'That was Brownie': Taranaki great bows out
He was an All Black - arguably Taranaki's greatest ever player - but politically correct, Ross Handley Brown was not.
That was made abundantly clear by his mate Mark Johnson, who delivered a honest after-match speech in front of a packed St Mary's Cathedral yesterday.
"PC, to RH, were the initials of someone's name or the name of a racehorse," Johnson said.
"When I introduced him to my soon to be son-in-law, before I could announce his name he was calling him Kapil Dev. Yes, my future son-in-law was an Indian. That was RH, that was the man."
Known as Pascoe, RH or Brownie to most, Brown died earlier this week at the age of 79.
A gifted first five-eighth or midfielder for Taranaki, Brown went on to play 25 matches for the All Blacks, including 16 tests from 1955 to 1962.
His 144 games for Taranaki spanned two of the the province's greatest Ranfurly Shield eras, while his greatest contribution to New Zealand rugby was undoubtedly the leading hand he played in the All Blacks' first ever test series win over the Springboks in 1956.
Johnson pointed out that no-one was immune to Brown's nicknames, not his team-mates, work colleagues or even his adored family.
Most of the men he called Cracker, Dynamite, Bugle and Legs sat near a casket that pictured some of Brown's greatest loves - rugby, racing and bowls.
But Brown was frugal, and as one of his daughters pointed out, if he knew the price of his casket, he would have refused to pay it.
Johnson recalled how he first met Brown on his building site and it was not long before he was trying to persuade him, with the offer of a job, to leave the Star club and move across town to his beloved New Plymouth Old Boys.
"His greatest pleasure was when Andy Slater and his team kept winning championships, year after year after year.
He just loved it and he would say to me, ‘Ace, if Andy keeps playing, we'll keep winning titles'."
Brown had the common touch, too, and loved having a laugh with most who crossed his path.
In the days when he visited the New Plymouth Aquatic Centre he would greet similar-aged women with a "good morning old boilers", which always brought a laugh, according to Johnson.
"They loved him and he loved them, that was Brownie."
Former Taranaki and All Blacks team-mate Neil Wolfe also paid tribute, signing off his eulogy with a salute "to the greatest player Taranaki has produced."
Son Andrew led the tributes from his immediate family before he also signed off with his message: "Rest in peace, your job here is done mate."
Chocks away, Pascoe.
Taranaki Daily News