`Marquette’ link found


After a little bit of digging, a Timaru woman has discovered she is a relative of one of North Otago’s most famous, and tragic, historical figures.
Susan Schuster had always been interested in finding out more about her family’s history, but it was not until recently that she discovered her link to Oamaru’s Isabel Clark, a nurse who drowned after the transport ship Marquette was torpedoed by a German submarine on October 23, 1915.
She was one of 32 New Zealanders, including 10 nurses, who died when the ship went down.
Through her research, which involved trips to the North Otago Museum, the South Canterbury Museum and Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, Mrs Schuster learned that Miss Clark was her grandmother’s aunt.
Mrs Schuster had no idea Miss Clark was such a revered figure in North Otago.
“I asked if the [North Otago] museum had any pictures of Isabel, because her name kept popping up. She [museum curator Chloe Searle] said she was quite famous.”Mrs Schuster attends Anzac Day dawn services in Timaru every year but plans to attend the Oamaru service this year, in memory of her great great-aunt.
“I’d like to be in Oamaru this year _ 101 years after my great great-aunt made the greatest sacrifice,” she said.
Asked what she would have said to Miss Clark if the two had met, Ms Schuster’s response was simple.
“I would say thank you. Thank you for following your calling in life and and going to what would have been scary places, and dying for our country. Obviously many people are proud of her, 101 years after her death.” She hoped to get in touch with relatives on the south side of the Waitaki River, who have the surnames Clark, Catto, Buchanan, Weller and Watt.
Miss Clark’s memory is kept alive through a plaque below a memorial oak tree on Towey St and memorials at Ardgowan School and Waitaki Girls’ High School. A memorial essay competition is held each year at Waitaki Girls’.
Last year, Waimate held a special ceremony to honour Miss Clark, who worked at Waimate Hospital, and two other local nurses.
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