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Extremely rare rugby photo up for auction

An extremely rare 19th-century photograph of a championship-winning Masterton rugby team is to go up for auction this week.

The photo titled ‘Masterton Football Club First XV, Winners of the Senior Cup, 1891’ is being offered by Whanganui-based Heritage Art Auctions in their five-day online auction starting Thursday.

Managing director Henry Newrick, who obtained the photograph from the UK, said it’s an extremely rare, magnificently framed, period photo.

He said the large 36cm by 41cm sepia-toned photograph is in absolute mint condition, unaffected by UV light, and it is under glass in a heavy, ornate gilt carved frame dating from the same period.

The photograph names the 16 players, the club vice president [J Hessey] and the honorary Secretary [C Blackburn].  

It also shows the position in the team and the weight of each player.

The named members of the team that went unbeaten throughout the season were: E H Eaton, A E D’Arcy, E Holmwood, W Day, J Perry, R Thompson, C Bannister,  E M D  Whatmann [captain], R Malcolm, C. Perry, H Perry,  W D Watson,  R Gray,  A Holmwood,  H Hounslow,  C Holmwood.

The team included one All Black, Archibald Edgar D’Arcy, who joined the club in the year the photograph was taken and played seven games for New Zealand in 1893-94. 

D’Arcy was also the first player to kick a penalty goal [dropped] in a New Zealand inter-union game.

On the back of the frame are remnants of the Wairarapa Star, November 19, 1891, showing some ads from the newspaper. 

The photographer was Thomas Edward Price, who had a photographic studio in Masterton from 1879 until 1900.

Because of its rarity and fine condition, Newrick expects the photo to fetch between $2000 and $3000.

Newrick is also planning, along with the vendor, to produce a limited edition of 100 8×10 prints for any descendants of the players or other rugby fans to purchase.

– More information can be found at www.HeritageArtNZ.com  

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Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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