Saturday 10 September 2011

Our team’s name – The All Blacks

The genesis of the name “All Blacks” is revelatory. According to Professor Harry Orsman’s Dictionary of New Zealand English – A Dictionary of New Zealandisms on Historical Principles (Auckland, Oxford University Press 1999), the name “All Blacks” first appeared at the time of the New Zealand Representative Rugby Union team’s tour of England and Wales in 1905-1906.

Richard John Seddon had organised with the Daily Mail newspaper for J.A. Buttery to accompany the team and present regular news columns on their games. After the rugby game with the Hartlepool Club on 11 October 1905, Buttery reported that the New Zealand team had played as if they were ‘all backs’.

After the Northumberland match on 14 October and the Gloucester City Club game on 19 October the team travelled to Taunton to play against Somerset County on 21 October. The entire town was plastered with posters welcoming the ‘All Blacks’.

Buttery asked how this had occurred and learnt that the managers of the team had requested that the printer insert the letter “l” in “Backs”. The name caught on immediately and the team was subsequently known as the “All Blacks”.

The South Wales Echo recorded on 16 December 1905 that “Suddenly the manscape sways…and at 2.20 the New Zealanders appear – the All Blacks…They wear black jerseys, black pants, black stockings, and black boots. They have, however, white faces and white hands.”

Incidentally, prior to the 1905 tour of England and Wales our team was called (the) Colonials or Maorilanders or the New Zealand Representative Team.

The 1905-1906 All Blacks were: D. Gallaher (Capt.), J. W. Stead (Vice Capt.), G Gillett, S Casey, D. McGregor, A. McDonald, F. Roberts, E.T. Harper, J. O'Sullivan, C. Seeling, R. G. Deans, W. Johnstone, G. H. W. Nicholson, J. Corbett, W. Cunningham, F. Newton, H. L. Abbott, W. G. Wallace, G. W. Tyler, W. Mackrell, F. Glasgow, W. S. Glenn , J. Hunter, H. J. Mynott, G. W. Smith, E. E. Booth, H. D. Thomson, J. Duncan (coach), G. H. Dixon (Manager),


Amy Cooper said...

Very timely post, Ron! And I can boast that a family member was in that team - J. Hunter was my great-great uncle Jimmy.

Antony Ellis said...

Although Orsman is no doubt correct about the genesis of the All Blacks name the work of one of NZ's contemporary printmakers contains a visual clue that it was actually not such a clean cut transition from All Backs to All Blacks between October and December of 1905 with the team nickname being exclusively the "All Blacks" after this date.

In his vintage NZ trademarks series Arty Wright found this fascinating example of Palmerston North merchants Goldingham & Beckett promoting "All Backs Tea" illustrated with a player from the 1905 New Zealand team that was clearly still in use after 1905 and the supposed change to "All Blacks".