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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 11 (February 1, 1936)

Panorama of the Playground — Peter Munro—Winner of Sixty-eight Championship Events

page 63

Panorama of the Playground
Peter Munro—Winner of Sixty-eight Championship Events.

Forty-Four years ago in the little village called Tongue, in County Sutherland, Scotland, there was ushered into the world a wee Scot who was destined to win more New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association championship medals than any other athlete has managed to accumulate.

To-day, Peter Munro, reigns supreme as the champion shot putter in the Dominion, a title he has held—with breaks when he did not defend it—since he scored his first win in the season of 1919–1920. Munro has never been pressed to do his best when competing against the strongest competition New Zealand has had to offer and his outstanding efforts have invariably been given when opposed by visiting stars.

It was in September, 1892, that Munro was born, and, like most Scots, he soon participated in the village sports. He was always a husky lad, and was undoubted champion of the village before he had attained manhood. His success on the village green fired his enthusiasm, and in 1910, just before his eighteenth birthday, Munro entered for and won the Junior Championship of Scotland. Besides winning that title he was placed first in four events—shot putt with 40 ft.; hammer throw, with 110 ft.; tossing the caber, and catch-as-catch-can wrestling. The hammer throwing was contested in the old Scottish manner, a wooden handle being used instead of the present style which consists of a wire and swivel handle attached to the weight. In the wrestling bouts, Peter had to wrestle six times before he won the final bout.

With the junior championship in his keeping, young Peter Munro was repeatedly challenged by the “strong men” of surrounding villages but, without exception, held his own. Among the men he defeated before celebrating his eighteenth birthday was Starkey, later to become one of Scotland's most successful athletes.

The history of shot putting and hammer throwing is replete with champions of Irish or Scottish parentage, and a further search through the ages will reveal that almost nine out of every ten champions in these events have been members of a police force! It was only natural, therefore, for Munro to gravitate to the ranks of the law-enforcers and, still under the age of 18 years, we find him wearing the uniform of the Clydebank Police Force. During his two years
Peter Munro, N.Z.'s veteran champion, with two club-mates.

Peter Munro, N.Z.'s veteran champion, with two club-mates.

of service in the ranks he met many tough men—not in competitive wrestling but in street brawls and such like–and at the same time found opportunities to continue his competition in field events.

Then came the urge to travel. Leaving Scotland in 1912, Peter arrived at Perth a month later and linked up with the West Australian Police Force. Once more he figured successfully in field sport and, in his first competition, he succeeded in defeating the hitherto unbeaten shot-putting champion of the State, one O'Sullivan, a tramway inspector. Remaining but twelve months in that part of Australia, Munro won the shot and hammer titles and figured in the Police tug-of-war team which won the West Australian title.

From Perth, Munro travelled to New Zealand, arriving in August, 1914. Within a few months he had made a name for himself by winning the principal events at the New Year gathering at Timaru. He won the shot putt with 46 ft. 2 ins., the lightweight shot putt and the lightweight and heavyweight hammer throwing events. In April, 1915, Munro linked up with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and was drafted to Trentham. Here he caught the eye of Jack M'Holm, another prolific title-winner. There are few men in New Zealand more capable of judging the possibilities of a field event athlete than Jack M'Holm and from a cutting in the “Sydney Referee,” I give an extract from a letter he wrote to that “Grand Old Man Of Athletics” — Mr. R. W. Coombes. The letter reads: “I have come across a future champion. His name is Munro, and if you don't hear more of him I'll be surprised.”

Leaving New Zealand with the Fifth Reinforcements, Munro was stationed for a time in Egypt, where he was mentioned in despatches for good work in the Canal Zone. Military duties were interspersed with company sports, and the name of Munro soon became well-known among the troops. A bad attack of diptheria sent Munro to Lemnos instead of Gallipoli, and in 1916 he reached England. At first he was stationed in Brockenhurst but later went to France with the Red Cross contingent. At Passchendaele he received severe head wounds and, after recuperating in England, he was, for a time, in the Officers’ Training College at Cambridge. Here he had plenty of opportunities to participate in field sport. On one occasion he won the shot putt with 43 ft. 2 ins.; the high jump with 5 ft. 6 ins.; and throwing the cricket ball with 110 yds. He also played for the New Zealand Rugby team at the Training College, but this was because they were short of a full team and not because he was a star performer!

Commissioned in 1918, Munro joined the New Zealand Division, and in July of the same year was selected to represent New Zealand at the American-British Empire Services' Sports at Stamford Bridge.

At this meeting, Munro established his best performance—he won the shot putt with an effort of 49 ft. 7 ins. Among those he defeated was Starkey, his old rival of 1910. Peter's effort with the shot was only 17 inches below the world record, then held by Ralph Rose. He was a fit man in those days and to use his own words, “Felt like putting the shot right out of the ground.” To win that event Munro page break had to defeat the best Americans as well as the pick of the British Empire. For his win he received a handsome gold medal. This medal is a work of art. Beautifully designed, the upper portion is surmounted by the American “Stars and Stripes” and the Union Jack. Red, white and blue lines across the centre of the medal contain the title of the meeting. Beneath this appears a fern leaf, maple leaf, and thistle, oak and shamrock leaves. The back of the medal is engraved: “P. Munro, 1st Putting the Shot, 49 ft. 7 ins.” It has not been generally known that Munro has approached the 50 ft. mark with the shot, and this medal is proof enough that he has never given his best performances in New Zealand.

