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Captain George Clarke Honoured for Outstanding Service

Captain George Clarke Honoured for Outstanding Service in Maritime

Captain George Clarke has been named as one of the recipients of the Samoa College Old Pupils Association (S.C.O.P.A) New Zealand ‘Outstanding Achievement Award’ for his service in Maritime.

Captain George Clarke was the second Samoa College Head Boy in 1954 Head Boy, part of the first intake when Samoa College was established in 1953. As a child growing up in Samoa, Captain George Clarke used to watch the two Union Company vessels, M/V Matua and the M/V Tofua when in port but never dreamt that one day he will be the first Samoan born to hold a foreign Master’s ticket in maritime as Chief Officer and Master on some of the big ships that sailed across the globe.

“To mark the 65th anniversary since the establishment of Samoa College, S.C.O.P.A New Zealand will be hosting a special function on Saturday 8th December at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland to acknowledge the contribution of Samoa College ex-students and former teachers in New Zealand,” says Teleiai Edwin Puni co-chair of the organising committee,

The French explorer Louis de Bougainville gave Samoa the name Navigator Islands believing our ancestors were experienced seafarers. For the life career of a young lad from Lotopa who used to walk bare feet to school from Lotopa to Leififi to end up a navigator to the four corners of the world may had inherited this from our ancestors.

According to Captain George Clarke, “My basic education was all done in Samoa and thanks to Samoa College where I learned the basic requirements of mathematics that helped me in later years while studying in London for a nautical certificate.”

“I was fortunate of having a palagi surname for I could enter the government school reserved for children with European connections. My education started at Leififi Infants, then Post Primary and finally Intermediate before going onto Samoa College and placed in Lower Form 4. This was the first intake of students when the gates were opened February 1953. I was the second Head Boy of the college during 1954 until my sudden departure towards year ending much to the displeasure of the then Principal Mr Gordon.
My Samoan education ended for I got employment as Mess boy on a Norwegian vessel, M/V Thorsisle trading between the Canadian and American east coast to the South Pacific Islands of Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and New Caledonia. The Apia Harbourmaster received a cable from the Master of the Thorsisle wanting a Mess boy and as a result I was asked if I was interested. The very next day I walked down the steps of Samoa College as an ex-student and boarded my first ship with excitement for I was heading to America. Mr. Gordon had me in his office and tried to get me to change my mind. At the end we both agreed for me returning after doing one voyage to continue my education at the beginning of the next school term if I did not like the sea life.”

“During my time at Apia Intermediate I was selected after sitting the scholarship exam to go to Fiji to become a radiologist. I still do not recall why I changed my mind just before doing the required medical for I went home instead. The next day had to face the Principal and perhaps this was the cause of not succeeding in getting the N Z scholarship after two later attempts.”

“My maritime career started at the very bottom given the title mess boy. The work involved serving meals to twenty seamen ratings and then washing the dishes and keeping the mess room clean and tidy at all times. I took the opportunity of moving to the deck department as deck boy after washing dishes for about six months. After roaming around the South Pacific Islands and then South America and up to Northern Europe for about seven years on deck I decided to make the sea a career and become a deck officer with the hope of one day a ship’s captain. Had the required sea time on deck to enter a nautical college and decided London for the vessel I was heading there. Had sufficient funds in my bank account to support me for at least a year. Had no difficulty entering Britain for it was before our country became independent in January 1962 for had a British Protected Samoan Citizen passport?”

“Enrolled at King Edward 7th Nautical College in London September 1961 to study for the first Nautical Certificate of Competency which was 2nd Mates. I found it hard at first for it took some time to settle in. The foundation of grasping of what I was now being taught was from the knowledge I got about seven years previously at Samoa College. It came to my attention of losing the British Protected Samoan Citizen passport once Western Samoa gains independence. This means I will not qualify to work as an officer on NZ or British registered vessels with a Samoan passport. My father coming from Scotland and from his advice and the help from NZ house in London I was able getting a British passport before completing my studies. Thanks the good Lord, I succeeded within a year and took the advantage of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand advertising for deck officers. My application I gathered went to Wellington and it took sometime before confirmation was received. Later I heard that Wellington head office contacted Apia if they knew me. At the end of November 1962 I was a passenger on a cargo vessel to Auckland. I left the United Kingdom with two qualifications. The first one qualified me in earning a good salary and the other was the long life commitment of spending money for I got married two days before sailing for Auckland without the bride. It was six months before Joyce joined me.”

