Silo Number Four

Dr Margaret Cruickshank: The Beloved Physician

The fourth mural honours Dr Margaret Cruickshank (January 1 1873 - November 28, 1918) who was the first woman GP in New Zealand. She was adored by the Waimate community for her dedication. Dr Cruickshank died during the flu epidemic of 1918, after bravely continuing to home visit her patients. Dr Cruickshank’s statue - unveiled at Seddon Square in 1923 -  was at the time the only statue to a woman in the entire country, apart from memorials to Queen Victoria.

Margaret was born in Palmerston, Otago. She and her twin sister, Christina, only went to school part-time after their mother died and they needed to take turns staying home and caring for five younger siblings. The girls went to East Otago High School, and later, Otago Girls High School, where they were both duxes in 1891.

Margaret trained at the University of Otago Dunedin School of Medicine and she graduated in 1897. She was the second woman in New Zealand to complete medical school, and the first woman to become a registered doctor. She moved to Waimate in 1897, and into general practice. 

In 1913 she went to Britain to study, after a public send-off when the district gave her a gold watch and chain, and a purse full of sovereigns. 

She returned in 1914, and shared the superintendency of the Waimate Hospital. 

In World War One she organised the Waimate Red Cross Fund, and took over the caseload of her partner, Dr Barclay, who had enlisted and gone overseas.

During the 1918 flu pandemic she worked huge hours caring for her patients - even cooking meals for them, and milking the cow of a family whose adults were too ill to work.

Her statue was unveiled at a memorial service in Seddon Square, where the speakers included her former classmate, Dr Emily Siedeberg, who was the first woman medical student in the country. Margaret’s statue was unveiled by her landlady of 23 years, Mrs Barclay.

The inscription reads “The Beloved Physician - Faithful Unto Death”. In 1948 the maternity ward in Waimate Hospital was named after her. The hospital was closed in 1987 and  has since been demolished.



Te Waimatemate, A History of Waimate Borough and Country, by William Greenwood