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If the caps fit . . . Waitaki Boys' High School rector Darryl Paterson (left) shows off a modern First XV cap to Mike Wicksteed, who has given his uncle's cap from 1912-13 to the school. PHOTO: ELIZABETH PRENTICE

Another special First XV cap is heading to the Waitaki Boys’ High School archive.

England-based visitor Mike Wicksteed called in recently to hand over a treasured cap from more than a century ago.

It belonged to his uncle, the late Alex Macartney, who played for the Waitaki Boys’ First XV in 1912 and 1913, and the story of how the cap came back to the school is worth telling.

“I was back in Wellington, browsing in the new novels section of a bookshop, when I saw a book and recognised my uncle on the cover,” Mr Wicksteed said.

“It was a rather unsettling experience, to say the least.

“It’s quite hard to describe my feelings. But I was amazed and a bit tearful.”

Sons of Waitaki . . . The cover of Good Sons, by Greg Hall. Mr Wicksteed’s uncle, Alex Macartney, is the boy at the back. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The book was Good Sons, by Greg Hall, a novel about three Waitakians who head off to World War 1.

While the story is technically fiction, it is based on fact, and the cover image is a real shot of Waitaki Boys’ rugby players.

Mr Wicksteed, who contacted the novel’s author for a chat, said his uncle had a special place in his life, and he was pleased to return the First XV cap to the place he was educated.

“Alex was, broadly speaking, my guardian. He and my aunt, my mother’s sister, basically adopted me.

“I have had his cap for years, and thought the best thing to do was present it to the school.”

Mr Macartney boarded at Waitaki Boys’ as his father was a policeman in Dunedin.

Mr Wicksteed said his uncle’s movements were unclear in the years between leaving school and going to war.

“I suspect he started to study medicine at Otago, but I’m not completely sure.

“He enlisted for World War 1 in 1916, and went to France with the Otago regiment. He was at Messines and Passchendaele, and he had risen to second lieutenant by the end of the war.”

His uncle was wounded at least twice, once in the stomach and once in the head.

Mr Macartney met his future wife, Bernie, in Leicester Square while on leave, and they were married in Dunedin in 1920.

He joined Lands and Survey and transferred to Hawke’s Bay in the 1930s. By end of World War 2, he was assistant commissioner for Crown lands before taking early retirement to help his wife in her antique shop.

“They’d go to England for two years at a time, buy antiques, then return to New Zealand to sell them for two years,” Mr Wicksteed said.

“I think they did that seven times. It was quite an interesting lifestyle.”

Mr Macartney died in 1984, aged 88.