Former All Black Ant Strachan is a long-time collector of delicate English china.
Ant strachan’s mates can’t believe the Royal Doulton survived his younger days. It’s not on his CV, but reputation suggests a few larrikin years in university flats as he was building his rugby career. The antics of those days would not have fitted well with a collection of heirloom plates, cups and teapots. And even today hard rugby men are “a little taken aback” when they see Ant’s enthusiasm for his display of china.
“I’m pretty much a standard New Zealand male, so when I was younger I didn’t advertise the fact I collected china. It’s not the sort of thing you display in a student flat.”
Ant’s All Black half back heyday (1992-93 and 1995) and his five-year stint as a professional player in Japan (from 1996) are well behind him now. He has just finished up as manager of the Auckland Blues rugby team and moved to a job as high-performance manager at Auckland Rugby where he’ll help young rugby players develop their careers.
“At the Blues, we encourage our young players to have an interest or hobby away from rugby to provide some balance in their lives. I guess [collecting] is my version of that.”
Ant’s china collection features Royal Doulton series ware in the Famous Ships pattern. There are 17 historic sailing ships in the series and Ant has 16 of them. The images come on a variety of plates and dishes, tea cups and pots and his 16 ships are all on differently shaped pieces.
Ant is the son of Elaine and Alan Strachan who set up Heritage House Antiques in Auckland, now run by Ant’s sisters Deborah and Michelle. But, even with an antiques shop in the family, finding just the right piece is difficult. The missing ship in Ant’s collection is the Golden Hinde, the 16th century galleon of Sir Francis Drake, and he’s on the lookout for it on a shape he doesn’t already have.
It was Elaine Strachan who fostered Ant’s collecting when as a schoolboy he first took a shine to a sailing ship on a plate in Te Awamutu. In return, Ant sparked his mother’s interest in Japanese cloisonné ceramics when she visited during his years in Japan. Elaine’s robust attitude to displaying antiques around the house is carried on by Ant and his wife Lisa, who have four young children.
“Breakages are an occupational hazard,” says Ant. “Nothing is so precious that it can’t be enjoyed.”
Above: Ant Strachan holds a Famous Ships series teapot. Below: Ant’s Famous Ships china collection features 16 out of the series’ 17 sailing ships in a variety of shapes.
Story: Pam Neville
Photographs: Jane Ussher