The camphor wood chest, pictured below, was owned by Captain Joseph Lucas Clark, master of the SS Jeddah, and on whom the character of Captain Gustav, master of the SS Patna is supposedly based. The underside of the chest is marked in pencil with the name “Captain Clark.”
Captain Lucas emigrated to New Zealand in the late 19th century and was Second Officer on the Wairarapa which wrecked on Great Barrier Island on a voyage from Sydney to Auckland in October 1894. He later became an assessor for the New Zealand Marine Board
The chest was gifted to my parents in Northcote, Auckland, New Zealand in the 1950s by their neighbour Gertrude Blanche Holder, a retired teacher, who informed them of the link between Joseph Conrad and Captain Clark.
The Clark and Holder families appear to have been quite close: Thomas Holder, Miss Holder’s father, was a member of the Prince of Wales Masonic Lodge in Princes St, Auckland, together with Joseph Lucas Clark, appearing adjacent on a page listing membership dues in 1881. There are also links between Clark’s son, Joseph Lucas Gordon Clark, and the Beeson family who were cousins of the Holder family, listing an Alice Beeson as a close contact.
The item is currently located in Germany.
© John Burland