A tribute to Don Neely

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga expresses great sadness at the passing of Don Neely, writer, historian, and top cricket administrator in New Zealand, aged 86.

Don Neely stands before the historic Basin Reserve Grandstand.
Don Neely & the historic grandstand at the Basin Reserve before refurbishment. Photo: Jamie Douglasexpand/collapse

Affectionately known as Mr Cricket, Don wrote more than 30 books on cricket, including the history of the Basin Reserve, a test cricket ground rated one of the best in the world.

When the then-called New Zealand Historic Places Trust moved to register the Basin Reserve as a Historic Area in the early 1990s Don Neely was the key contact for historical information, together with fellow Wellington historian, Michael Kelly.

Don played first class cricket for Wellington and Auckland and later spent 14 years as a selector and convenor of the selection panel for the New Zealand men’s cricket team. He co-authored the authoritative book on New Zealand Cricket Men in White: The History of New Zealand International Cricket, with Francis Payne.

He was president of New Zealand Cricket for 3 years and a life member of New Zealand Cricket.

Don was a great heritage stalwart and Wellingtonian.

Don worked closely with staff at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga on changes to the Basin Reserve over several years; on the return of the Wakefield Fountain inside the ground; and numerous other changes including the upgrade of the Caretaker’s Cottage, the redevelopment of the historic grandstand; and new training facilities built adjacent to this grandstand on the western side of the Basin.

He was a Basin Reserve Trustee and a trustee of the New Zealand Cricket Museum located in the old grandstand. Don contributed many items of cricketing interest to the Museum that he had acquired over the years. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1995 and made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2011, for services to cricket.

His very special moment at the Basin Reserve came when the main scoreboard at the Basin was refurbished and named in his honour, something that he was very proud of.

Don organised many heritage events at the Basin involving Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and I feel especially proud to have worked with Don to achieve those memorable occasions for members and general public.

I knew Don for many decades from his playing days for the Wellington Plunket Shield team, during his time as an administrator for Wellington Cricket and the Basin Reserve Trust, and through our own family who have had a long friendship with Don and Paddianne Neely through Wellington Cricket.

Don would often come into our offices with historical material to contribute to the depth and richness of our files and records, including many personally signed books.

His passing has been met with tributes to the family from top cricketers, administrators, and friends throughout the cricketing world.

His service, attended by a huge number of people, was held at his beloved Basin Reserve on 24 June.

Don was a great heritage stalwart and Wellingtonian.

Our heartfelt thoughts go to Paddianne and all the members of their family.

- David Watt