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Intriguing find may hold key to gift of gold watch

A 1936 lottery ticket has revealed links to a little-known quirk of New Zealand's social history and to a Gisborne family's “personal jigsaw puzzle”.

Retired antiques dealer Brian approached the Herald with some artefacts he had retained, including a 1936 Art Union raffle ticket.

Brian didn't want to give his last name because “it's about the items, not me”.

He was correct to say the Art Union ticket (the predecessor to the Golden Kiwi raffles, itself later replaced by Lotto) was the most intriguing of the items.

Brian, like many of the Herald editorial team, was confounded by the ticket stating “all prizes in alluvial gold”.

Research reveals the strange method of (apparent) payment reflected the belief by many in bygone New Zealand that there was a questionable morality in buying raffle tickets, or gambling, for personal gain.

National lotteries were illegal in many countries due to the influence of churches and the more socially conservative.

Government-sanctioned Art Union raffles were started in New Zealand in 1932 by a hesitant government which set certain conditions including a limit on the value of prizes, giving organisational responsibilities to an independent non-government agency, and demanding the agency deposit in a bank sufficient alluvial gold to cover the prizes.

(Earlier Art Union raffles in New Zealand and Britain were so named as the prizes, because of morality issues, were works of art rather than cash.)

The 1936 Art Union raffle was to be draw on July 4,1936, and was a Central Military Command raffle ticket “in aid of forthcoming searchlight tattoo in aid of regimental funds”.

A prominent opponent of the raffles was the New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union who argued prizes gained from art unions or lotteries, no matter what the object, were “tainted money”.

David Grant, in his book, On a Roll: A History of Gambling and Lotteries in New Zealand, says that despite what was printed on the ticket, there was no legal requirement to pay out in alluvial gold, and winners always asked to receive their prize in money.

The alluvial gold stipulation printed on the ticket was effectively the Government trying to save face with conservative elements of the electorate.

According to Mr Grant's book, it was James Holdsworth of Te Karaka who brought the system to a partial end in 1949 when he complained that his wife Shirley not been paid her prize in alluvial gold.

Mr Holdsworth's complaint resulted in the government ending the requirement that sufficient alluvial gold be deposited in a bank.

But the stipulation, in appearance if not in form, that prizes be paid out alluvial gold remained on the ticket until 1961 when Art Union was replaced by the Golden Kiwi.

Mrs Holdsworth never received her prize in gold, according to Mr Grant, but daughter Diane Holdsworth says she received a compensatory gold watch from her husband instead.

“Knowing Dad, he would have ordered it, as a compensation gesture to Mum, from the jewellery store in Gisborne owned by members of Mum's family” said Diane Holdsworth.

“That is speculative but stands to reason.

“I can also speculate that Mum would have wanted alluvial gold, not an impractical dress watch with a husband expecting her to wear it all the time!

“Mum said Dad had bought it for her because she wanted some gold, or perhaps she said she wanted something gold.

“Not sure there, but she said she had landed up with a gold watch rather than gold.”

Diane Holdsworth said she can date the watch back in her memory to the house where they lived until 1951.

She owns the watch today and has just had it repaired in Greece, where she lives.

“It is an ingenious design of fine solid gold.”

Jasper Holdsworth, grandson of James and Shirley, said they were both “characters”.

“I seem to remember something like this happening in some old family stories.”

Diane Holdsworth, when approached by her nephew concerning the Herald inquiry, said it “was like receiving a missing link to a personal jigsaw puzzle”.

GOLDEN TIMES: Diane Holdsworth admires her mother's watch, which has just been repaired and is part of 'a personal jigsaw puzzle' and a link to her parents and the Art Union lotteries sold in New Zealand between 1932 and 1961. Pictures supplied
A BYGONE ERA: A collection of Gisborne mementos from a retired antiques dealer include a soldier’s 1945 certificate of discharge, World War 2 rations books, a New Zealand Education Department certificate of proficiency, a Diocese of Waiapu first communion certificate, and an Art Union raffle ticket, which was drawn on July 4, 1936.