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The rugby lessons of Alexander McBain

Swindale Shield | 12 April 2018 | Club Rugby

The rugby lessons of Alexander McBain

"Playing the game of life, as it should be played"

Above: Alexander McBain, top left, Manager of the 1903 Horowhenua Representative Team.

In 1886, the small Horowhenua settlement of Manakau was created around the first railway station built on the new Wellington to Manawatu line. It was also the place where the educator, who is remembered in the McBain Memorial Shield that is being played for on Saturday between Petone and Hutt Old Boys Marist in Wellington Premier club rugby first developed his love of the game of rugby football.

Alexander McBain was born in Scotland in 1868 and emigrated to Wellington in 1882. He obtained work as a teacher at the Te Aro Infant School in 1886, before being appointed Headmaster at Te Horo School in 1895.

McBain married Violet Hemina Carte in 1898 and they had two sons (Hector and Gordon) and two daughters (Violet and Mavis). He moved with his family to Manakau in 1903, where he became headmaster at Manakau School. He is remembered for forming the Manakau Lawn Tennis Club as well as being a member of the Hui Mai Football Club, which was also based at the settlement.


McBain became a rugby referee and a member of the Horowhenua Rugby Football Union’s Management Committee from 1902 for 12 years. Over that period, for many years he was the sole selector of the Horowhenua Representative Team including being joint-selector of the combined Manawatu-Horowhenua team which played the touring Anglo-Welsh side in 1908.

In 1906 he was elected President of the Horowhenua Rugby Football Union, a position he held until 1914 when he moved to the Hutt Valley as a result of being promoted to the role of Headmaster at the newly formed Eastern Hutt School, comprising 300 pupils. He continued in his role as Headmaster of Eastern Hutt for 17 years, over which time the school roll doubled, until his retirement in August 1931, following a serious illness. In total, he served as a teacher for 45 years.

McBain became a member of the Lower Hutt Borough Council in 1921 as well as serving as a Vice-President of the Wellington Rugby Football Union and President of the Hutt Football Club, for which he was later made a Life Member.

McBain unsuccessfully stood for the Lower Hutt Mayoralty in May 1933 and suddenly and sadly died later the same month. He is buried in the Taita Cemetery.

The McBain Memorial Shield was first played for in 1934 and was donated by Hector McBain (Alexander’s son) and Thomas Bevan from Manakau. It is a memorial which straddles both the Horowhenua-Kapiti and Wellington Rugby Football Unions in terms of its rugby history.

On McBain’s retirement, the Mayor of the time, William Thomas Strand said “to some men we build a memorial, but it is given to very few to build such a memorial as Mr McBain has built”. In speaking of the students McBain taught over his career, Strand said, “they have learned something more than reading or writing; they have learned to play the game of life as it should be played”.

And that is a sentiment we will hopefully see in Saturday’s McBain Shield match.

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