Seeing an original painting in Archives New Zealand’s Wellington office was a moment to treasure for Mary Griffin a former Karori resident, now living in Taupo.
Mrs Griffin was shown a painting from the National War Art Collection that features a New Zealand solider from the South African War (1899-1902), who she believes is her father. Pictured above, Mary Griffin views the painting, with preservation technician Shane Jackson looking on.
Mrs Griffin’s father, Thomas Watson Brown was Bugler No. 15 with the First Contingent New Zealand Mounted Rifles. He left with the contingent from Wellington for South Africa on 21 October 1899 where he celebrated his 21st birthday on 25 December 1899. He returned to New Zealand in January 1901 shortly before the painting of a solider in the South African War was completed by J McMaster (a poster painter of Wellington).
“I first saw the painting in April when reading my daily newspaper,” Mrs Griffin said.
“There was a feature commemorating ANZAC Day and this included the painting of a New Zealand solider from the South African War,” she said. “I looked at the soldier’s face and thought ‘that’s my father’.”
Mrs Griffin contacted the newspaper for more information and was referred to Archives New Zealand who had supplied the image.
The painting Soldier in a landscape, 1901 by J McMaster, Archives New Zealand Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA Q389 is one of 1500 artworks in the National Collection of War Art, housed at Archives New Zealand’s Wellington office. It is the only painting in the collection to depict the South African War.
Archives New Zealand invited Mrs Griffin to view the painting when she visited Wellington for a family reunion recently.
“It was wonderful to see the painting and compare the facial features of the solider with photographs of my father – there was definitely a strong resemblance,” she said.
Thomas Brown was born in Masterton in 1878. He was generally known as “Wattie”. He served in both the South African War and World War One.
Following World War One he married and settled in Karori, Wellington. He worked for the public service and died in 1947. Mary was his only child and lived in Karori for 68 years before moving to Taupo 16 years ago.
The National Collection of War Art can be viewed on Archives New Zealand’s website: www.archives.govt.nz.
The military personnel records of New Zealanders who served in the first and second contingents of the NZMR have been digitised and are available through Archway, Archives New Zealand’s online search engine: www.archway.archives.govt.nz.