Te Papa has acquired a unique collection of rugby jerseys and memorabilia, including a rare jersey from the 1905 ‘Originals’ team.
The collection was that of Alex ‘Fighting Mac’ McDonald, who played rugby in Otago and for New Zealand before going on to a long career in rugby administration.
It includes jerseys, caps, signed balls and even rugby-ball-themed jewellery, along with scrapbooks, photographs and newspaper clippings. The items start in McDonald’s days with the Otago Rugby Football Union in in the early 1900s, with the latest coming from his time in rugby administration in the 1960s.
The collection was acquired by Te Papa at an auction by Mowbray’s in November 2021, after being offered for sale by a family member. The purchase price for the 120-item collection was $125,000.
At the heart of the collection is a black ‘Originals’ jersey worn by McDonald in 1905. Around 50 were made in New Zealand, and there are at least eight known examples remaining in New Zealand and overseas, including this one.
Te Papa history curator Claire Regnault said the Alex MacDonald collection was unique.
“The Originals jersey is the starting point of the All Black legend and it’s so exciting to finally have one of these in Te Papa’s collection,” Ms Regnault says.
“McDonald’s collection covers a long career of playing, selecting, coaching, and managing. This is a very personal collection with a really wide range of items. There are jerseys and playing balls as you’d expect, but also the unexpected, like a sponsor’s woollen blanket and a very stylish rugby ball fob chain.”
“We are delighted to acquire a collection that encapsulates so much of the culture and heritage of New Zealand rugby,” Ms Regnault says.
As well as the ‘Originals’ jersey, the collection includes a red Wales rugby jersey from the 1905 tour, and a white jersey worn by New Zealand in 1930 when the British Lions toured New Zealand in a dark-blue uniform.
“The Wales example speaks to the tradition of swapping jerseys, and its role in the rivalry and camaraderie of rugby,” Ms Regnault says.
Director of the New Zealand Rugby Museum Stephen Berg is a leading expert in New Zealand rugby jerseys.
“The Originals jersey marks the beginning of the All Black tradition and is a true icon of New Zealand sport,” says Mr Berg.
“It is fitting that this iconic jersey is held by our national museum, along with the other items in this rich collection,” Mr Berg says.
Te Papa worked with the New Zealand Rugby Museum and other experts in assessing and acquiring the collection.
The items have been in quarantine at Te Papa and are now being processed and placed in the national collection. There are no immediate plans to display them but they are expected to form part of future exhibitions.
Head of Marketing and Communications
029 601 0180
Alexander McDonald (1883-1967) was a New Zealand rugby union player. A loose forward, McDonald played for Kaikorai Rugby Football Club in Dunedin, and represented Otago at a provincial level. He first represented New Zealand as an All Black in 1905 as one of ‘The Originals’ that toured the United Kingdom. Between 1905 and 1913, he played 41 matches for the All Blacks, 14 as captain. He captained the 1913 Californian tour. His last game for Otago was in 1919.
After he retired from playing, McDonald went on to coach both the Otago and Wellington provincial teams, and became a selector for the North and South Island teams, and for the All Blacks from 1929-32 and again from 1944 to 1948. He co-managed the All Blacks on their 1938 tour of Australia, and was assistant manager for the 1949 South African tour. He was a life member of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union.
Items as listed in the auction catalogue. Te Papa is still processing the collection and researching the items.
- 1905 All Black jersey (1)
- 1905 Welsh jersey (2)
- 1905-13 South Island jersey (3)
- 1905 Gloucester jersey (4)
- 1930 All Black jersey (5)
- The other red and white jersey (6)
- 1905-13 blazer (8)
- 1905-13 All Black cap (9)
- 1904-22 Otago provincial cap (10)
- 1914 Kaikorai club cap (11)
- 1905 Tour Panama hat band (12)
- 1905 Fern/Rose embroidered button (18)
- 1938 Ball signed by All Black party (31)
- 1938 All Black scarf (32)
- 1949 8 panel ball (42)
- 1949 Hand painted Springbok pennant (43)
- 1949 NZRFU blazer pocket (49)
- 1953-54 Embroidered blazer pocket + photo (65)
- A selection of All Black ties (71-76)
- Embroidered rug (86a)
- WCOB tie (106)
- Cigarette case (13)
- 1905 Medal NZ vs Wales (14)
- 1905 Saracens RUFC badge (15)
- 1905 Yorkshire/NZ badge (19)
- 1905 Sponsors product - soap case (20)
- 1905 15ct ball and chain (21)
- 1913 14ct ball and ribbon portola (26)
- 1938 Ink well and 3 handled mug (37 & 38)
- 1938 QRFU badges x 3 (39)
- 1938 NSWRU member badge (40)
- St George RFC badge (41)
- 1949 Mug engraved (44)
- 100mm dish, enamel centre (45)
- 1949 Clay figure (46)
- 1949 Carved bird (47)
- 1949 14ct plate Springbok pin (48)
- 1949 Pair of cufflinks (51)
- 1949 TRFU vs NZ All Blacks badge (52)
- British lions badge (59)
- British lions badge (62)
- NZRFU member etc badges (67, 68, 69)
- 4 blazer buttons (77)
- A selection of NZRFU pins and badges (78-84)
- Small metallic ball souvenir (85)
- Race card cover (86)
- Embossed and fabric suitcases (86b & 86c)
- Gold sovereign mounted (91)
- NSWRU badge (90)
- Newcastle RFU badge (93)
- Wellington RFU badge (94)
- 1936 Napier pirates badge (96)
- 1934 Kaikorai jubilee button (100)
- Kiakorai life membership badge (101)
- Paper-based materials and photos
- Letter, Welsh Rugby Union (7)
- 1905 The NZ Footballers book (16)
- 1905 Souvenir of NZ football team (17)
- 1905-55 Golden jubilee reunion menu (22)
- 1905-55 Jubilee official photo (23)
- 1905 photos UK tour (24)
- 1905 various photocopies (25 & 25a)
- 1913 A McDonald with ball & chain (27)
- 1913 Action photo USA vs All Blacks (28)
- Anglo Welsh vs Otago booklet (29)
- A page from Otago Witness (30)
- 1938 Photo album (33)
- 1938 Scrap book (34)
- 1938 Menu (35)
- 1938 Photo Australia vs All Blacks (36)
- 1938 Various photos of touring team (41a-d)
- 1949 Shaw Saville line menu (50)
- 1949 A selection of post cards (53)
- 1949 Photos taken from train crash (54)
- 1949 3 photos Alex McDonald (56)
- 1949 Freelance All Black centrefold (57)
- 1949 A hospital visit on tour (58)
- 1949 All Blacks on Trek Again (58a)
- 1949 3 photos of selection panel (58b)
- 1935 NZRFU farewell dinner menu (60)
- 1937 Springboks signatures (61)
- 1950 British Isles vs Wellington invite (63)
- 1953-54 signed official NZ photo (64)
- NZRFU newsletter plus obituary (70)
- 1945 North Island team photo (87)
- 1946 North Island team photo (88)
- South Island team 1946 (89)
- New Testament (92)
- 2 photos, officials (95)
- 1908 Kaikorai RF club (97)
- 1968 Acknowledgment of service (98)
- 1968 Commemorative dinner (99)
- 1954 Kaikorai RUFC photo (102)
- 1932 team photo (103)
- 1933 team photo (104)
- 1936 team photo (105)