Clarissa Dickson Wright

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Clarissa Dickson Wright
Clarissa Dickson Wright 2011.jpg
Dickson Wright at a fundraising dinner for the Countryside Alliance in 2011.
Born(1947-06-24)24 June 1947
Died15 March 2014(2014-03-15) (aged 66)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Occupation Television personality, celebrity cook, actress, businesswoman, author, barrister
Years active1996–2014

Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson Wright [1] (24 June 1947 – 15 March 2014) was an English celebrity cook, television personality, writer, businesswoman, and former barrister. [2] She was best known as one of the Two Fat Ladies , with Jennifer Paterson, in the television cooking programme. She was an accredited cricket umpire and one of only two women to become a Guild Butcher.

Barrister lawyer specialized in court representation in Wales, England and some other jurisdictions

A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, researching the philosophy, hypothesis and history of law, and giving expert legal opinions. Often, barristers are also recognised as legal scholars.

Two Fat Ladies is a BBC2 television cooking programme starring Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. It originally ran for four series, from 9 October 1996 to 28 September 1999, being produced by Optomen Television for the BBC. Since then, the show has been repeated frequently on the Food Network and Cooking Channel in the U.S. and on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Australia. In the UK, the show has been transmitted many times on the satellite channel Good Food.

Jennifer Mary Paterson was a British celebrity chef, actress and television personality who appeared on the television programme Two Fat Ladies (1996-1999) with Clarissa Dickson Wright. Prior to this, she wrote a cookery column both for The Spectator and for the Oldie.


Early life

Dickson Wright was born in St John's Wood, London, [3] the youngest of four children. [4] [5] Her father, Arthur Dickson Wright, [6] [7] was a surgeon to the Royal Family, and her mother, Aileen Mary (Molly) Bath, [3] was an Australian heiress. [2] She said her father was an alcoholic who subjected his wife and children to verbal and physical abuse. [8]

St Johns Wood area of Marylebone, west London

St John's Wood is a district in the City of Westminster, west London, lying about 2.5 miles northwest of Charing Cross. Traditionally the northern part of the ancient parish and Metropolitan Borough of Marylebone, it extends east to west from Regent’s Park to the Edgware Road, with the Swiss Cottage area of Hampstead lying to the north.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

At the age of 11, Wright was sent to the Convent of the Sacred Heart, an independent school for girls in the coastal town of Hove in Sussex, and then to the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Woldingham. After school, Wright studied for a law degree at University College London, and undertook her pupillage to become a barrister at Gray's Inn. [2] [9]

Hove Town on the south coast of England, part of city of Brighton & Hove

Hove is a seaside resort in the county of East Sussex. It is a constituent part of the city of Brighton and Hove, created in 2001 from the formerly separate towns of Hove and Brighton. Originally a "small but ancient fishing village" surrounded by farms, it grew rapidly in the 19th century in response to the development of its eastern neighbour Brighton, and by the Victorian era it was a fully developed town with borough status. Neighbouring parishes such as Aldrington and Hangleton were annexed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1997, as part of local government reform, the borough merged with Brighton to form the Borough of Brighton and Hove, and this unitary authority was granted city status in 2000.

East Sussex County of England

East Sussex is a county in South East England. It is bordered by the counties of Kent to the north and east and West Sussex to the west as well as the English Channel to the south.

Woldingham School school in Surrey, UK

Woldingham School is a Roman Catholic independent school for girls, located in the former Marden Park of 700 acres (280 ha) outside the village of Woldingham, Surrey, in South East England.


Early career

Dickson Wright was called to the bar in 1970. [2] She later claimed (although she turned 23 that year) that this occurred when she was aged 21, and that she was the youngest woman ever to be called to the bar. [10] [11] After her mother died of a heart attack in 1975, she inherited £2.8 million. Her mother's death, combined a few years later with her father's, left her in a deep depression, and she drank heavily for the following 12 years. [9]

The call to the bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received a "call to the bar". "The bar" is now used as a collective noun for barristers, but literally referred to the wooden barrier in old courtrooms, which separated the often crowded public area at the rear from the space near the judges reserved for those having business with the Court. Barristers would sit or stand immediately behind it, facing the judge, and could use it as a table for their briefs.

