Former prime minister Helen Clark made a poignant trip to a small Waitaki Valley cemetery during her recent visit to North Otago.
Miss Clark was in Oamaru to attend an August 4 movie fundraiser hosted by Vanished World, of which she is patron. The movie was My Year With Helen, a documentary by Gaylene Preston of Ms Clark’s campaign to become secretary-general of the United Nations.
Vanished World co-founder Helen Brookes invited Miss Clark to the Georgetown cemetery to see where her great-great-grandparents, Archibald and Elizabeth Hutcheson, are buried.
Miss Clark’s sisters had visited the site before but this was her first time, Dr Brookes said.
The graveyard, established in 1876, is run by a trust appointed by the Waitaki District Council. Chairwoman Dr Brookes was joined by long-serving trustees Jim Quested and Stephen Quested for Miss Clark’s visit, but trustees Terry Fowler and Glenys Palmer were unable to be there.
Dr Brookes said Miss Clark spent about an hour at the cemetery on the afternoon of August 4.
“She was so relaxed. It was unbelievable.” That was in marked contrast to the pressure she was under when the movie was filmed, Dr Brookes said.
It had been 17 years since Dr Brookes presented Miss Clark with membership of the Friends of Vanished World group. When they met again, Miss Clark said “long time no see”.
After viewing her ancestors’ marble memorial, Miss Clark had organised to have it restored, Dr Brookes said.