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Forgotten club rugby trophies of Wellington: The Swinson Challenge Cup

John Swinson emigrated from England to Wellington around 1912, while in his early 20’s. He became the Wellington Branch Manager of Chandler & Co., a US advertising company who he worked for in the US, before emigrating. In 1914 he was seriously injured in the Whangamarino railway accident while travelling from Wellington to Auckland, suffering a fractured thigh and head injuries. His injuries were treated for over 18 months in Waikato Hospital.

Having established a business on his own account in 1918, the following year, Swinson (a member of the Poneke Football Club) offered the Wellington Rugby Union a silver challenge cup, to be awarded to the senior champions, (but not to be won outright). The trophy was of a unique design whereby the colours of the winning club could be inserted.

In August 1921, Swinson who had the sole rights for the advertising of the tour of South Africa on a 50-50 profit share with the New Zealand Rugby Union, was charged with having made upon a photographic negative, “certain figures and characters purporting to be or apparently intended to resemble a Bank of New Zealand £5 note.”

The reproductions were pasted on posters exhibited in ten shop windows across Wellington for the purpose of advertising the tour of the Springboks by the promotion of the “win the Swinson £5 note competition, for the forecasting of teams for the Probables and Possibles match prior to the selection of the New Zealand representative team.” He was eventually acquitted of the crime of counterfeiting, by the Supreme Court.

On 10 February 1929, Swinson died suddenly at the age of 43, becoming seriously ill while visiting his property at Akatarawa, in Upper Hutt. 1929 was the 50th Jubilee of the Wellington Rugby Union and it appears that the Swinson Cup was retired from the Senior Championship, in preference to the Jubilee Cup which was subsequently created to commemorate the Union’s jubilee. The whereabouts of the Swinson Cup are currently unknown, but (given its donor’s club affiliation) it may well still exist in some dusty corner of the Poneke Football Club.

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