Setting Sail at Ōtaki College

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Ōtaki artist Wallace Trickett and the Ōtaki College art students with the SS ŌOtaki mural. standing: Mr Trickett, Kararaina Rewi, Kahu Edwards, Siana Andrews and Paeone Thatcher. Sitting: Kyana Barrett, Chris Neill, Susannah Kyle, Rosana Kata and Samantha Ratai

A series of murals depicting the ties between Ōtaki College and Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen were unveiled recently at a college assembly.

The murals are the work of a group of 2015 year 10 students, under guidance and support from Ōtaki artist, Wallace Trickett. The five murals show the ship Ōtaki at full steam, Robert Gordon’s College main building, Captain Archibald Bissett Smith, his Victoria Cross, the College coat of arms along with the original college building “the Auld Hoose”, the carvings at the front gate of Ōtaki College, the Ōtaki College crest and motto and Sander Tie logo.

“Today is the 99th anniversary of the sinking of SS Ōtaki, on March 10 1917,” Principal, Andy Fraser told the assembly. “Creating traditions is important, it helps us to achieve goals. Set your goals high it can be achievable.”

He spoke of the uneven battle between the Ōtaki and the heavily armed German raider Moewe and Captain Archibald Bissett Smith ordering his crews’ evacuation before he went down with his ship. He was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. An old boy of Robert Gordon’s College, his family presented the Ōtaki Shield scholarship to the college in 1936, to be awarded each year to the head boy to travel to New Zealand. The NZ Shipping Company asked to be part of the programme, offering free return travel to NZ on one of its ships, though travel was cancelled between 1940–48 during World War II. Now the Ōtaki Scholar travels by air. Over the last few years the Ōtaki Scholar starts his visit in Ōtaki at the Raukawa Marae, where he is formerly welcomed to Ōtaki and begins his New Zealand visit from here.

Three years ago, Ōtaki College launched a reciprocal visit to Scotland, the Sander Scholarship, which is awarded annually to the top all round student. It is named after the Sander Tie Company which sponsors the award.

Among guests at the unveiling was former Ōtaki College student, Chris Parkin.

“Fifty years ago (the college) seemed a great deal bigger,” Mr Parkin, former owner of the Museum Hotel, told the assembly. “Looking at you students out there – none of you would have been born then and most of your parents were not born when I was here! It’s very different today. I am so impressed with today I want to put something back into Ōtaki College. Straight off the cuff — a permanent scholarship for a promising art student to use for study or travel!”

“That announcement came as a complete and utter surprise,” a delighted Mr Fraser said later. The details of the scholarship are yet to be finalised.

Mr Trickett also had a gift for the college, a painting of the four ships named Ōtaki, the first a sailing ship plying between England and New Zealand from 1875 –1891 to the fourth ship named Ōtaki which was built in1952 traded until 1975 and was sold for scrap in 1979.