IN 1939 John Kelaher was included in the Australian rugby union squad to tour Great Britain.
Kelaher and his team mates played just one match, against Wales, before war was declared and they were forced to return home.
John Kelaher’s story is one of more than 400 included in a book by genealogist Eugenia Rauch.
‘Clarkes in Australia: The Families of Thomas and Ellen Clarke’, finished second in the Alexander Henderson Awards for the Best Australian Family History, announced by the Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies last week.
The book was launched in Kempsey in October last year.
The more than 6500 descendants of Thomas and Ellen Clarke have a long affiliation with the Macleay.
Thomas Clarke, a soldier, and his wife Ellen came to Australia by boat in 1835.
After leaving the army in 1840 he first moved to the upper Hunter and later bought property in the Macleay - settling here in 1866.
With 10 children and 78 grandchildren the Clarkes soon became one of the largest families in the region.
Mrs Rauch’s interest in family history began in the mid-1970s.
“There’s a picture of me on the front page of The Argus in either 1976 or 1977 with the headline ‘Eugenia came to look at the Clarkes’,” she said.
Through painstaking research and hard work, Mrs Rauch (a Clarke through her mother’s side) was able to compile the first Clarke history and family tree in 1986.
“Family members treated it as their bible,” she said.
“But five years ago I realised the history was getting out of date.
“I decided to update it. Hopefully, people will be able to use the latest book as their Clarke family bible for the next 50 years.”
She said stories like that of Francis Clarke, who stood for parliament in 1893, recounted more than simply the Clarke family history.
“Francis resigned his safe seat of the Hastings and Macleay for Edmund Barton in 1898,” Mrs Rauch said.
“He campaigned vigorously for Barton and Federation, and Barton com- mented it was “a noble self-sacrifice”.”
Francis was elected as the first member for Cowper in 1901.