James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Welcome to Meadsville, the town of legends

Colin Meads signs autographs for Te Kuiti children after the town's renaming ceremony. Photo / Christine Cornege
Colin Meads signs autographs for Te Kuiti children after the town's renaming ceremony. Photo / Christine Cornege

New Zealand's greatest All Black, Sir Colin Meads, remembers a slightly uncomfortable meeting he and his younger brother Stan had with the Queen Mother during a tour of Britain in 1963.

The Meads brothers were summoned with the Clarke brothers, Don and Ian, to chat with Her Royal Highness about New Zealand.

But Meads said he hated telling people where he was from because of the sideways looks he used to get from people who had no idea where Te Kuiti was.

"I used to always say to people 'it's a little town about 50 miles south of Hamilton'," he said.

"The Queen Mother said 'I'm going to the Waitomo Caves next year' and I said 'ah well, that'll do me'."

Yesterday the Meads brothers were honoured in a renaming ceremony for the town that Te Kuiti locals hope will draw people to their town to visit during the Rugby World Cup.

From now until the end of the tournament, the small King Country town has renamed itself Meadsville to celebrate its two favourite sons and their rugby exploits.

In the centre of town on Rora St stands an outdoor picture gallery with several life-sized vintage photographs chronicling the brothers' playing days, when they locked the All Black scrum together in 11 matches.

Across the road, the local hairdresser has called itself "Pinetree Trimmers", the BNZ "Pinetree's Piggybank" and the Te Kuiti Pharmacy now promotes itself as the place to get your "Meadicine".

The Meads brothers, who were at yesterday's ceremony with their families, were clearly humbled by the ceremony.

"It's quite amazing, really, it's all very flattering. I thought this would have been more for Colin than myself, to be honest," said Stan Meads, 73.

"People around here still call him Colin, you won't get people calling him Sir. It's either Colin or Tree."

Waitomo District Mayor Brian Hannah said the town's renaming was a way of celebrating the brothers' rugby accolades.

"This is a perfect way of celebrating their contribution. Pinetree has done so much for our district and for so many others, he's really dedicated his life to serving so many communities."

Waitete Rugby Club co-patron Leo Dempsey, 82, said he watched the brothers' rugby careers starting back in the early 1950s when they first joined the club.

Mr Dempsey said the town took a lot of pride in their two great All Blacks, who can still be seen most Fridays at the Waitomo Club having a beer with their mates, when Sir Colin is not on one of his many speaking engagements.

"When there was an All Black team announced you would always listen for the name Meads, or if it came out in the newspaper you'd always look out for the name Meads. Of course it was good to see one of their names but bloody great to see two names."

Colin Meads' youngest daughter Shelly Mitchell, who turned 40 yesterday, said her father had many visitors over the years from all over the world wanting to speak to the rugby legend.

She had received several calls from an Otago group called the number five club who regularly call him at midnight on his birthday for a yarn.

"People probably think 'oh it's Colin Meads, he won't be in the phonebook' but of course he is."

Colin Meads said he would be busy during the Rugby World Cup with speaking engagements so visits were probably unlikely.

He said Saturday's loss to Australia wasn't a bad thing and New Zealand should still be favoured to win the cup.

"When they beat the All Blacks, Aussie get too cocky," he said.

"When they came out for the first game this year they were cocky because they beat us in Hong Kong last year, all the talk was 'we know how to beat you'. They'll be like that now."

- NZ Herald

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