Tributes to founder of Fernhurst scheme

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Tributes have been paid to Arthur Waitt, a co-founder of the ground-breaking Fernhurst Tele-Cottage which brought computers to the community, at his funeral at the village church.

Mr Waitt died after a long illness at the age of 82.

Born in Edinburgh, he gained a BSc degree at Edinburgh University, before going on to Cambridge and to Trinidad and Tobago where he gained diplomas in agricultural sciences and tropical agriculture.

These skills were put to good use working for the Foreigh and Commonwealth Office in Nigeria from 1956. When Nigeria gained its independence, he stayed on until 1964. During his time there he became one of the world’s leading experts on yams, and his key to the yam is at Kew Gardens for use in scientific recognition of the plant.

Returning to England, Mr Waitt lived at Haslemere with his wife, Elsie, and worked for Plant Protection at Fernhurst.

The couple moved to the village with their three children, Colin, Keith and Alison, in 1970.

Mr Waitt’s job at the start with Plant Protection was as a roving scout.

Later Mr Waitt’s diplomatic skills and personal charm were put to good use when he was given the job of looking after visitors, many of whom were from behind the Iron Curtain and had a security advisor with them.

His sense of humour, meticulous preparation, calm argument and organisational skills were appreciated not only by his employers but also in Fernhurst where his community spirit was demonstrated.

In 1990 he organised the company’s Fernhurst Open Day which attracted nearly 10,000 visitors. He served on the parish council, was a school governor at Fernhurst Primary School and Midhurst Intermediate School and chairman of the governors of both.

Among his many achievements, in the early 1990s Mr Waitt was one of the leaders in setting up the Fernhurst Tele-Cottage, a unique scheme to bring modern computer services to a rural community.

It led to the establishment of the Midhurst Resource Centre.