In 1919, Munro returned to New Zealand. He joined the Police Force at Wellington and became a member of the Wellington Amateur Athletic Club, for which club he has been a most consistent points’ scorer in championship contests.

Travel seemed to be part and parcel of Munro's make-up, and in 1920 we find him back in Australia, but this time as a member of the New Zealand athletic team to compete at the Australian and New Zealand Track and Field Championships. Winning the shot putt with 43 ft. 4 ins., and placed second to his old mentor M'Holm, also of New Zealand, in the hammer throw, he justified his inclusion. The New Zealand team that year comprised Munro, M'Holm, Harvey, Wilson, Sievwright and Jack Lindsay, with Mr. A. T. Davies as manager. This team scored four wins and five seconds, and was one of the best ever to wear the Silver Fern in Australia. Lindsay, New Zealand's outstanding sprinter, was in Australia at the time but linked up with the New Zealand team. He did not run as well as anticipated and, shortly after this, turned professional and figured in a sensational race in the Stawell Gift, the richest sprint race in the world.

In all, Peter Munro had won five Australasian championships when the meetings were abandoned in 1927.

When the discus throwing event was included on the New Zealand championship programme, in the 1919–1920 season, Munro proved to be the winner with 114 ft. 8 ins., but to show the improvement made later, it might be mentioned here that his pupil, Earl M'Clune, who met a tragic death in Wellington last December, had thrown the discus past the 134 ft. mark only three weeks before meeting his death. Munro was confident that this fine type of a lad would take the title off him but, good sportsmanship prevailing he had taught him all he knew. A typical Munro gesture.

A brief summary of Munro's performances in championship meetings will reveal just what a consistent performer he has been. Here are his New Zealand championship wins:

Shot Putt.

1919–20, 42 ft. 9 ins.; 1920–21, 45 ft. 5½ ins.; 1921–22, 46 ft. 0½ ins.; 1922–23, second to J. W. Merchant of America; 1923–24, did not compete; 1924–25, 42 ft. 9 ins.; 1925–26, 42 ft. 11 ins.; 1926–27, did not compete; 1927–28, 42 ft. 11 ins.; 1928–29 42 ft. 4½ ins.; 1929–30, 43 ft. 1 ins.; 1930–31, 41 ft. 4 ins. (second to Harlow Rothert, who placed second in the Olympic Games in 1932); 1931–32, 41 ft. 7 ins.; 1932–33, 42 ft. 4½ ins.; 1933–34, 43 ft. 3 ins.; 1934–35, 41 ft. 9 ins. His Australasian titles at shot putting are: 1920, 43 ft. 4 ins.; 1925, 45 ft. 5 ins.; 1927, 43 ft. 10½ ins.

It is a fact that his efforts in the New Zealand championships have seldom come up to the marks he has made in club competition during the season, but invariably his first putt at a national meeting has been so far ahead of the other competitors’ marks that he has not had to extend himself. His best putt in New Zealand is 46 ft. 0½ ins., made in 1922.

Discus Throwing.

1919–20, 114 ft. 8 ins.; 1920–21, 119 ft. 7 ins.; 1921–22, 127 ft. 3 ins.; 1922–23, 127 ft. 3 ins.; 1923–24, did not compete; 1924–25, 125 ft. 11½ins.; 1925–26, 130 ft. 0½ ins.; 1926–27, did not compete, 1927–28, 128 ft. 5½ ins.; 1928–29, 127 ft. 0½ ins.; 1929–30, 125 ft. 11½ ins.; 1930–31, 134 ft. 8½ ins. (second to Harlow Rothert, U.S.A.); 1931–32, 130 ft. 0 ins.; 1932–33, 125 ft. 4 ins.; 1933–34, 129 ft. 11 ins.; 1934–35, 132 ft 8½ ins. He also won the Australasian titles at discus throwing in 1924 (132 ft. 6 ins.) and 1927 (125 ft. 8½ ins.).

Javelin Throwing.

1922–23, 151 ft. 8 ins. (second to J. W. Merchant, of U.S.A.); 1924–25, 155 ft. 1 in.; 1931–32, 150 ft. 1½ ins.

Personal Records.

Munro's best efforts in his various field events are as follows: Shot Putt, 49 ft. 7 ins.; Discus Throw, 139 ft. 2 ins.; Javelin Throw, 155 ft. 1 in.; High Jump, 5 ft. 6 ins.; Throwing Cricket Ball, 119 yds. 2 ft.


Shot Putting title of New Zealand, 13 times; Discus Throwing title of New Zealand, 14 times; Javelin Throwing title of New Zealand, twice; Shot Putting title of Australasia, 3 times; Discus Throwing title of Australasia, twice; Junior Championship Field Events of Scotland, once; American-British Empire Services’ Shot Putt Championship, once; Western Australian Shot Putting title, once; Western Australian Hammer Throwing title, once; New Zealand Professional Field Event All-Round Championship, once. That makes a grand total of thirty-nine championship successes in various branches of field events, but on top of this there are twenty-nine Wellington Provmicial championship wins to be added In all, Munro has won sixty-eight championships!

He will be a competitor at the New Zealand track and field championship meeting in Dunedin this month and, barring accidents, will win the shot putt and discus throwing events once more. What a man is Sergeant Peter Munro, of the Wellington Central Police!