Monday, November 01, 2010

Charles Monro

I just visited Palmerston North. The city is not particularly exciting. This is a city that was put on the map internationally when Monty Python's John Cleese declared that "if you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick". Palmerston North responded by naming a local dump "Mount Cleese".

But I digress. I came to Palmerston North because it hosts the Rugby Museum of New Zealand. I thought that there, I might be able to get a nice shot related to early rugby in the country. In particular, I was hoping to find some memorabilia from Charles Monro, the "father of New Zealand rugby", the man who organized the very first rugby game played in New Zealand, in 1870. When I arrived to the old, small museum, a very nice gentleman greeted me. He asked me where I came from and what I was doing in New Zealand. I was the only visitor so we chit-chatted for a while. When I explained that I was shooting a story about rugby he was truly sorry to inform me that they were moving to a better location and almost all their best memorabilia had already been put in boxes. I was starting to feel like John Cleese. I mentioned how I had wanted to take photos of some of Charles Monro's items, which would have worked nicely for my story. At that point, a woman rushed out of the back office. If you are interested in the history of rugby in New Zealand, she said, you will like to know who this gentleman's grandfather was.

At the end, I got to photograph my Charles Monro "item". The best one. His own grandson.

Neil Monro, grandson of Charles Monro, browsing a book with a portrait of his grandfather in it.       © nacho hernandez


  1. alastair10:54 PM

    The book that Neil Monro is browsing in your photo is best identified as it is the 2008 (and only) biography of Charles Monro, titled:

    "Monro: the Life and Times of the Man who gave New Zealand Rugby"

    As Neil, 80yo, is not only a grandson (of 5 + 5 granddaughters) but as he also the Museum's first and only Treasurer (of 41 years continuous and meritorious service), I do hope that he took the opportunity as NZRM Treasurer to encourage you to buy a copy of "Monro" while you were visiting the Museum (NZ$50 only) - and that Neil also autographed it for you too! Otherwise, I'm quite sure that can be arranged and we can have it posted to you in Manila.

    As to your Rugby doco about rugby in NZ, I'd be happy to assist you further - kindly email me asap with what you are trying to shoot etc before departing on 15 Nov in NZ, and i'll do what I can to help. Thanks.

    best wishes,

    alastair gaisford
    Neil Monro's cousin,
    and 1 of 30 of
    CJ Monro's great grandchildren

    Born & raised in Palmerston North, and I'm OK!!

  2. Hi Alastair,

    Thanks so much for your comment and for your very kind email (which I am replying to privately).

    It was a very, very nice surprise to meet Neil. As I said, we got to chat for a little while which I did with great pleasure. Regardless of his Monro heritage he is a very kind man. He did encourage me to buy the book and I didn't buy it, mainly because I don't have much space to carry it around as I continue my trip. I promised I would visit the museum again next year when they open at the new location, so I'll try to get it and have it signed then.

    I hope you (or other natives of Palmerston North) didn't take offense in my Cleese comment. I actually think Palmerston North is not as bad as he painted it, but I find him funny and the city's response was not bad either.

    Thanks again and I'll be in touch via email.


  3. Nacho, espero que compres dos ejemplares y me traigas uno que te pagaré debidamente por el medio que elijas, incluso una opípara comida en algún lugar poco sofisticado y de condumio abundante, que nos conocemos.

  4. Tendra que ser la proxima vez. Ya no estoy por alli y no queria cargar con el libro el resto de mi viaje. Creo que en invierno (suyo) volvere.

  5. Voy a rallar el parquet con los colmillos. La historia sólo podría ser mejor si le hubieras hecho un retrato a Charles Monro himself.

    P.S: No les hagas fotos a los delanteros, por Dios

  6. Ja, ja. Los delanteros dan bien en las fotos, y estos ademas son de los que se mueven y saltan.

    Eres el Ignacio que yo creo, famoso por la tecnica del "armadillo" como medio mele?

    Saludos en cualquier caso.

  7. Anonymous7:14 PM

    I am also a descendent of Sir David Monro and our
    son currently plays in the First XV for Nelson College and will be involved in the reenactment of the first game of rugby to be played in Nelson in September. I've recently read that there is to be a Monro reunion and I wondered how I could get some details of this. Any help gratefully appreciated. Lynn Diamond-Winter

  8. Hi Lynn,

    I think that the person who can inform you is Alastair, in the first comment, who is involved in the Monro reunion. If you want to send me your email I can put you in contact with him.

    You can contact me through my website