A tribute to the life
and legacy of

A. E. Clarkson

The Woman Behind The Man

Ernie and May were married in August 1898. They enjoyed a rich partnership not only in raising ten children but in a trusting companionship with deep sustaining spiritual roots. But how did it start, and how were they attracted?

We discovered a bundle of letters written by May when she was 18 and Ernie (as she called him) barely 18. From the middle of September 1893, they wrote each other almost daily in letters of tender sentiment.

It appears as young as he was, about 18, he proposed to her.
Her response in her words:

I cannot find words to express my feelings on reading your letter. I do admire your honest viewpoint but, my dear friend do you not think you are making a mistake. Think what you are giving me (your hearts true love). Reconsider Ernest what you offer me.

May was an adopted child and maybe her relinquishment had left her with immature self-worth and confidence.

What am I that you should so think of me? There are others who are more worthy of your affection than May Lapthorne.

She went on, challenging him to be sure, even if she was unable to be sure herself. But her letters also reveal her young but growing devotion and faith.

I would not dare Ernest answer such a question so shortly.

I must confess that before I knew you personally such matters troubled me little if at all, but since, I too have been struggling.

Oh, may our heavenly Father so lead me to answer you for His glory. Not yet though, wait my friend until you know me better.

May was a beautiful young woman still in her late teenage years. Her letter seems affected maybe by her adoptive origins, somewhat unsure of herself, her worth and her attractiveness to this albeit young man who was rapidly gaining attention as a competent public speaker and being trusted with responsibilities by his elders and the business he was employed in.

Since I have known you, I have greatly esteemed you.

I have always felt benefited by your talks and letters. Therefore in whatever way you may regard me in the future you will to me be a very precious friend, nay more than that (a) brother… but I could not help speaking so, for although only knowing you personally such a short time, I feel I have known you for a number of years.

Her equivocation didn’t put him off, no doubt sensing she was not rejecting him from her path of life, but needing more assurances of his mature intent and love.

So it happened.  A week later we find her more settled writing;

I am quite alone tonight and have therefore a good chance to do as you would like me, to write you.

It seems He had calmed her anxieties for she writes:

I was so glad to get your letter on Tuesday. When I read it, I thought; it seems impossible that you think such a lot of me Ern. However, I do thank my Father that he has allowed me to be loved so, by such a dear fellow… it all seems to me over this year that I have dreamt it, although it is reality.

And the following week she is assuring him who has asked her what she feels for him.

Why Ern, as I should feel I hope. I can truly tell you I love you Ern . . though it may be thought rather poor, but Ern I give you my heart’s best love.

After expressing her joy that he desires to lead a beautiful life, one which tends to glorify his Master, she signs off with

believe me to remain your own, May.

Four years later they were married on August 18th 1898.

They enjoyed 38 years together in a rich bond of spiritual partnership until A.E.C. was lost at sea travelling to Port Lincoln on the MV Moonta at the age of 60.

They had ten children, five boys and five girls whose lives gave much to their communities in many ways following the example of their parents.