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Sir James: The fourth icon

Caren Wattie clearly remembers her grandad Sir James Wattie; and is rapt that her forebear’s contribution to the region has been recognised in the Hastings Icons series.

The portrait of Sir James went up on the curved wall outside the ANZ bank on Heretaunga St this morning (September 28).

Ms Wattie was on hand to see the art work applied to the wall and said it was “fantastic” on many levels. “It is amazing to see him recognised so publicly and the whole icons project is marvellous for the vitality of the city.”

She said the hat worn by Sir James in the portrait was particularly apt. “He always wore a hat.”

The Hastings Icons series celebrates the people and things which have helped make Hastings the place it is today. Each of the art works, all by Adrian Thornton, is accompanied by a written explanation and a QR-code which people can scan to find out more information.

Sir James is the fourth in the first series. Portraits of artists Dick Frizzell and Rita Angus are already up on walls in the city, as is a work depicting an apple tree.

Sir James is best known in Hastings, and across New Zealand, as the founder of the Wattie’s cannery.

He was not involved in the food industry when the first seeds of an idea came to him as a young man but he saw a gap in the market and he and some business partners set up their fledgling cannery.

By the 1950s the words Wattie’s and canned food were synonymous in New Zealand and by the 1960s his tinned food was being exported.

Industry was not his only claim to fame however; he was also a generous philanthropist.

For more on the story of Sir James Wattie see:

4 October 2017

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