PM: Address to the NZRU
Wednesday 18 October 2006
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Address at Reception for Return of 1905 All Black
Grand Hall Parliament 12.10 pm
Wednesday 18 October 2006
It gives me great pleasure to welcome everyone to Parliament, especially the family descendents of Originals All Black Duncan McGregor who are with us today.
Today we are welcoming home three New Zealand treasures from the 1905 All Black ‘Originals’ rugby tour.
The three items are a jersey and Test cap worn by wing Duncan McGregor, and a match ball signed by the team’s captain, Dave Gallaher.
The significance of these items lies in what the1905 New Zealand tour of the British Isles came to represent.
The 1905 tour was tremendously successful, with our team winning 34 of the 35 matches. The solitary, narrow loss to Wales was itself highly controversial and is etched in rugby folklore. Players like Dave Gallaher and Duncan McGregor became known for all time as rugby greats.
It was during the 1905 tour that the iconic ‘All Blacks’ name – now one of the most recognisable names in world sport - was coined. That’s why the members of the 1905 team have ever since been fondly referred to as the ‘Originals’.
Much has been written over the years about the impact of dramatic events of World War One and of battles like that at Gallipoli in the forging of New Zealand’s identity. On an occasion like this it’s also important to acknowledge the role of rugby and the 1905 tour in shaping our unique identity.
Commentators at the time apparently argued that the tour demonstrated that colonial life was producing bigger, stronger men. A British observer actually suggested that it was ‘a great historical and ethnological fact’ that New Zealand’s climate, outdoor rural life made men stronger and larger.
The London Daily Mail asked: ‘Is the colonial born and bred on a higher mental and physical scale nowadays as compared with that at home? Has the decadence of the English athlete really set in?’
As historian Jock Phillips noted, the qualities of the “Originals” were generalised into the characteristics of New Zealand – their cleverness on the field could be read as colonial initiative and versatility, and their teamwork as 'mateship' and a lack of class division. When they returned home to cheering crowds and a formal welcome by the Premier Richard Seddon, they were praised because the flattery had not ‘turned their heads in any degree’
All this helps explain the significance of the return of these treasures. They symbolise an important moment in New Zealand’s history.
We are especially grateful to Mr Allan Townsend, of Gloucester, who has been kind enough to loan these items for display in New Zealand.
I hope there will be many more opportunities like this when we can welcome back treasured artefacts from overseas – both in sport and in other areas.
Our thanks must go to all those who have assisted in bringing these treasures back to New Zealand – the Townsend family, the British High Commission in Wellington and the New Zealand High Commission in London, Air New Zealand, and the New Zealand Rugby Union.
Now the treasures go on public display at the New Zealand Rugby Union headquarters, in Wellington and I hope many New Zealanders will be able to view them there