Neil Purcell OAM

Neil Ronald Purcell OAM – North Steyne SLSC

Being bestowed Life Membership of your Club, Branch, State and Australia says a lot about just how well respected someone is. Neil Ronald Purcell achieved all four honours with North Steyne SLSC, Sydney Northern Beaches Branch (formerly Manly Warringah), SLSNSW and SLSA.

He was also awarded an OAM in the 2007 Queen’s Birthday Honours for service to the community, particularly through roles within the surf lifesaving movement. That same year just happened to be the 100-year anniversary of Surf Life Saving in Australia and the 100-year anniversary of his beloved North Steyne SLSC.

Neil’s long journey in surf lifesaving began in 1942 as a 14-year-old. He lost his father when he was just 13 months old and it was left to his mother to raise him where they lived in Manly. Not long after he entered his teenage years, he was looking for something to do at weekends and he joined a Surf Club. He never regretted it and stayed loyal to the one Club.

He first started rowing surf boats and then enjoyed competing in R&R competition. During his competitive days, Neil had fond memories of how spectators had to pay to watch surf carnivals. “There was hessian (fencing) placed around the carnival area, which meant spectators couldn’t get in unless they paid.  Two of the events that used to be very popular in the early years, were the chariot races and pillow fights” he said.

Neil gave countless hours of his time serving North Steyne in such roles as Vice-President, Club Captain, Secretary, Assistant Treasurer, Assistant Chief Instructor and was on the committee for 10 years.

Outside of his Club roles, Neil gave up his time to serve Sydney Northern Beaches Branch, SLSNSW and SLSA. He was also a Level 3 Surf Sports Official for State (1960-2005) and a National Competition Official for the same number of years, a member of the State R&R Panel from 1980 – 2005, and served as State Secretary for five years and was the SNB Branch historian.

Along with his Life Memberships and an OAM, Neil received the inaugural SNB President’s Award in the 2010-11 season from then President Gordon Lang. He was also awarded the Australian Sports Medal (2000) and received the World Life Saving Certificate of Merit. His last award, but certainly a most remarkable one, was his 75-year award for his long and valuable service to North Steyne SLSC in 2017. He was described as one of nature’s gentlemen, unassuming and humble – a real statesman.

Neil was certainly one of those men who helped put North Steyne SLSC on the map.

Neil was awarded SNB Life Membership in 1977.

Neil passed away on June 21st, 2019. He was aged 90.


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