A funeral will be held in Napier on Friday for former Commonwealth Games bronze-medal boxer, Hawke's Bay Olympic Games representative, Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby representative and retired accountant and orchardist Paddy Donovan.

Mr Donovan (Thomas Patrick Donovan, born in Napier on December 23, 1936) died surrounded by family in Napier on Sunday, aged 81.

He won lightweight (57-60kg) bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games, when known as the British Empire Games, in Cardiff in 1958 and Perth in 1962.

He also boxed twice at the Olympic Games, in Melbourne in 1956, at age 19, and Tokyo in 1964, but was a first-round elimination on both occasions.


In London in 1960, working during the day, studying accountancy at night school and occasionally boxing in the East End, he was a controversial omission from the New Zealand team for the 1960 Olympics, despite nominated by the New Zealand Boxing Association.

But he spent six weeks in Rome anyway, witnessing the famous hour in which Murray Halberg and Peter Snell won their gold medals on the athletics track, and enjoying an audience with Pope John XXIII.

A highlight of the 1964 games, as he would tell people, was sitting two rows behind actress Elizabeth Taylor.

In 1962 he joined Hastings accountancy firm Denton, Denton and Mackay. He became a partner six years later and worked there for 50 years.

"He stopped coming in every day in 2012," said Dan Druzianic, managing director of the firm now known as Moore Stephens Markham.

He had known Mr Donovan since about 1988 and said he was a "great friend and mentor to all of us here".

Mr Donovan would visit the office regularly, right up to the Monday before he died, "just to see what everybody was up to", he said.

Mr Donovan grew up on the family farm at Meeanee and went to Napier's Marist Brothers School, where boxing was a compulsory sport for boys.

This was much to the delight of father and former boxing champion Tommy "The Fighting Fireman" Donovan, a former railways worker who followed a 1927 New Zealand amateur featherweight title with 46 professional fights from 1929 to 1935.

He was head boy at St John's College, Hastings, which he was attending when he also won the national featherweight title, at the age of 17 in 1954.

He then won the lightweight title in 1956, 1957, 1959 and 1962, and the coveted Jameson Belt as the most scientific senior boxer at the national amateur championships in Hamilton in 1956, Timaru in 1959, and Gisborne in 1962.

In 2008 he was inducted into the Hawke's Bay Sports Hall of Fame, also recognising his 1955-59 Hawke's Bay representative rugby career, which included playing at first five-eighths in the Magpies' 1959 match against the British Isles, although he was more regularly a halfback.

While continuing in accountancy, Mr Donovan established Plumpton Park Estate on the family farm on Brookfields Rd, Meeanee, and in 2001 formed Ballydooley Cider Ltd. In 2006 it established The Filter Room in partnership with Hawke's Bay Independent Brewery, which had moved to the Meeanee site from the Onekawa industrial zone in Napier.

Mr Druzianic said Mr Donovan maintained the discipline of his boxing days throughout his work career, in the office about 6am, often also on Saturdays, and he was also seen "all day" on Sunday at a roadside fruit and vegetable shop on the orchard.

He is survived by sister Theresa, wife Patricia, their sons and daughters Patrick, Katie, Mike and Brigid, and eight grandchildren. A vigil will be held tomorrow at St Patrick's Church where the funeral will be held on Friday, starting at 12.05pm.