Oamaru identity Neville Cowles finally has his decoration.
Several months after being named on the New Year’s Honours list as a recipient of the Queen’s Service Medal, Mr Cowles was presented with his medal, for services to music, by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at a ceremony held at Government House in Auckland on April 27.
The 76-year-old was surrounded by family members at the ceremony, which he described as “very special”.
“My whole family was there so it was quite emotional.”
Mr Cowles, who has been involved with the Oamaru Garrison Band and the Timaru Municipal Band for close to six decades, said Dame Patsy congratulated him when she pinned the medal on his chest, and later asked Mr Cowles to introduce his family to her in person.
He and his sister, Prue Harris, attended a dinner the next evening, where they sat at a table next to Dame Patsy.
“She said it was one of the duties she really loved doing because she got to meet people from so many walks of life that have had so many different achievements.”
Mr Cowles never dreamed he would be in such a setting.
“When I found out I was getting it, I was really surprised. I’d heard a whisper I’d been put up for it, but didn’t really expect to get anything.
“I was most grateful to get what I got. I didn’t think I had done enough to justify it.”
It turned out he was wrong on that count.
A citation that appeared in the Otago Daily Times on December 31 described his dedication to music as “peerless”.
It said Mr Cowles had, for a total of 57 years, played the cornet, trumpet and military bugle in both the Oamaru Garrison Band and the Timaru Municipal Band, and the Last Post and Reveille for a stretch of 54 (now 55) years and RSA Anzac Day ceremonies, or funerals, across North Otago or South Canterbury.
Mr Cowles held several roles with the Oamaru Garrison Band including chairman, band sergeant and brass tutor. Every Sunday, for the past 10 years, he has played solo cornet with the Oamaru Salvation Army Band.
He played in the orchestra of the Oamaru Operatic Society for 29 shows between 1966 and 2015, played in the Oamaru Savage Club orchestra for 50 years, and was a trumpet soloist at the Oamaru Music Group’s classical concerts from 1967 to 2010.