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Special occasion . . . Planting a purple Norway maple tree in memory of Sid Hurst are (from left) his daughter-in-law Gaynor Hurst and children Lex Hurst, Gwen Allan and Russell Hurst. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

You do not have to be a great scholar to do well in life, Waitaki Boys’ High School deputy rector Roger van Booma says.

Sir Angus Tait and Sid Hurst, who were remembered on Saturday at a memorial tree planting at the Oamaru secondary school, are two former pupils who embody that message.

Sir Angus, who attended Waitaki Boys’ from 1931 to 1936, founded Tait Communications and was a key figure in the development of New Zealand’s high-end technology sector.

Mr Hurst, who also attended Waitaki Boys’ in the early 1930s, was visionary farmer and pioneer of irrigation in North Otago.

But looking through Waitakian magazines, Mr van Booma said, in terms of what was recorded, both boys were “unremarkable”.

The only recording of Sir Angus was in the Wireless Club notes.

“Tait has been carrying out some interesting experimenting with some recording apparatus. He has had very good results and is expecting to obtain even better results with a new recording apparatus he is building at present. For the annual football dance, he helped the club install an amplifier with a microphone line running to the dance orchestra. This was the first year an amplifier had been used at the dance,” the report read.

But quoting former rector Frank Milner, Mr van Booma said “a school should turn out citizens of whom it may be proud not scholars”.

Sir Angus and Mr Hurst also fought in World War 2 serving with the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

“They were born at the end of World War1, they’ve grown up through the Depression and then both fought in World War 2,” Mr van Booma said.

“One of the current school values is about resilience and there was an era that really, truly taught resilience.”

The tree planting on Saturday, Arbor Day, was a special opportunity to celebrate two old boys of the school and inspire a new generation of Waitaki Boys’ pupils, Mr van Booma said.

“We’re wanting to regrow the spirit of the school – that’s really the core of what we’re doing at the moment.”

The old Waitaki Boys’ science block was named after Sir Angus, but it was decommissioned and demolished in 2019.

When the school contacted Sir Angus’ family about it, his love of trees came up in the conversation and a Spanish oak is now planted in his memory at the school.

Sir Angus’ daughter, Deborah Tait, who helped plant the tree, said her father had “such fond memories” of the school and Oamaru.

Mr Hurst’s great-great nephew, Will Plunkett, a current Waitaki Boys’ pupil, spoke at Saturday’s ceremony, before a memorial Norway maple was planted.