Son of Dugald Clerk of Braleckan. Inherited Pell River from his uncle Robert Clerk c. 1750. By 1757, Pell River was in the possession of John Clerk's nephew Dugald Malcolm (1724/5–1785, son of John Clerk's sister Elizabeth and Alexander Malcolm (c. 1687-1787).
John Clerk's father Dugald wrote to Sir John Clerk of Penicuick in 1741 stating advice from Robert Clerk in Jamaica: "that seeing the Projects about my son Johnie have Missgiven [Robert] desires that [John] may be instructed a little in the Law and thereafter Bound Apprentice to a Merchant at London of his aquaintance and when he is done with his master that he take a voyage to Jamaica & settle there or Trade 'twixt that place and Britain." Dugald wrote further that this training for John would be expensive but that he would be willing to pay as Robert has "a small Plantation in that Island and that he is a widower these many years past, and has no Children Living", presumably in the hope that John may inherit his uncle's property. John Clerk himself wrote to Sir John Clerk of Penicuick in 1749 stating that he was about to set sail for Jamaica. A letter from Dugald Clerk in 1751, after the death of Robert Clerk, gave the annual sale of sugar from Robert Clerk's estate at between £14 and £1500 sterling per annum; "There is nothing to hinder John to come home but his Cussin [actually his nephew] Dugald Malcolms arryvall at Jamaica who was to sail from London the last week." Dugald Clerk added that "I sent of[f] one Daniel Clerk another Cussin of his from Virginia by a ship from A[y]r to be Johns overseer of his nigro's So that I think those two Cussins will take care of all his affairs there and that he may come soon home and reside in his native countrie."
John Clarke was listed in the Jamaican Quit Rent books for 1754 as the owner of 794 acres of land in Hanover.
He may be the John Clerk, "Clerk of the Customs at Port Glasgow" who was bequeathed "all the household furniture which I left him with when I left Port Glasgow" in the will of a different but related Dugald Malcolm, written in 1763 and proved in 1764.
Matthew Kilburn, ‘Malcolm family of Poltalloch (per. 1750–1857)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2016 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/107421, accessed 17/07/2018].
Transcribed letters, http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Members/1740-51letters.htm.
'A List of landholders in the Island of Jamaica together with the number of acres each person possessed taken from the quit rent books in the year 1754', TNA CO 142/31 transcribed at http://www.jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Samples2/1754lead.htm
Will of Hugh Malcolm, late Clerk of the Customs at Port Glasgow and now Merchant of Jamaica, PROB 11/897/28.
The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:
1751 [EA] - 1754 [LA] → Owner
Nephew → Uncle
Uncle → Nephew