67yo returns to find mother’s grave on uninhabited island


Monday 11 November 2019 | Written by Jonathan Milne | Published in Local

When Charlie Quarter was a six-year-old living among the copra plantations of Manuae, the boat would come only once every four months.

There was no doctor, little medicine – so there was very little hope for his mother when she came down with tuberculosis. She died and was buried on the island.

When the next boat turned up, Charlie’s dad took the family back to the mainland. And that was the last time he saw Manuae and his mother’s grave.

Until this spring. A few weeks ago, after years of dreaming and planning in which he always felt he would once more honour his mother’s memory, Quarter – now 67 – stepped ashore on the now uninhabited island.

It had been a rough trip – they had been waiting on Aitutaki for a break in the weather. Eventually it dropped from 15 knots to 12 knots and their WetnWild skipper Quinton Schofield agreed to take them the 100km across the sea to Manuae. “In the end we said, we’ve got to go now.”

Quarter lives in Cairns, and he had enlisted the help of his friend Faimau Robati, who as a 14-year-old in 1985 had camped six months on the island with a Marine Resources fisheries crew.

They would catch parrot fish, chill them on big blocks of ice from ministry’s ice machine in Rarotonga, then send them back for sale in the market.

Robati remembered where the small burial ground with seven graves was.

But, says Quarter, he had someone else guiding him too: his mother. “Finding that grave, I don’t know if you believe me but I think my mum guided me home. It was spiritual,” he says.

“My nephew had a dream and said, my grandmother visited me and told me to follow her,” Quarter recalls. “So I said, tell me your dream.”

The route and landmarks his nephew dreamed – they were all there, Quarter says, when they landed on the beach at Manuae.

Quarter always felt he would see his mother one last time. “I knew I had to do it for her.”