Trust fund helping nurses for a century

New Zealand Nurses' Memorial Fund chairwoman Maureen Trevor (left) and steward Valerie Steele run...
New Zealand Nurses' Memorial Fund chairwoman Maureen Trevor (left) and steward Valerie Steele run one of New Zealand's oldest active trusts. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
The death of 10 New Zealand nurses - including two from Otago - almost 100 years ago resulted in one of the oldest active trust funds in the country being set up in Dunedin.

Friday, October 23 marks the date in 1915 when the hospital ship Marquette was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat on the way to the Dardanelles during World War 1.

Thirty-six New Zealand nurses were on board. Lorna Rattray of Dunedin, and Mary Rae, of Raes Junction, were among those nurses who died.

A trust fund in honour of the dead nurses was set up to help others.

New Zealand Nurses' Memorial Fund steward Valerie Steele said the trust gave grants to nurses in need around the country.

''One hundred years ago ... the Otago Nurses' Association decided that they wanted something that would be everlasting ... an active, practical fund of people helping people,'' Ms Steele said.

Most grants were given to ageing nurses who had an illness and were unable to pay medical bills.

''Nurses were really paid very, very poorly and [most] have never been able to accumulate any savings,'' she said.

''We'll give them as much as we possibly can to help them.

''The oldies, they often want help paying car bills ... and it's their only means of transport and getting out.

''Those sort of bills they tend to put off.''

About 15 applications a year were granted and Ms Steele said they had yet to turn anybody down.

The fund, which was officially enacted two years after the tragedy, started with 5000 donated by ''medical people'', most from Dunedin.

Memorial fund chairwoman Maureen Trevor said getting donations was an issue and the money the trust did have was invested.

''Quite a number of nurses are life members and have given us a fair amount [of money].''

More donations were always welcome, Ms Trevor said.

An 86-year-old former nurse from Dunedin, who did not want to be named, receives a six-monthly allowance from the trust, which helps with heating costs.

''It just gives me that little bit more freedom to have a life, I suppose. It is a help,'' she said.

A second trust was also created and the money was used to build the Christchurch Hospital Nurses' Memorial Chapel.

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