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Local Community Welcomes Lord Lieutenant of Orkney, Bill Spence

posted 1 Mar 2016, 19:35 by OC Web   [ updated 1 Mar 2016, 20:23 ]
Various international strands of the story surrounding the Otaki and Sander Scholars came together recently.

The story begins with the sinking of the SS Otaki, a NZ Shipping Company vessel named for our local Ōtaki river, in WWI. The SS Otaki was sunk on March 10th 1917 by German Raider “Moewe” in a battle described as “a duel as gallant as naval history can relate”. The SS Otaki’s Captain, Archibald Bisset Smith, after giving the order for lifeboats to be lowered in order to rescue his crew, refused to leave his post and went down with his ship. He was awarded a Victoria Cross for “most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”.

In 1937 Captain Bisset Smith’s family presented the Otaki Shield to Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, Scotland where he had attended as a boy. This led to the setting up of an annual scholarship in memory of the Captain whereby the Head Boy of Robert Gordon’s College spends three weeks touring around NZ. Firm links have been established between Robert Gordon’s and Ōtaki Colleges, with Ōtaki becoming the first port of call for the Otaki Scholar.

In 2013 Ōtaki College, with funding from local business, The Sander Tie Company, set up its own scholarship to send a Head Student to Scotland in the December holidays. This Scholarship is one of the College’s premier awards, won most recently by 2015 Head Girl, Clare McInerney-Heather. 

Different threads of the story came together when Mr Fraser met the Lord Lieutenant of Orkney, Bill Spence, in Dunedin and found that he was about to travel to Ōtaki for a short stay. The Lord Lieutenant is organising the 2016 celebrations commemorating the Battle of Jutland and all those lost at sea in WWI. Captain Bisset Smith will be one of the Victoria Cross holders remembered in the commemorations. Mr Fraser arranged a welcome for the Lord Lieutenant and his wife to Ōtaki in the manner that has become customary for the greeting of the Otaki Scholar – a powhiri at Raukawa marae. It was fortuitous that two ex Otaki Scholars - David Pittendreigh, who was travelling around NZ, and Dr Robin Maclachlan, now residing in Whanganui - were able to join Kapiti Mayor, Ross Church, local Ōtaki dignitaries and Raukawa elders at the powhiri.

As a result of this gathering, further commemorations are being planned for 2017 in Aberdeen and Ōtaki to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Otaki and cementing global links between a small rural NZ community, a College in Aberdeen and an Island off the Scottish Coast.