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Mural Unveiling

posted 15 Mar 2016, 20:48 by OC Web   [ updated 15 Mar 2016, 20:48 ]
March 10th saw the formal unveiling of the mural project which commenced in mid 2015. Art students Siana Andrews, Kyana Barrett, Kahu Edwards, Rosana Kata, Susannah Kyle, Chris Neill, Kararaina Rewi and Paeone Thatcher worked on the project under the direction of local artist, Wallace Trickett.  (Watch the Video here)

This particular date was chosen for the unveiling as it was also the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Ōtaki in WWI – the subject of two of the murals and the beginning of the story which has resulted in the tradition of the Ōtaki Scholar and, more recently, the Sander Scholar.

On 10th March 1917 the New Zealand Shipping Company’s SS Ōtaki, commanded by Captain Archibald Bisset Smith, engaged in battle with German raider Moewe. During the action the Ōtaki scored several direct hits on the Moewe, causing considerable damage and starting a fire which lasted for three days. The SS Ōtaki herself was, however, irreparably damaged and Captain Bisset Smith gave orders for the boats to be lowered to allow the crew to be rescued. He himself remained on board and went down with his ship at the end of what was described as “a duel as gallant as naval history can relate”. Captain Smith was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery.

In 1937 Captain Bisset Smith’s family presented the Ōtaki 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 New Zealand. Firm links have been established between Robert Gordon’s and Ōtaki Colleges, with Ōtaki becoming the first port of call for the Ōtaki 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 and over the last three years each of the students to whom it has been awarded has come away better for their experience. It has inspired them to pursue their life goals and given them a determination to travel and grow their understanding of the world around them.

The murals have been mounted at the back of the College hall where they will remain as a record both of the courage shown by a Naval hero in WWI and of the links that have been forged between Ōtaki College and Robert Gordon’s College in Scotland. They are a significant addition to the fabric of College life. In embracing the tradition of the Ōtaki Scholar we are embracing the values of courage, commitment, resilience and the ability to face adversity when required. The murals raise awareness in our students of what it means to be chosen as the Sander Scholar. They realise that to represent Ōtaki College overseas they must show outstanding character and leadership throughout their time at school.

For the murals to become a reality required the input of many people over many months. I would like to thank ex pupil Chris Parkin, who provided funding, Wallace Trickett, who provided inspiration and tutelage, Karen Hamilton for her ongoing commitment to the project, Hammer Hardware, The Riverstone Café and XŌtaki Alumni Trust for providing materials and Shelley Macrae for her funding of the Sander Scholarship.

I would also like to mention two of the people who have had input to the tradition of the Ōtaki Scholar over many years – Rupene Waaka, Chairperson of Nga Hapu o Ōtaki and Rex Kerr, ex Principal of Ōtaki College and author of “A Ship, A Man & A Boy”.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari, he toa takitini. Valour is not that of the individual but that of all those that support us.

Postscript
Chris Parkin, who provided the original funding for the murals and spoke at the unveiling ceremony, was so impressed by the outcome of the project and by the talent exhibited by the students involved, that he has offered to set up an Arts Scholarship to be awarded each year to an outstanding senior art student.