Bob Forsyth, possibly the only one-armed man to referee a rugby international, has died in Wellington, aged 81.

He did almost all of his refereeing in Taranaki, where he was ranked No 1 for many seasons through the 1950s and 1960s.

The highlight of his career came in 1958 when he was awarded two matches on Australia's tour of New Zealand.

He refereed the tour opener, which Hawkes Bay won 8-6, and was in charge of the third test at Auckland, which the All Blacks won 17-8.

Forsyth, who lost his arm during service in World War II, was well respected by his fellow referees and the players he was in charge of, a contemporary, Roy Lithgow, of Stratford, said.

"He had a genial personality and never got offside with anyone," said Lithgow, a life member of the Taranaki Rugby Football Union and Taranaki Rugby Referees' Association.

Forsyth moved to Wellington in 1969.

He is survived by his wife, Chris, and four children.