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 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.
Dickson Wright was called to the bar in 1970. She later claimed that this occurred when she was aged 21, and that she was the youngest woman ever to be called to the bar. 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.
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.
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 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. In 2005, Dickson Wright took part in the BBC reality television show Art School.
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.
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.
Test the Nation: The National IQ Test 2006 (2 September 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)
The Great British Food Revival (2011-2013, 3 episodes)
Meet The Author: Festive cooks (21 December 2011)
Roundhead or Cavalier: Which One Are You? (15 May 2012)
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (2012, 3 episodes)
Fieldsports Britain (October 2012)
The One Show (29 November 2012)
Victoria Wood's Nice Cup of Tea (2013, 2 episodes)
Celebrity Eggheads (13 December 2013)
How to Get Ahead at Medieval Court (11 March 2014)
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)."