In 1979, Dickson Wright took control of the food at a drinking club in St James's Place in London. While there she met Clive ("no surname, because he has children" according to Dickson Wright), a fellow alcoholic, and they had a relationship until his death in 1982 from kidney failure at the age of 40. [2] Shortly thereafter she was disbarred for practising without chambers. [10] Dickson Wright claimed that, during her alcoholic years, she had sex with an MP behind the Speaker's chair in the House of Commons. [2]

Disbarment is the removal of a lawyer from a bar association or the practice of law, thus revoking his or her law license or admission to practice law. Disbarment is usually a punishment for unethical or criminal conduct. Procedures vary depending on the law society.

In the early 1980s, she was homeless and staying with friends. [12] For two years she was cook-housekeeper for a family in Sussex until she was fired for her alcohol-induced behaviour. [13] After being charged with driving under the influence, Dickson Wright started to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, counselling, and a detox centre. [2] She attended the Promis Recovery Centre at Nonington. [14] In her 2009 book Rifling Through My Drawers she expressed a belief in reincarnation. She was a keen supporter of hunting. [15] [16]

Sussex historic county in South East England

Sussex, from the Old English Sūþsēaxe, is a historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded to the west by Hampshire, north by Surrey, northeast by Kent, south by the English Channel, and divided for many purposes into the ceremonial counties of West Sussex and East Sussex. Brighton and Hove, though part of East Sussex, was made a unitary authority in 1997, and as such, is administered independently of the rest of East Sussex. Brighton and Hove was granted City status in 2000. Until then, Chichester was Sussex's only city.

Alcoholics Anonymous mutual aid movement

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international mutual aid fellowship with the stated purpose of enabling its members to "stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety." AA is nonprofessional, self-supporting, and apolitical. Its only membership requirement is a desire to stop drinking. The AA program of recovery is set forth in the Twelve Steps.

Nonington village in United Kingdom

Nonington, is a civil parish and village in the southeast corner of Kent, situated halfway between the historic city of Canterbury and the channel port town of Dover. The civil parish includes the hamlets of Easole Street, to which it is conjoined and Frogham.

Cooking and television

BBC2 commissioned a series of Two Fat Ladies . Four series were made and shown around the world. Paterson died in 1999 midway through the fourth series. [17]

Later years

Two Fat Ladies ended after Paterson's death. Dickson Wright appeared with Johnny Scott in Clarissa and the Countryman from 2000 to 2003 and played the gamekeeper in the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous in 2003. [9] In 2004 she closed her Edinburgh cookery book shop due to bankruptcy and lost the contract to run a tearoom at Lennoxlove, the seat of the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon. [18] In 2005, Dickson Wright took part in the BBC reality television show Art School.

Dickson Wright was elected as Rector of the University of Aberdeen in November 1998, the university's first female rector. [9] [19] Her autobiography, Spilling the Beans, was published in September 2007. In 2008, she presented a one-off documentary for BBC Four, Clarissa and the King's Cookbook, where she makes recipes from a cookbook dating to the reign of Richard II. [20]

Along with racehorse trainer Sir Mark Prescott, Dickson Wright was charged with hare coursing with dogs in North Yorkshire in March 2007 under a private prosecution lodged by the International Fund for Animal Welfare under the Hunting Act 2004. [21] [22] [23] On 1 September 2009, she and Prescott pleaded guilty and received an absolute discharge at Scarborough Magistrates' Court. They said that they were invited to the event by the Yorkshire Greyhound Field Trialling Club, which told the court that it believed it was running a legal event by using muzzled dogs. [22]

In October 2012, Dickson Wright appeared on Fieldsports Britain to discuss badgers and their nutritional value, saying: "There's going to be a cull, so rather than just throw them in the landfill site, why not eat them?" [24] In November 2012, she presented a short BBC4 TV series on the history of the British breakfast, lunch and dinner. She was a supporter of the Conservative Party [25] [26] and lived in Inveresk, Scotland. [27]


Dickson Wright was hospitalised from the start of 2014, and died in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 15 March 2014 from an undisclosed illness which led to her death from pneumonia. [16] [28] [29]

Her funeral mass was held in Edinburgh at St Mary's Cathedral on 7 April, after which she was cremated. [30]


Cookery books:



Audio books

Forewords written



2008 BA/Nielsen BookData Author of the Year Award

DVD release

The Two Fat Ladies DVD set contains a 40-minute BBC tribute to Paterson that aired in 2004. The DVD box set was released in the United States of America in July 2008. The Acorn Media release contains all 24 episodes across four discs. The show had been released in Britain as a Region 2 DVD set.


