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by Claire Allison

Not many people discover by chance that a photo from their family album has turned up on the cover of a book.

Irelle White with the Plunket centenary book that features a photograph of her being weighed as a baby. Original photograph in her album and a photograph of her mother and herself in the frame, given to the family for agreeing to be photographed.

But when Timaru woman Irelle White saw the cover of I Was A Plunket Baby, the book commemorating 100 years of the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, she immediately recognised a photo on the cover.

The 1940s black and white photograph, which also features in the book, shows a uniformed Plunket nurse weighing a baby in a sling, while a proud mother and older sister look on.

There are no names with the photograph – not even the Plunket nurse is identified – but Miss White immediately recognised it as the same photograph as one in a family album she has at home. The legs and head – all that can be seen of the baby – are hers, and the pair watching on are her mother and older sister.

The circumstances behind the photograph – and others taken at the same time – were a part of her family lore, Miss White said.

“Mum and Dad lived in Green Island, but were building a house in Mornington [in Dunedin].

“The house wasn’t ready [when they had to move from Green Island], so for the first six months after I was born we lived in a flat opposite the botanic garden in Dunedin, at the bottom of the hill.

“Mum, for whatever reason, would usually weigh us herself, but the scale got run over when they were moving, so she called the Plunket nurse.”

The family was asked if photographs could be taken to be used for postwar Plunket promotion in Britain and Europe, and in return, the family would receive copies to keep.

The original of the photograph of Timaru woman Irelle White being weighed by a Plunket Nurse in the 1940s in Dunedin.

They included photographs of three of Miss White’s siblings – a brother and two sisters – and a photo of her and her mother.

“Whether they were used for their intended purpose, and went overseas or not, we had no idea.

“But when it came up in the centenary, I thought ‘if only Mum could have seen that!'”

Miss White dates the photograph to June 1944, when she was about 4 months old, and her sister was 2, based on an entry in her sister’s Plunket book.

Miss White’s parents moved to Timaru in 1970, and Miss White, a trained dental nurse, spent time here before heading overseas in 1974.

She returned to New Zealand in 2004, and lived in Hamilton for six years before settling again in Timaru.