“My outstanding high light during the eight years with the Union Company was sailing as a deck officer on the two vessels M/V Matua and M/V Tofua. The Union Company been trading to the islands for many years and I was the first islander holding an officer position on both vessels.”

“As a child I used to watch the two Union Company vessels, M/V Matua and the M/V Tofua when in port but never dreamt that one day of being a navigation and cargo officer on both vessels. The company knew I was from Samoa due to my application. I was not so surprised that mid 1963 I was posted 3rd Officer on the M/V Matua and was on her until I had the full sea time required to study for the First Officer certificate. The following year after getting my First Officer Certificate of Competency at the Auckland Navigation College situated at the 3rdfloor of the Ferry Building I found myself back on the Matua as 2nd Officer. Only did a couple of trips for I was promoted to Chief Officer on a vessel trading across the Tasman to Australia.”

“Early 1967 to the surprise of my fellow officers and myself when word went around that I was appointed Chief Officer on the company’s top vessel M/V Tofua without holding a Master’s certificate. Normally the Chief Officer position on this vessel must have Masters and was in line for promotion to Master. Was an enjoyable eight trips on the Tofua, especially meeting the passengers making their way to NZ or returning home and also the deck passengers accommodated on deck during the trip Apia to Suva on their way to NZ or returning home from NZ. Finally in 1969 after attending the Auckland Navigation College my dream of becoming a Captain of any sized commercial vessel was achieved and was handed the following certificate. (NEW ZEALAND CERTIFICATE OF COMPETENCY AS MASTER OF A FOREIGN GOING SHIP). Through all trials and tribulations my success from Mess boy to Master was the sheer power to work hard and the belief in myself that I can make it to the top. Word got around in Apia that I was the first Samoan born holding a foreign going Master’s ticket.”

“I left the Union Company shortly after getting my Master’s to join a vessel called Aotearoa as Chief Officer and was owned by the Major of Tauranga, Bob Owens and the Japanese company Mitsui. It was a fully refrigerated vessel for the carriage of mutton from NZ to Japan. I was involved rescuing 23 Japanese seamen from a sinking Japanese bulk carrier 20th February 1970, 200 miles east of Yokohama. We had received a distress message in the middle of the night and immediately altered course and steamed at full speed in very rough seas to the given position. On arrival we found that they definitely needed help for they had lost their lifeboats. Being the only ship around, the Captain and I discussed whether it be safe to take our motor lifeboat for the wind was blowing over 40 knots with very rough seas and a high swell. We decided to have the motor lifeboat ready and for me to a call a volunteer crew of four to join me. Luckily there was an American naval plane circling above and was dropping light flares which lighten the area around while we were steaming our way to the half-submerged vessel. We took 23 Japanese except the Captain and he went down with his ship while we were on our way back to the Aotearoa. We were lucky for the California Maru sunk about 20 minutes after we left her. This rescue gave New Zealand a good name in Japan and gave us the chance to meet Mr Muldoon in Tokyo and an audience with the Japanese Prime Minister at the time, Mr SEATO at government house. The New Zealand Government honoured the crew of the rescued lifeboat with the Silver Medal of the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand. On 9th October 1970 I received my medal from the Auckland Major Mr Banks at the Town Hall.”
“I enjoyed the Japanese run mostly from Timeru and I was in line for promotion to Master but had to leave for the length of time from home was having effect on the family. Fortunately immediately word was received that the Wellington Exporter owners was looking for a Mate to relieving Master on the run from Onehunga wharf to New Guinea and back via Brisbane. This was my first command for I relieve the Master for a month and then when he came back I was off for a month and re-joined as Chief Officer. The vessel was owned by Columbus Line of Hamburg and within a year they sold both vessels, the Auckland Exporter and Wellington Exporter. I could have gone back to the Union Company but my wife being English wanted to return home to the UK to be with her aging parents. This happened in 1973 when we shifted to the UK with our three sons born here and our new home was in the northwest of England at Cheshire near Liverpool. Had no problem getting employment on the British registry and my next employers was an Israeli company having ships hiding under the British flag. I was with them as Chief Officer and promoted Master about a year later on fast and modern vessels trading world- wide. The Israel Company faced financial problems in 1976 and had to sell most of their vessels and there was the possibility of losing my job so I resigned.”

