Arranging a real life

Manuscript arrangement is a messy business. To turn a pile of papers into a solid research source, you have to be an investigator, decision-maker, and even consider bending the rules.

The man

In the field of rugby reporting there was one journalist who was the Richie McCaw of his trade.

Terence Power McLean not only reported on rugby matches ranging from All Black tests to club games from before World War II to his retirement from the New Zealand Herald in 1978, but was also an author of 38 volumes. At his height in the 1950s, New Zealanders would read McLean’s game-by-game reports of All Black prowess on tour, and then read a book containing his thoughts about the tour a few months later.

Not that he was a hired hack for the Rugby Union: “TP” had an extensive knowledge of the history of the game, which lead him to make enough cutting criticism for rugby management and individual players to declare him at several times persona non grata.

But his knowledge of both the game and players made the question of the All Blacks on tour without Terry as unthinkable as fish without chips.

Army portrait of Terry McLean, 1942. Shows head and shoulders and capTerry McLean, newly enlisted with 22 Battalion, 1942. Ref: PAColl-10107-4-01.

Terry also saw active service in Italy in World War II and was an officer of the Security Intelligence Bureau, which briefly flourished between 1941 and 1942. He wrote about both experiences in his unpublished papers, and in the case of the Bureau, seems to have been the only one to do so.

As a freelance columnist, he was prolific, especially after his retirement. He wrote about all sports, worried over the increasingly professional nature of rugby, ghosted rugby biographies, wrote on his experiences in World War II, and tried his hand at short fiction, a novel and an autobiography – all unpublished.

His relationship with South African government policies and rugby was mixed. He acted as a stringer and then columnist for a South African news agency, Argus Foreign News Service, from the 1960s until the late 1990s.

Following contact with the independent South African parliamentarian, Helen Suzman, in the 1960 All Black tour, he acquired a dislike for apartheid, but always skirted that elephant in the room, concentrating on his criticism of South African rugby as preached by Dr Danie Craven.

Publicity shot of Terry and Linda Jones with their new medals, and Terry with an unidentified official sitting in the stands at a rugby gameTerry with the first woman jockey, Linda Jones, in 1978. Ref: PAColl-10107-4-07; and at a New Zealand International ca 2000. Ref: PAColl-10107-4-11.

His interest also extended to understanding the mentality of athletes and their particular stresses to which they subject themselves, compiling a plethora of rough notes, taken from interviews with athletes of many sports. It is a pity that this potential work was not developed more fully.

The papers

The acquisition of Terry McLean’s papers illustrate the complexities of arranging collections which come in at different times and from different sources, thus requiring separate descriptions.

Tim Lovell-Smith with the Terry McLean papers, which are spread all across a large tableSorting order from chaos. Tim working on the McLean collection. Photo by Mark Beatty.

The papers came to the Library in three stages: 2007, 2011 and 2013. Those from 2007 and 2013 were donated by the family. These were disorganised collections of newspaper cuttings, scrapbooks, correspondence and a large collection of drafts for his post-1978 books and articles, as well as freelance work.

A more organised collection was purchased by the Library from a dealer in 2011. These papers, referenced MS-Group-1953, were mainly scrapbooks and reporter’s notebooks from McLean’s New Zealand Herald years, newspaper scrapbooks which contained cuttings stretching back to 1900 and a small collection of photographs, referenced as PA-Group-00708.

All of the contents of MS-Group-1953 are concerned with rugby. The origin of this collection before it was acquired by the dealer is unknown. We can only assume that Terry McLean organised and sold his ‘official’ collection himself. MS-Group-1953 is invaluable for any researcher looking into the history of the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby in general.

Notebooks from the McLean papers, describing games between the All Blacks and South Africa. The handwriting is difficult to readMcLean's notebooks used to record games as they happened. In these cases they refer to games between the All Blacks and South Africa in 1956 and 1960. Refs: MSX-8713 and MSX-8720.

By contrast, the 2007 and 2013 acquisitions, combined as MS-Group-1637, comprise letters, partial and complete drafts of articles and fiction, his work for Argus, partial drafts of an autobiography and the biography written by his son, and unsorted newspaper cuttings.

They contained papers relating to his war service, accounts of the war in Italy and of the Security Intelligence Bureau, in-depth interview notes with athletes and his ‘unofficial’ correspondence with family and friends while covering the All Blacks, in New Zealand and overseas. The letters reveal his relationship with the Herald, sportsmen and administrators, and give a detailed picture of his social and family life. The value of the collection could only be realised in the sorting of order from the disorder.

These papers I grouped into letters ordered by date, followed by groups of the other records into naturally occurring subject areas. Some of the material required intensive detective work and close reading. This was especially in the case of the interview notes, where McLean had cheerfully left names of subjects off the notes, or where they had become separated and interspersed among notes of other interviews.

I had also to decide how to deal with some papers of a slightly different provenance. The partial drafts of the biography written by Jock McLean and Paul Lewis I left with the series on McLean’s autobiographical writings, which the co-authors had mined for material. This infraction of the rules of provenance seemed to be justified in that they could be considered an extension of his unpublished autobiography.

The arrangement of these records should enable researchers to find more of the real life Terry McLean behind his career as a sports journalist and his work recorded in MS-Group-1953.

By Tim Lovell-Smith

Tim is a research librarian for the Arrangement and Description Team at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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