Nora Mary ‘Nore’ Ritchie was born in Newport-on-Tay, Forgan, Fifeshire, Scotland, in 1878, one of eight children, and the second youngest daughter of David and Amelia Mathers Ritchie (née Reoch). She spent all her early years in Newport-on-Tay, Fifeshire, where her father ran the family firm, Messrs. David Ritchie & Co., Jute and Yarn Merchants, of Dundee, and where she attended Dundee High School. The family home was at Anerley Villa, Tay Street, Newport-on-Tay.
Nora qualified as a nurse, and found employment at the Royal Infirmary Hospital, Hull, Yorkshire. While working and living in Hull, she met Francis William Clarke, a local man who worked as a commercial traveller for a local printing firm. The couple married in Newport-on-Tay on the 11th July 1907. The couple set up their home ‘Kenmore’, South Street, Cottingham, Yorkshire, with their two children – Phyllis Ritchie, born in 1909, and Kenneth Simpson, born in 1910.
It would appear that Frank Clarke developed alcoholism, and perhaps lost his job and deserted his family, for on the 30th January 1912, went to Southampton, Hampshire, and boarded the
Ausonia, bound for Portland, Maine, in the United States of America. On arriving in Portland on the 10th February, he made his way to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He stated that his next of kin was his father, strengthening the suggestion that he had deserted his family.
In 1913, Nore Clarke decided to travel to Canada to either join her husband, or to try and persuade him to return home. Leaving their children in Hull, Yorkshire, with their paternal grandparents, Nora travelled to Liverpool and boarded the
Corsican, bound for Quebec, Canada. She arrived in Quebec on the 25th September 1913, and from there travelled to Toronto in search for her husband.
Either Nora failed to persuade her husband to return to England, or else they had decided to bring their children to join them in Toronto and start a new life, for in the spring of 1915, Nora made plans to return to her home in Cottingham.
On 1st May 1915, she joined the Lusitania as a second cabin passenger at New York. She never made it home, however as she was killed after the liner was torpedoed and sunk, six days later, by the German submarine
U-20. At that stage, the Lusitania was only hours away from completing her journey, and was within sight of the coast of southern Ireland.
No trace of Nore Clarke’s body was ever found and identified and as such, she has no known grave. However she is remembered on her family grave at Ferry-Port-on-Craig Cemetery, Tayport, Fifeshire.
In the summer of 1915, her sister-in-law Miss Elizabeth Alice Clarke, who had taken charge of the children after their mother’s death applied to The Lusitania Relief Fund of Liverpool, for financial help. This fund had been set up after the sinking to provide aid for passengers and their dependants who were suffering loss as a result of the sinking.
A Relief Fund document still extant in The Liverpool Record Office states: -
Father of children is alive in Canada. Left England because of drink etc. Does not support children in any way.
It is not known what level of support the fund was able to offer the children’s aunt. By July 1915, the two children had moved in with Mrs. Lillian Clarke, 21. North Bar Without, Beverley.
In November 1919, Francis William Clarke filed a claim for compensation for the loss of his wife with the Canadian Commission which had been established to deal with claim arising from the sinking of the
Lusitania. Sometime after filing his claim, he was reported to have moved to Montreal, Quebec. In October 1925, Mr. Warwick Chipman K.C., who was acting on his behalf, informed the Commission that he had been unable to get in contact with Mr. Clarke for over three years. On the 17th August 1926, his case was dismissed.
Nore Clarke’s father-in-law was a partner in the firm of Brumby and Clarke, Colour Printers, of Hull and her brother-in-law, Mr. Neville Clarke was the owner of the Scarborough steam trawler
1881 Census of Scotland, Cunard Records, 1891 Census of Scotland, 1901 Census of England & Wales, 1911 Census of England & Wales, U.S. Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists 1893 – 1959, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865 – 1935, Canadian Claims Case No. 799, Cunard Records, Liverpool Record Office, Dundee Advertiser, Evening Telegram, Hull Times, Yorkshire Post, Beverley Recorder and Independent, Newcastle Daily Chronicle, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv D92/2/282, UniLiv D92/2/365, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, Graham Maddocks, Chris Bailey, Geoff Whitfield, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer, Norman Gray.
Copyright © Peter Kelly.