John Clive Hilton

St Peter's School

John Clive Hilton

Clive Hilton was born in Sunderland in August 1929 to Joe and Rosetta Hilton, The Hiltons or Erdbergs, as they were originally named, had emigrated to the North East of England from Poland in the late 19th century from the small town of Ozorkow in the province of Lodz.  Our own family also emigrated to England around the same time, from the very same town of Ozorkow. Around 75 years later in 1960, Clive’s younger brother David Hilton was to marry my sister Ruth and the two families, unknown to each other in 19th century Poland, were brought together once again.

And so it’s been across these years.  Ruth and David had three sons, All of us have together, across the years, shared happy times as well as extremely sad times. We shared the sadness of Clive’s brother David’s untimely death at the age of 38 in a motor accident and from that day, Clive resolved to support Ruth in bringing up three little boys of 2, 5 and 8 - Clive’s dedication to this role was beyond exemplary. No birthday was ever forgotten. No crisis ignored. We all gave of our best, but Clive’s attention was ever-present.

Clive grew up in Gosforth, Newcastle and after attending Ascham House Preparatory School in the 1930’s and after two years at Newcastle Royal Grammar School and evacuation to Penrith early in the Second World War, he went off to St Peter’s School in York. There he developed a love of the stage, acting with fellow pupils, the Dench Brothers and he knew their sister Judith, now Dame Judy. After leaving school, National Service and a spell in the family business, Clive went to London, working for many years at the Times Book Shop in Mayfair, frequented each and every day by royalty, the aristocracy and luminaries of the arts, stage and screen. Great fun.

Returning to Newcastle in the late fifties Clive became a long-standing devotee of the historic People’s Theatre, opened by Geo Bernard Shaw in 1911.  There he acted in and brilliantly directed numerous plays including Royce Ryton’s ‘Crown Matrimonial’ about the Abdication Crisis of 1936 – like dear Rosetta, he adored the Royal Family; there was Alan Bennett’s ‘The History Boys’, as well as his ‘Lady in the Van’, superbly directed by Clive, now in his mid-eighties only a year and a half ago, in November 2016. At the People’s centenary, Clive organised a visit by Sir Ian McKellan. The tea party was both memorable…. and quite hilarious.

He worked tirelessly for the Newcastle Jewish Players, raising their standard as an amateur dramatics society to a high level. He loved his telly, especially the soaps, recognising the huge effort which went into the writing and production of these and loving the occasional appearance of high profile actors; and he loved his daily Times newspaper.

Apart from the family to which he was utterly devoted, Clive leaves behind a myriad of friends all over Britain. He would often spot a favourite play and travel to small theatres around the country such as Scarborough or Kendal – Edinburgh, for the Festival. He knew people all over the place. He regularly attended the Annual Association of Jewish ex-Serviceman’s Parade at the Cenotaph each November, missing only last year’s.  For many years he worked tirelessly for Age Concern in the East End of Newcastle.

The gift he would appreciate above all others was a pot of chutney. Clive himself was bit like chutney; a bit spicy….many more ingredients than meet the eye….and overall, completely sweet and leaving you - wanting more. A most generous brilliant and unique man, whom it has been an honour to know.  

 David Goldwater