Mysteries solved and treasures recovered through photo library

Last updated 12:00 14/11/2012

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Sometimes the New Zealand Rugby Museum is able to offer a simple, quick and professional service that can help fill the void after a disaster.

Herbie Fairweather lost many of his possessions in a house fire recently.

As a special present for his birthday in November, his daughter Jan decided to seek a replacement for one of them.

Fairweather played fullback for Waikato in 1957 and the loss of the team photo that featured Fairweather was keenly felt.

Fortunately the museum has more than 10,800 photos in its collection and among them is the 1957 Waikato team photo, with a handsome young Fairweather standing proudly at the back.

We checked the caption and noticed a considerable number of players were absent from the photo, three with the surname "Clarke".

Jan informed us Fairweather was a backup to the mighty DB Clarke for Waikato. Indeed, with big Don the main fullback for New Zealand for the next eight seasons, our man Fairweather missed his best opportunity for All Blacks' selection.

■ Wellington poet Mark Pirie came into the Rugby Museum on October 9 and besides donating a copy of his latest poetry book, Old Hat, featuring several rugby poems, he was keen on some information.

It related to an old black-and-white photo of a rugby team Pirie had with him. There were no identifying features.

All Pirie could tell me was that he thought his grandfather T H Lawn was in the back row on the right-hand side.

A search of the archives revealed Lawn had not played representative rugby at any level, so we only had Pirie's remembered stories to go on.

The picture was in good condition and showed the team wearing hooped jerseys of various shades, some with collars and some the traditional collarless style with a linen yoke.

Pirie thought Lawn had lived in Auckland and Christchurch.

We examined the photo with a magnifying glass, looking for any clues that might be hidden in the background, particularly the metal badge on the suit of an official.

While skimming over the official at the back, we noticed some letters on his ribbon. They appeared to be an S and an F - the third letter was indecipherable, but whenever rugby is involved, usually a C follows. We looked up Auckland clubs but quickly determined there was no SFC.

In Christchurch there are two famous clubs, Sydenham and Sumner. The museum possesses many club booklets and books produced for jubilees and centennials.

Within the Canterbury section we located the SFC Sydenham booklet produced in 1932 to celebrate its 50th jubilee, and within the pages we found a reference to T Lawn, club captain in 1924.

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Pirie has since discovered more about his grandfather's rugby prowess, when he played for College Rifles in Auckland. "The forwards are a great pack, working well together and, breaking up very fast, were a thorn in the Manukau side. They were mainly responsible for keeping the score down, as they broke up the movements of the opposing backs. The pick of the line were perhaps Fogarty, Lawn, and Souter." - Papers Past, Auckland Star, June 4, 1929.

A photo in the College Rifles jubilee booklet of 1897-1972 shows Lawn in the 1927 senior side. Among the XV are three All Blacks, a Maori All Black, two Auckland reps and two Auckland B reps.

- Manawatu Standard

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