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When an All Blacks star married a Dawley bride in Telford

By Toby Neal | Dawley | Features | Published:

As New Zealand rugby fans mourn the loss of the oldest surviving All Black, the various obituaries have missed an intriguing Shropshire link in his life.

The Dawley wedding of an All Blacks star created a stir

Because Ron Elvidge was married at, of all places, Dawley. And his bride was a Dawley doctor's daughter.

Elvidge, who was 96, was a rugged centre – at 12 stone he was considered big for the time – who played in nine tests for New Zealand between 1946 and 1950 in an eventful career cut short by injury.

In an episode which is part of All Blacks folklore, he famously scored a winning try in the third and final test against the British and Irish Lions in 1950.

Ron Elvidge scores against the British Lions

Shortly before half time Elvidge, the captain, was helped off the field covered in blood from a cut face, and with an injured collar bone and broken ribs.

A prop had already gone off with a career-ending knee injury, meaning the All Blacks were down to 13 players – no substitutes were allowed back then – so a groggy Elvidge went back on.

He scored in the corner to win both the match and the series, but never played test rugby again and retired at the end of the season.

Rugby was of course an amateur game at the time, and Elvidge combined rugby with a career in medicine, and eventually became one of New Zealand's foremost gynaecologists.

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Shropshire obituary

One obituary mentions that he went to the United Kingdom to train as a gynaecologist before returning to live in Auckland, and it is presumably that which brought him to Shropshire.

The Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News report of his marriage at Dawley Parish Church, which took place on January 8, 1955, said: "The bridegroom is a former captain of the New Zealand 'All Blacks' rugby team, and is at present a member of the staff of a Shrewsbury hospital."

The reception was at Dawley Town Hall and the paper said that after their honeymoon in Austria the couple would live in Shrewsbury.

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His bride was "Miss Dorothy Prudence Browne, eldest daughter of Dr and Mrs S.N. Browne, The Terrace, Dawley."

Although the report does not say how the couple met, we can conjecture that, with the bride's father being a doctor, it was through medical circles.

The best man was the Rev Ian Botting, "a New Zealand friend of the bridegroom."

Among those to witness the wedding, albeit as a nosey local teenager who went to watch the spectacle, was our own Shirley Tart.

"Dr Sam Browne and Dr Peter Beatton were our doctors. We were kids and with it being a posh wedding we went down to peer.

"I just wanted to see the bride's dress, I suppose. I just remember people making a great fuss as this guy was seen as a real catch, like any sporting guy would.

"We all stood and watched as the bride arrived. I think she was known as Prudence. They lived with the practice, opposite where the surgery is now."

Shirley says she knew at the time how the couple came together in the first place, but cannot recall the details now.

One last twist is that the family's death notice for Elvidge, who died in Auckland on March 30, names his widow as Dawn, so either this was the name by which his Dawley bride was known by him, or the Shropshire marriage did not endure.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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