Your obituary of Sir Robin Chichester-Clark leaves much unsaid about this interesting and important figure. Chichester-Clark was among the earliest and most determined of Ian Paisley’s critics. It was he who, with his older brother, James, devised in November 1968 the reform programme that the latter implemented as prime minister of Northern Ireland – a programme that met the original demands of the civil rights movement. Those reforms were far-reaching and not merely “cautious”.
Among Chichester-Clark’s extensive charitable interests were the reconstructive surgery fund Raft and the Arvon literary foundation. Through Arvon he became close to Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. Heaney and Chichester-Clark, though from very different backgrounds, were natives of the same part of rural Ulster and both knew their region’s rivers, fields and bogs; their friendship developed regardless of political differences. Chichester-Clark was deeply non-sectarian in outlook, an attitude which in his time as an MP brought him into conflict with elements in the Orange Order.
Chichester-Clark was not the only Ulster Unionist to hold government office at Westminster – Hugh O’Neill (later Lord Rathcavan) was parliamentary undersecretary at the India Office, 1939-40 – though he was the last. By the time he was born in 1928, his family’s estate at Moyola Park had ceased to be “sprawling”, most of the property having been sold to tenants under various land acts.