Otaki Scholar Visits August 2014

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Otaki College principal, Andy Fraser, Otaki Scholar 2014 Hamish Atkins and Otaki College Head Boy Hamish McMillan, listen to the korero during the powhiri at Raukawa Marae

A recent visitor to Otaki College was Hamish Atkins, Head Boy from Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen Scotland, the 71st Otaki Scholar to visit New Zealand, since the visits began in 1937.

Hamish was welcomed to Otaki and NZ with a powhiri at Raukawa Marae, where he experienced his introduction to Maori culture, from the official calling onto the marae, greetings, speeches and waiata – song from each speaker. College principal, Andy Fraser sat beside him and translated what was being said during the welcoming korero. When it came time for Hamish to respond to his welcome, he spoke of the founding of Robert Gordon’s College and the NZ Shipping Company’s merchant ship Otaki which was sunk after a skirmish with the German armed cruiser Moewe in 1917 during World War 1. He concluded with a verse from the song The Flower of Scotland.

Following the formalities, lunch was served, before the official party went to the War Memorial at Otaki School where Hamish laid a wreath at the memorial commemorating Otaki men who lost their lives during WW1 and 2. Next was a tour of some of Otaki’s historical sites including Pukekaraka and St Mary’s Church and Rangiatea Church, ending at the Otaki River to see the river after which the ship Otaki was named.

“A completely unique insight to Maori culture,” he said of the powhiri. “It was good to have it at the beginning (of the NZ visit). Being talked to in Maori when I don’t understand it gave an understanding that’s what it was like in the early days! Visiting the Otaki River, where it all began – the naming of the ship after the river, was almost like a pilgrimage.”

He thought the marae wharenui – meeting house, was very pretty with all the decorations – tuku tuku panels, and carvings.

Day two was a trip and sleepover on Kapiti Island.

“Kapiti Island is amazing, though I was surprised there were no native mammals apart from a couple of bats,” he said of his visit there. “The views when you get up high are spectacular and the bird life is great; seeing a kiwi wandering around the forest, we could hear them and then we stumbled on one! The weka were funny and the takahe – they were great, very impressive! It’s the sort of wildlife I’ve never seen before.”

Back in Otaki, the next adventure was a ride on one of the Otaki Surf Lifesaving Club’s IRB.

“Yeah , it was very exciting, we got landed some wet seats,” he laughed. “There was a lot of spray but good fun! A unique experience , I’ve never tried before, Scotland has no surf clubs.”

Otaki College Head Boy, Hamish McMillan hosted his namesake Hamish during his time in Otaki and accompanied him on his visits around Otaki and to Kapiti Island.

After time at Otaki College on Friday morning, Hamish left for the South Island where he was to visit Blenheim, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin, before heading back north to Wanganui, Wellington, Napier and Auckland, where he visited colleges in each city.

The Otaki Scholar visits each town the NZ Shipping Company’s ships traded at, with each ship named after the town’s river or port.

Hamish finished his school year in June and hopes to attend Bristol University to study engineering, beginning in October.

By MARGARET ANDREWS