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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 2 (May 1, 1940.)


Sir James Leigh-Wood, one of England's outstanding sporting administrators, chairman of the British Empire Games Federation has a soft for New Zealanders. This in part may be due to the association of his wife (formerly Miss Turnbull, sister of Alexander Turnbull, who presented the Turnbull Library to New Zealand), but his admiration for New Zealand sporting representatives has also had much to do with his sincere regard for the Dominion.

On 28th March I received this letter from Sir James, and appended was a note giving me permission to publish it if I so desired.

“It was uncommonly kind of you to write to me and I have read your letter of the 12th January with interest—it took a long time to reach me!

“I never had the slightest misgivings as to the response of my blood brethren of New Zealand when the call went out from the Motherland, not, let it be remembered, as a vocal summons, but that more beautiful and spiritual appeal which required no words to give expression to the mutual love and confidence which is inherent between us: ‘Your people are my people and my people are your people.’

“The splendid athletes of the Fern Leaf will be in the van of victory although many will fall on the field of honour—not unhappily, for they are knight-errants defending the birthright of free men.

“To their parents I would say this: I have but one son, from whom I have not heard for nearly three months. He is at sea on a perilous mission from which he may not return. Should he fall it will break my heart, but I know the message he would send to me—‘Carry on! I have done my duty.’ Thus also will the mothers and fathers of New Zealand take courage with high pride at the sacrifice of their beloved ones.

“If you meet those who remember me, tell them I have written, for just as you would wish me to know the feeling in New Zealand, so I want New Zealanders to know and believe in the spirit of the Motherland.

“We must go through periods which will test our endurance, but we shall slay the evil thing which threaten not us alone but civilisation throughout the world.”

Sir James visited New Zealand after the British Empire Games in Sydney, and at the Jubilee Dinner of the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association paid tribute to the magnificent performances of Boot and Matthews at the Empire Games, and of the prowess and sportsmanship of Jack Lovelock. His son, Roger, who represented Great

Britain in hurdling events at the Olympic Games in 1928, visited New Zealand several years ago but did not compete.