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
OccupationTelevision 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.

Early life[edit]

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 who had served with the Colonial Service at Singapore,[8] and her mother, Aileen Mary (Molly) Bath,[3] was from "a well known and respected Singapore family".[9][2] She said her father was an alcoholic who subjected his wife and children to verbal and physical abuse.[10]

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][11]


Early career[edit]

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.[12][13] After her mother died of a heart attack in 1975, she inherited a considerable sum of money, which by her own account she squandered over the next eight years. Her mother's death, combined a year later with that of her father, who spent his final years wheelchair-bound and aphasic after a stroke,[9][8] left her in a deep depression, and she drank heavily for the following 12 years.[11]

In 1979, Dickson Wright took control of the food at a drinking club in St James's Place in London. While there she met a fellow alcoholic named Clive (whose surname she never revealed);[2] they had a relationship until his death in 1982 from kidney failure at the age of 40.[2] Shortly thereafter she was disbarred[12] for practising without chambers.[14] 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]

In the early 1980s, she was homeless and staying with friends.[15] For two years she was cook-housekeeper for a family in Sussex until she was fired for her alcohol-induced behaviour.[16] 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.[17][18]

Cooking and television[edit]

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.[19]

Later years[edit]

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.[11] 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.[20] 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.[11][21] 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.[22]

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.[23][24][25] 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.[24]

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?"[26] 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[27][28] and lived in Inveresk, Scotland.[29]


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.[18][30][31]

Her funeral mass was held in Edinburgh at St Mary's Cathedral on 7 April, after which she was cremated.[32]


Cookery books:

  • The Haggis: A Short History (Appletree Press Ltd, 3 May 1996).
  • Two Fat Ladies: Gastronomic Adventures with Jennifer Paterson (Ebury Publishing, 3 October 1996) (Entitled Cooking with the Two Fat Ladies in the USA).
  • The Two Fat Ladies Ride Again, with Jennifer Paterson (Ebury Publishing, 4 September 1997).
  • The Two Fat Ladies Full Throttle, with Jennifer Paterson (Ebury Publishing, 27 August 1998).
  • Hieland Foodie: A Scottish Culinary Voyage with Clarissa, with Henry Crichton-Stuart (Natl Museums of Scotland, 1 August 1999).
  • Living Large: A Life in Recipes (Scotland on Sunday, 1999) (48 pages).
  • Two Fat Ladies – Obsessions, with Jennifer Paterson (Ebury Publishing, 7 September 1999).
  • The Very Best of Two Fat Ladies: Over 150 Favourite Recipes from Their Best Selling Books (Ebury Publishing, 2000).
  • Sunday Roast: The Complete Guide to Cooking and Carving, with Sir John Scott, 5th Baronet (Headline Publishing Group, 7 October 2002).
  • The Game Cookbook, with Sir John Scott, 5th Baronet (Kyle Cathie, 12 August 2004).
  • Pre-Victorian English Cookery (Macmillan Trade Paperback, 5 March 2004).
  • Clarissa's Comfort Food (Kyle Cathie, 4 September 2008).
  • Potty! Clarissa's One Pot Cookbook (Hodder & Stoughton, 16 September 2010).
  • The Great British Food Revival, various authors (W&N, 3 March 2011).
  • The Great British Food Revival: The Revolution Continues, various authors (W&N, 10 November 2011).



Audio books[edit]

Forewords written[edit]




  • Grow Your Greens, Eat Your Greens (1993, 1 episode).
  • In the National Trust - Chinese Silk Wallpaper (1 February 1995).
  • The End of the Year Show (31 December 1996) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • All Over The Shop (8 January 1997) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Songs of Praise: Food Praise (9 February 1997: Bournville) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Comedy Zone (27 February 1997) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Edinburgh Nights (18 August 1997).
  • The Rosie O'Donnell Show (23 September 1997) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (24 September 1997) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Clive Anderson All Talk (September 1997) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • The End of the Year Show (31 December 1997) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee (18 February 1998) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Good Morning America (20 February 1998) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • In the Kitchen With Bob (21 February 1998) (with Jennifer Paterson) (QVC on The Shopping Network).
  • Edinburgh Nights (28 August 1998).
  • Organic Food Awards (28 October 1998) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Question Time (1998-2003, 4 episodes).
  • Entertainment Tonight (December 1998) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Sophie Grigson's Herbs (3 March 1999).
  • Royal Television Society Awards (29 March 1999) (with Jennifer Paterson).
  • Have I Got News for You (7 May 1999).
  • Mark Lamarr Leaving the 20th Century (8 August 1999).
  • Sophie Grigson's Herbs (17 August 1999).
  • Loose Women (1999-2012, 4 episodes).
  • Songs of Praise (12 December 1999: Advent 3: Christmas is Coming).
  • Parkinson (28 January 2000).
  • Pass It On (20 March 2000) (27 March 2000).
  • Celebrity Rehab (19 July 2000).
  • Live Talk (7 November 2000) (with Johnny Scott).
  • Ruby (8 November 2000), (with Johnny Scott).
  • Friends for Dinner - Friends for Christmas Dinner (20 December 2000).
  • Breakfast with Frost (27 May 2001) (with Johnny Scott).
  • Holiday (29 October 2001).
  • Fifty Places to See Before You Die (10 November 2002).
  • Saturday Kitchen Live (31 May 2003).
  • Absolutely Fabulous (Episode: Huntin', Shootin' & Fishin) (7 November 2003).
  • Today with Des and Mel (11 December 2003).
  • The Nation's Favourite Christmas Food (18 December 2003).
  • One Man and His Dog (29 December 2003).
  • Today with Des and Mel (14 January 2004).
  • Britain's Best Sitcom (Open All Hours 6 March 2004, Live Final 27 March 2004).
  • Happy Birthday BBC Two (20 April 2004).
  • The Wright Stuff (2004-2011, 4 episodes).
  • GMTV (16 September 2004).
  • Countdown (5 episodes from 16 to 20 February 2006).
  • Hannah Glasse: The First Domestic Goddess (30 June 2006).
  • Test the Nation: The National IQ Test 2006 (2 September 2006).
  • Friends For Dinner: Christmas Dinner (30 December 2006).
  • Balderdash & Piffle (2006-2007, 2 episodes).
  • The New Paul O'Grady Show (29 November 2007).
  • Clarissa and the King's Cookbook (7 May 2008).
  • The One Show (2008-2010, 2 episodes).
  • The Alan Titchmarsh Show (28 September 2009).
  • The Big Food Fight (29 September 2009).
  • Victoria Wood: Seen on TV (21 December 2009).
  • Mr Pepys's Diary (11 January 2010).
  • Newsnight at 30 (23 January 2010).
  • The Michael Ball Show (13 September 2010).
  • Fern Britton Meets Clarissa Dickson Wright (5 December 2010).
  • Welly Telly: The Countryside on Television (29 May 2011).
  • Meet The Author: Festive cooks (21 December 2011).
  • Roundhead or Cavalier: Which One Are You? (15 May 2012).
  • Fieldsports Britain (October 2012).
  • The One Show (29 November 2012).
  • Victoria Wood's Nice Cup of Tea (2 episodes 10 April 2013, 11 April 2013).
  • The Mind of the Maker Clarissa Dickson Wright speaks at St Paul's Cathedral (30 April 2013).
  • Celebrity Eggheads (13 December 2013).
  • How to Get Ahead at Medieval Court (11 March 2014).


