Topic: Catherine Gibbons Blackie (1877-1937)

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Tauranga World War One nurse Catherine Gibbons Blackie was on board the 'Marquette' when it was torpedoed by a German submarine on 23 October 1915. She was one of the survivors but the war would claim two of her brothers who were killed in action. Two other people connected with Tauranga, nurse Jeanne Spiers Sinclair and doctor Joseph Livingstone Frazerhurst, also survived the sinking of the 'Marquette'. Story by Debbie McCauley.

Catherine Gibbons Blackie was born in Kaitangata, Otago, on 5 October 1877 (reg. 1877/9219). Her parents were Allan and Catherine Ann Gibbons Blackie (nee McDouall) who married in 1875 (reg. 1875/163). Allan arrived in New Zealand from Scotland in c1860, Catherine arrived from Dumbarton, Scotland in c1871.

She completed her nursing training as in Dunedin, becoming registered in 1910. Nursing with the the Public Health Nursing Service took her to various parts of New Zealand and by 1914 she was living in Devonport Road in Tauranga. When war was declared in 1914 her skills would be in great demand.

Catherine embarked with the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps from Wellington on 21 May 1915, aboard the 'Marama' for Sydney, Australia. They were transferred to the 'Moldavia' for Suez, Egypt. She served with the Imperial Forces in Egypt and Mediterranean bases until October 1915.

During this time her three brothers were on active service: John Gibbons Blackie, James Blackie and Donald Blackie. James and Donald would be killed in action. 

In October 1915 Catherine was one of 741 people on board the 'Marquette' en route from Egypt to the northern Greek port of Salonika (Thessaloniki). Also on board were 491 mules and 50 horsesAt 9.15 am on 23 October 1915, a torpedo from a new heavyweight German submarine No.35 hit the transport ship as she entered the Gulf of Salonika in the Aegean Sea. Within ten minutes the ship had sunk, leaving hundreds of survivors floundering in the sea. By the time rescue craft arrived several hours later 167 people had drowned, including 32 New Zealanders (ten women and 22 men). Most of the New Zealand victims were nurses and medical orderlies from the 1st New Zealand Stationary Hospital.

Six days later, on 29 October, Catherine sailed back from Salonika to Alexandria on the hospital ship 'Grantully Castle', arriving on 1 November. On 20 November she was invalided back to New Zealand from Suez aboard the 'Tahiti'. On 8 November 1915 the Bay of Plenty Times reported:

Captain J L Frazer-Hurst [Joseph Livingstone Frazer-Hurst] and Nurse C Blackie, who are well-known in Tauranga, are amongst the survivors from the British transport Marguette, which was torpedoed and sunk in the Agean Sea on October 23rd (p. 2).

On 2 February 1916 the Bay of Plenty Times reported:

By a sheer accident I had the pleasure of meeting the brave Nurse Blackie on December 31st, and explained to her my regrets that her visit, being unannounced, prevented me from giving her a civic welcome. Your corresponent need be under no alarm. I was delighted to give Nurse Blackie, as from the Mayor of the town and voicing the sentiments of the people in it a slight token of the regard they held her in that any lady would be pleased to accept (p. 4).

Catherine returned to duty on 13 February 1916 and served in Cairo and at the No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. 

She returned to France on 2 August 1916. She was eventually invalided back to New Zealand in 1917, being discharged from active service on 10 July 1917.

Later Catherine served as Government nurse at Aitutaki, Cook Islands, and later in Samoa.

She moved to the Otaki district where she died on 10 August 1937 (reg. 1937/27448). She was buried Otaki Cemetery yesterday, being accorded military honours with members of the Otaki branch of the R.S.A. acting as pall-bearers. Her obituary appeared in the Evening Post on 13 August 1937): 

SISTER CATHERINE BLACKIE The death occurred at Otaki on Tuesday afternoon of Sister Catherine Blackie (22/64 N.Z.A.N.S.), second daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Alan Blackie, of Dunedin and Kaitangata. The late Sister Blackie nursed in various parts of New Zealand with the Public Health Nursing Service prior to the Great War. She left New Zealand about the middle of 1915, and served with the Imperial Forces in Egypt and Mediterranean bases until October, 1915. While proceeding to Salonika she was among those rescued from the torpedoed Marquette. After being invalided back to New Zealand she returned to France in July, 1916, and for a time was stationed at No. 1 staff hospital. At this time she had three brothers in active service. Two were killed in action. She also served in various New Zealand hospitals in England, and was specially mentioned by the Secretary for War for her valuable services in the United Kingdom. She returned to New Zealand in 1917. Following her return from active service Sister Blackie served as Government nurse at Aitutaki, Cook Islands, and later in Samoa. Latterly she resided in the Otaki district. She was interred at Otaki Cemetery yesterday, and was accorded military honours, members of the Otaki branch of the R.S.A. acting as pall-bearers (p. 11).



23 October is the anniversary of the 1915 sinking of the Marquette during WW1 and the death of ten New Zealand nurses (2013) Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Bay of Plenty Times (8 November 1915, p. 2).

Bay of Plenty Times (2 February 1916, p. 4).

Births, Deaths & Marriages Online (New Zealand).

Cenotaph Record  (Auckland War Memorial Museum).

Christchurch Nurses Memorial Chapel: Marquette Disaster (2012).

Evening Post (13 August 1937, p. 11).

Lee Switzer (personal communication, 2014).

Military personnel file (Archives New Zealand).


How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2014). Catherine Gibbons Blackie (1877-1937). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2014)

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Catherine Gibbons Blackie (1877-1937)

Note:Service Number: 22/64
First Names:Catherine Gibbons
Last Name:Blackie
Date of Birth:5 October 1877
Place of Birth:Kaitangata, Otago
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:10 August 1937
Place of death:Otaki, New Zealand
Place of burial:Otaki Cemetery
Fathers name:Allan Blackie
Fathers date of birth:c1845
Fathers place of birth:Scotland
Fathers date of death:15 May 1920
Fathers place of death:400 Leith Street, Dunedin
Mothers name:Catherine Ann Gibbons McDouall
Mothers date of birth:c1858
Mothers place of birth:Dumbarton, Scotland
Mothers date of death:9 February 1917
Mothers place of death:400 Leith Street, Dunedin
Military Service:World War I (1914-1918)