Her A History of English Food was described by The Independent as "richly informative" and "surely destined for classic status". The reviewer noted that she had seen badger hams on the bar in the West Country pubs of her childhood, and that a tripe seller in Dewsbury market sold "nine different varieties of tripe, including penis and udder (which is remarkably like pease pudding)." [33]

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  1. Morris, Steven (17 March 2014). "TV chef Clarissa Dickson Wright dies". Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Jardine, Cassandra (6 September 2007). "Clarissa Dickson Wright: 'I do like to bait people'". The Daily Telegraph.
  3. 1 2 Who's Who 2012
  4., Barry Ennever. "Clarissa DICKSON-WRIGHT Born:  24 Jun 1947 Marylebone District, London Died:  15 Mar 2014 Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland: Welcome to the web site dedicated to recording the family history of the Ennevers and Enevers and our related families. You can search for individuals, display family trees, calculate relationships, read family histories and view family photographs and other historical documents. There are currently 12 family branches with more than 30,000 people and 4,000 unique surnames on the site, including over 2,000 Ennevers, Enevers, Enivers, Ennevors and other early variations". Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  5. Pardoe, Tim. "Clarissa Dickson Wright – Transcript of Interview from 'Desert Island Discs'".
  6. "Arthur Dickson Wright, MS FRCS". Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 58 (4): 333–334. 1976. PMC   2493718 . PMID   782329.
  7. James, Geraint (2016). "Arthur Dickson Wright (1897–1976): Surgeon, Wit and Eccentric". Journal of Medical Biography. 6 (2): 68–72. doi:10.1177/096777209800600202. PMID   11619989.
  8. "Clarissa Dickson Wright didn't just survive an abusive father, she outed him". The Guardian. 17 March 2014.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "Presenter biographies". BBC. Archived from the original on 26 June 2004.
  10. 1 2 "Clarissa Dickson Wright: 'They don't call me Krakatoa for nothing' ", Daily Telegraph 13 September 2009
  11. Holden-Brown, Heather (20 March 2014). "Clarissa Dickson Wright: witty, opinionated, acerbic but a true friend to all". BookBrunch. Archived from the original on 23 January 2019. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  12. "Two Fat Ladies Chef Clarissa Dickson Wright Dies at 66" Archived 17 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine , ABC News 17 March 2014
  13. "Clarissa Dickson Wright: Broadcaster, cook and former barrister who found worldwide fame as one of television's 'Two Fat Ladies' ", Independent 18 March 2014
  14. "Clarissa Dickson Wright – obituary" 17 March 2014, Daily Telegraph
  15. Rifling through my Drawers Hachette UK, 2009 ISBN   9781848944237
  16. 1 2 "TV chef Clarissa Dickson Wright dies", Guardian, 17 March 2014
  17. Clarissa, Dickson Wright (January 2000). "Larger Than Life". Waitrose. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007.
  18. "One fat lady puts up the shutters" . Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  19. "Fat lady wins in university rector race". The Herald . 27 November 1998. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  20. Banks-Smith, Nancy (8 May 2008). "Last night's TV". The Guardian.[ dead link ]
  21. "TV chef facing hare hunt charges". BBC. 25 September 2007.
  22. 1 2 "TV chef admits hunting offences". BBC. 1 September 2009.
  23. "Top TV Chef Facing Court Over Hare Coursing". Yahoo!. 25 September 2007.[ permanent dead link ]
  24. Fieldsports Britain. "Fieldsports Britain : Shooting badgers and wheelchair guns". Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  25. "BBC NEWS – UK – UK Politics – Election 2005 – Who's backing whom at the election?". BBC. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  26. Moreton, Cole (23 September 2012). "Clarissa Dickson Wright: 'I go to Mass to say thank you'" . Retrieved 28 August 2018 via
  27. Dickson Wright, Clarissa (2012). Clarissa's England: A gamely gallop through the English counties. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN   9781444729139.
  28. "Tributes at Clarissa Dickson Wright funeral". Edinburgh News. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  29. "TV chef Clarissa Dickson Wright dies aged 66", The Scotsman, 17 March 2014.
  30. "Tributes at Clarissa Dickson Wright funeral". Edinburgh Evening News. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  31. Dickson Wright, Clarissa. Ancestors and Rellies. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN   1444784196.
  32. The Critical. "A review of A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson Wright & its reviewers with commentary on the character of some newspapers". British Food in America. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  33. Hirst, Christopher (21 September 2012). "A History of English Food, By Clarissa Dickson Wright". The Independent . Retrieved 6 February 2016.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Allan Macartney
Rector of the University of Aberdeen
Succeeded by
Robin Harper