sailing to South Africa. He then joined the family business, William Clark & Sons, a long-established Irish linen firm with strong trading links in Scotland.

However successful his business career was, Clark remained fascinated by and passionate about the sea. He sailed modest wooden crafts around the fiords of Norway and even down to the Mediterranean. But his great love was the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland. He got to know well the at-times treacherous waters around Skye and the Outer Hebrides.

His trips became legendary and, in 1977, he skippered a boat that crossed the Atlantic.His voyage to the Hebrides in 1991 discovered unknown maritime facts about the history of Rathlin island off the Antrim coast.

But it was his writing that captured the imagination of both seafarers and readers alike. His studious recounting of the visit to Antrim led him to write Rathlin: Its Island Story and Linen on the Green told the fascinating story of an Irish mill village over 250 years and how the business of weaving and bleaching linen changed.

In the late 1960s, as the Troubles worsened, Clark served for seven years as a commander in the Ulster Defence Regiment. He was to spend many nights on patrol in a divided community that he knew and loved. Many of his friends were killed during the period and he described the atrocities with a balanced and forthright insight. His depiction of those acrimonious years were retold in Brave Men and True.

He was much encouraged by the renewed interest in sailing in historic boats. This has been particularly evidenced when, last year, Clark's friend, Skye-based boat designer Iain Oughtred, decided, with the help of 30 Scottish community groups, to create a rowing skiff that will race at regattas this summer.

Clark remained a passionate believer in an open society that was tolerant of other beliefs. He was a life-long and fervent Anglican and furthered understanding through many sailing and community organisations.

In 1957, he married June Deane, who often accompanied him on his expeditions. They had two sons. One died in a sailing accident and Clark is survived by his wife and their remaining son.