Special Collections Twenty at 20: Favourite ephemera

To mark this year’s 20th anniversary of Special Collections, the curators have selected some intriguing items for the Twenty at 20 series. Here is number 12.

Ashes football test souvenir programme

Libraries were active collectors of ephemera and Te Tumu Herenga was no exception. Ephemera encompasses printed materials such as leaflets, posters, newspaper clippings, tourism brochures, annual reports, theatre, sport and concert programmes, promotional booklets and the like. Librarians’ instincts to preserve otherwise disposable items means thousands of printed materials have been retained.

Choosing one item from the huge Ephemera collection was a challenge. However, as a football fan in rugby-obsessed Aotearoa, finding a 1948 souvenir football match programme was a rare treat.

Trans-Tasman football Ashes series

New Zealand and Australia in the mid 20th century contested a regular Ashes series, modelled on the famous cricket Ashes. In this instance the ashes were from cigars smoked by the 1923 team captains, Alec Gibb (Australia) and George Campbell (New Zealand) after New Zealand won the final test in Newcastle 4-1, claiming the series 2-1.1

Australia dominated the Ashes contests in subsequent encounters after New Zealand’s 1923 success. When the third test came round at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Saturday 4 September 1948, the Australians had already won the first two tests 6-0 and 7-0, only needing a draw to retain the Ashes. Despite an improved performance from the home team, Australia won 4-0. The Evening Post reported that the game was ‘much more even than the score would suggest’ and that the first Australian goal was ‘lucky’. The New Zealand Herald match report described it as an improved performance by the home team whilst acknowledging that the visitors ‘played Soccer at a pace which made New Zealand representative football appear slow-motion’.2 New Zealand did score a goal eventually in the final test played at Blandford Park, Grafton the following Saturday; Australia scored eight.


The offside rule explained to spectators new to football.

The programme is an evocative time capsule. Advertisements are for local pubs and hotels, men’s outfitters, sports shops and dry cleaners. The complex football offside rule is explained, indicating that the programme editor assumed many spectators would be unfamiliar with the round-ball game. The New Zealand team were listed with only surnames, initials and home province or armed forces affiliation, revealing a strong amateur ethos.

We’re not sure how this souvenir ended up in the General Library. It is possible that a staff member attended the test match. However it found its way north, I am grateful to the university librarian who decided to place it in the ephemera file marked ‘Programmes – sports and films’ for posterity.


The Ashes test line ups and local advertisements.

Discover more

To view the ephemera collection, including the programme, contact Special Collections.

Ian Brailsford, Special Collections


1 The Soccer Ashes of Australasia. (1924, 3 May) Hawera & Normanby Star, 9.
2 Australia’s Ashes: third soccer test. (1948, 6 September) Evening Post, 5; Improved showing of soccer team: Australians held to 4-0 in third test. (1948, 6 September) New Zealand Herald, 6.