2008 BA/Nielsen BookData Author of the Year Award.

DVD release[edit]

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)."[35]


  1. ^ Morris, Steven (17 March 2014). "TV chef Clarissa Dickson Wright dies". Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Cassandra Jardine (6 September 2007). "Clarissa Dickson Wright: 'I do like to bait people'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 September 2009.
  3. ^ a b 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. S2CID 11440931.
  8. ^ a b "Wright, Arthur Dickson (1897–1976)". Pilar's lives of the Fellows. Royal College of Surgeons of England.
  9. ^ a b Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, vol. 58, issue 4, July 1976, p. 333, "Arthur Dickson Wright, MS FRCS"
  10. ^ "Clarissa Dickson Wright didn't just survive an abusive father, she outed him". The Guardian. 17 March 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d "Presenter biographies". BBC. Archived from the original on 26 June 2004.
  12. ^ a b Nigel Farndale (13 September 2009). "Clarissa Dickson Wright: 'They don't call me Krakatoa for nothing'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 24 September 2009.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ a b "Clarissa Dickson Wright – obituary" 17 March 2014, Daily Telegraph
  15. ^ "Two Fat Ladies Chef Clarissa Dickson Wright Dies at 66" Archived 17 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, ABC News 17 March 2014
  16. ^ "Clarissa Dickson Wright: Broadcaster, cook and former barrister who found worldwide fame as one of television's 'Two Fat Ladies' ", Independent 18 March 2014
  17. ^ Rifling through my Drawers Hachette UK, 2009 ISBN 9781848944237
  18. ^ a b "TV chef Clarissa Dickson Wright dies", Guardian, 17 March 2014
  19. ^ Clarissa, Dickson Wright (January 2000). "Larger Than Life". Waitrose. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007.
  20. ^ "One fat lady puts up the shutters". Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Fat lady wins in university rector race". The Herald. 27 November 1998. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  22. ^ Banks-Smith, Nancy (8 May 2008). "Last night's TV". The Guardian.[dead link]
  23. ^ "TV chef facing hare hunt charges". BBC. 25 September 2007.
  24. ^ a b "TV chef admits hunting offences". BBC. 1 September 2009.
  25. ^ "Top TV Chef Facing Court Over Hare Coursing". Yahoo!. 25 September 2007.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Fieldsports Britain. "Fieldsports Britain : Shooting badgers and wheelchair guns". Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  27. ^ "BBC NEWS – UK – UK Politics – Election 2005 – Who's backing whom at the election?". BBC. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  28. ^ Moreton, Cole (23 September 2012). "Clarissa Dickson Wright: 'I go to Mass to say thank you'". Retrieved 28 August 2018 – via
  29. ^ Dickson Wright, Clarissa (2012). Clarissa's England: A gamely gallop through the English counties. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 9781444729139.
  30. ^ "Tributes at Clarissa Dickson Wright funeral". Edinburgh News. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  31. ^ "TV chef Clarissa Dickson Wright dies aged 66", The Scotsman, 17 March 2014.
  32. ^ "Tributes at Clarissa Dickson Wright funeral". Edinburgh Evening News. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  33. ^ Dickson Wright, Clarissa (July 2015). Ancestors and Rellies. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-1444784190.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ Hirst, Christopher (21 September 2012). "A History of English Food, By Clarissa Dickson Wright". The Independent. Retrieved 6 February 2016.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Rector of the University of Aberdeen
Succeeded by