Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson Wright (24 June 1947 – 15 March 2014) was an English celebrity chef, television personality, writer, businesswoman, and former barrister. (She claimed to be the youngest person to be called to the Bar at the time.) 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.
Dickson Wright was born in St John's Wood, London, the youngest of four children.  Her father, Arthur Dickson Wright, was a surgeon to the Royal Family, and her mother, Aileen Mary (Molly) Bath, was an Australian heiress. She said her father was an alcoholic who subjected his wife and children to verbal and physical abuse.
At the age of 11, Wright was sent to The Convent of the Sacred Heart, a former independent school for girls in the coastal town of Hove in Sussex, and then to the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Woldingham, now known as Woldingham School. (The Hove school closed in 1966.) After school, Wright studied for the Bar at Gray's Inn, while pursuing a law degree at University College London.
At the age of 21, Dickson Wright passed her Bar exams and became England's youngest barrister. 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.
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. Shortly thereafter she was disbarred for practising without chambers. Dickson Wright claimed that, during her alcoholic years, she had sex with an MP behind the Speaker's chair in the House of Commons.
In the early 1980s, she was homeless and staying with friends. For two years she was cook-housekeeper for a family in Sussex until she was fired for her alcohol-induced behaviour. After being charged with driving under the influence, Dickson Wright started to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, counselling, and a detox centre. She attended the Promis Recovery Centre at Nonington. In her 2009 book Rifling Through My Drawers she expressed a belief in reincarnation. She was a keen supporter of hunting.
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. In 2005, Dickson Wright took part in the BBC reality television show Art School.
Dickson Wright campaigned for the Countryside Alliance and was the first female Rector of the University of Aberdeen. 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.
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. 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.
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?" 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 and lived in Inveresk, Scotland.
Books written by Dickson Wright alone include:
She co-wrote books including:
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)."
|Rector of the University of Aberdeen