An accidental op-shop donation has left a Wellington couple heartbroken after a pair of century-old family photographs were given away - and subsequently sold.
An op-shop truck mistakenly picked up two heirloom portraits belonging to newly arrived British expats Hilary Davis and Jeff Irving.
When they moved from England to Wellington they had downsized their belongings, giving the surplus to charity. But, in an unfortunate recent bungle, an extra box was picked up from the couple's Island Bay garage.
By the time Davis realised it was missing and called St Vincent de Paul's in Newtown it was too late. She said her heart sank when a shop assistant recalled selling a pair of gilt-framed old-fashioned black and white photographs.
"That's when I burst into tears because I was still hoping I might have been mistaken."
The portraits, circa 1900, depict her great-aunt Minnie Lamb, photographed in her early teens, and Davis's dark-haired grandfather, John "Jack" Lamb, pictured in his twenties in a British Royal Navy engineer's uniform.
She said the items were poignant and not just because she had hoped to pass the photos on to the couple's children.
Lamb was an avid photographer who documented his inter-war period tour of New Zealand in photos that had been passed down through the family.
The pair had made efforts to catalogue their inherited photo collection back home in England, framing some, including the missing portraits in protective glass. They planned to digitise the rest once they had settled in Wellington. Davis hoped the buyer might recognise the descriptions of the oval-mounted portraits measuring about 40cm by 50cm, and return them.
"I was just hoping by chance someone might remember having bought them there and recognise them. But if it was a dealer they may have already sold them to someone else so at least it would be good just to know what's happened to them."
- The Dominion Post