“My next employment was sailing under the Cypriot flag with mostly Filipino officers and crew. The parent owners was a German company, Bernard Schulte of Hamburg of which they reflagged their vessels from Germany to Cyprus. Had a short spell as Chief Officer and for the next twenty years I was Master on some very modern bulk carriers and then on container ships carry over 2500 containers. Before retiring in 2001 I was Master on a container vessel trading along the States east coast from Seattle and the next port after Long Beach was Auckland. The run was from the States to Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney and back to Auckland before heading back to Long Beach California via Papeete Tahiti or Suva. Walked down the gangway of M/V Helen Schulte here in Auckland when I retired July 2001 for my wife and I decided to return to New Zealand to live. On retiring I was the longest non German Master with this company and was a pleasure working with them as I was given the same working conditions to that of a German Master.”

“I was enjoying the retiring life until the Samoan Government approached me about joining the new Forum Samoa 2 as Master. This gave me the chance of working under the Samoan flag and having a nearly full Samoan crew. The ship came out from China with a German Master and I was supposed to relieve him when he went on leave. This happened here in Auckland mid 2002 when I took over and was great hearing Samoan spoken around the ship. Bit disappointed that the chief officer was Tongan and the 2nd and 3rd deck officers were Fijians. It was a good run vessel and found the Samoan boys competent in their various duties. After three months when the German returned I throw in my hand and that was the end of my maritime career after nearly forty years in the high seas. It was a very interesting job for I developed the art of dealing with different cultures around the ports of call of the world. Also it was a tough occupation being away from home and have to thank my wife who became the mother and father of our four children while I was away.”

“The children have all grown up with each having an English university degree. The eldest son is John is in banking and works for Standard Charger Bank in Singapore and his title is: Head of Delivery, Private Bank Core Banking and Transformation Programme. Dr Peter Clarke has a Ph.D. in chemistry, C. CHEM, FRSC., and is an Associated Director Head of Global Analytical Sciences at where he works in Reading Berkshire England. Neil, was a math teacher at two private schools in the Bahamas and now is the ICT Manager at MOTAT Museum in Auckland. Fiona, the only daughter, M.Sc. Economics and worked at HSBC Bank in Bahrein, Jakarta Indonesia, Hong Kong and then Citi Bank in London where she took voluntary redundancy. Got married shortly afterwards and now lives in Saint Lucia in the Caribbean with her husband and three children.”

“Fa’afetai tele lava SCOPA New Zealand for honouring me,” says Captain George Clarke.

The memories, his legacy, contributions and life forever etched into the hearts and history of your church, and of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. The memories, his legacy, contributions and life forever etched into the hearts and history of their church, and of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.For 65 years Samoa College has produced leaders who have served, and continue to serve Samoa well and beyond including New Zealand in various capacities, covering every imaginable sphere of life.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was clear that Samoa needed educated men and women to manage its own affairs as an aspiring independent nation. Officially opened on 2nd October 1953 by Dr. Beeby the then New Zealand Minister of Education; a gift from the people of New Zealand to the people of Samoa.

The real gift was that of learning and education..... men and women have passed through the school's corridors and classrooms and gates and into the world, empowered with 'knowledge to serve,' as the Samoa College school motto proclaims.

1. Reverend Elder Lei’ite Setefano for Service to Religion presented by Federal Pacific Group
2. Le Mamea Taulapapa Sefulu Ioane for Service to the Pacific community presented by Aotea Finance Limited
3. Maualaivao Professor Albert Wendt for Service to Education presented by Samoa Airways
4. Toesulu Brown for Service to Samoan Culture in Education presented by G-Mana Wholesale Autos
5. Faimai Tuimauga for Service to Samoan Language in Education presented by McCallum Company

1. Captain George Clarke in Maritime presented by SEKI Works
2. Judge Ae’au Semi Epati in Judiciary presented by Moana Rentals & Pacific Ezy Money Transfer
3. Professor Asiata Dr. Satupaitea Viali in Medicine presented by Pasifika Futures
4. Namulau’ulu Alama Ieremia in Sport presented by Digicel
5. Punialava’a in Music presented by Club Orator


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