Grandfather led to big honour

Last updated 12:00 31/12/2013

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His grandfather brought the game to New Zealand, so when Neil Monro was asked to be involved in the founding of the New Zealand Rugby Museum he could hardly say no.

More than 40 years later Monro is still the museum's treasurer and today his efforts have been recognised with a Queen's Service Medal in the New Year honours list.

The former accountant said the museum was the first of its kind.

"Nobody had done a rugby museum as such, we were trawling totally uncharted waters, really."

Monro was approached to be involved in the museum by founders John Sinclair and Dr Fred Spurdle prior to its opening in 1970.

The Palmerston North-based museum started as a display in a cabinet in the waiting area of Peter Cain's photography studio on Cuba St. As the collection grew it was housed in several locations before moving to its new home at Te Manawa in 2011.

Monro said there had been challenges along the way.

"It was a learning experience for me, even though I was an accountant."

After the opening of the new museum at Te Manawa, a statue of Monro's grandfather Charles Monro was unveiled near the museum's entrance.

"We had a family reunion to coincide with the unveiling of the statue - we all gathered at the Manawatu Golf Club where Charles Monro was the first president."

In 1870, at the age of 19 and living in Nelson, Monro organised the first game of rugby played in New Zealand. He had learned the game while at school in England.

Charles Monro moved to Palmerston North in 1889 where he lived until his death in 1933. His grandson said he was surprised when he learned he had been selected for the award as he thought there were others more worthy.

"I'm just a back-room boy - there are people out front there who do an awful lot at the same time."

Monro's citation says he has "strengthened the museum financially and offered countless voluntary hours hosting guided tours and public meet and greets".

A member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Monro has contributed to several non-profit organisations through his pro-bono annual auditing of their accounts. He has also been treasurer of the Palmerston North Speladd organisation for the last 21 years, and served 19 years as a trustee of Huntley School in Marton.

Monro said that soon after he retired as an accountant he was asked to be treasurer of Speladd. He said he took on the position so he could offer something back to the community.

"There are some passionate people in Speladd who are dealing with people with learning difficulties, behavioural difficulties and dyslexia."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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