The Darlimurla Letters
This exchange of letters between members of the Macky family one hundred years ago reveals an art of letter writing rarely seen today. By editing the letters my hope is to share their extraordinary story in their own words.
What’s in this story for you?
• Love - Joe and Mary's life long devotion to each other which kept them together, even when Mary had the opportunity of rescue from the stricken Lusitania
• Business - Joe Macky led NZ’s largest importing and manufacturing enterprise of its time
• Local body politics - Joe was one of Auckland’s civic leaders and mayor of Devonport 1896-1901
• Social history - fascinating accounts of everyday life in NZ a hundred years ago.
• Sport - especially sailing
• Holiday activities - camping and cruising
• Travel - around NZ and overseas
• Religion - the Unitarian Church and changing viewpoints
• And more!
The story behind the Darlimurla Letters.
Early in 2012 I became aware of people talking about centenary commemorations of WWI events to be held in 2015. It brought to mind a story my father told me about my great-grandparents, Joseph Cochrane Macky and Mary Birrell Macky when I was a child.
Joe and Mary were passengers on the luxury ocean liner, the Lusitania, and were among around 1200 “souls” who perished when the boat was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland on May 7 1915. This story of my great grandparents’ demise was legendary in our family, the fact they gave their lives so others might live, heroic.
Throughout their lives Joe and Mary were prolific letter writers. Fortunately, some of these letters survive and are housed in the Auckland Public Library. Known as “The Darlimurla Letters”, the collection is named after the family’s home in Devonport, Auckland.
The painstaking task of transcribing the letters was undertaken by my Aunt, Helen Kominik, in the 1990s. More than 500,000 words! Organised into two volumes according to writer rather than chronologically, she notes in her foreword, “ I hope the sheer mass won’t be daunting.”
With the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania approaching, I was inspired to read the transcriptions of the letters. It seemed to me there would never be a better time to edit the letters for the benefit of the family, and the wider reading public in terms of the story’s social history value.
While I am a published feature writer, I recognized that letter editing requires specialized skills so I took on the task as a Masters Project supervised by Gail Pittaway of Waikato Institute of Technology, commencing in February 2013, and graduating in April this year. Thus I was able to access valuable guidance from New Zealand’s leading letter editors: Vincent O’Sullivan, Peter Whiteford and Sarah Shieff.
As a reader, I found the creative work engaging, gripping, compelling and moving in equal measure. Professor Donna Lee Brien CQ University. (Independent Masters examiner)
Having completed the manuscript for a book as a Masters project the next object was publication. Easier said than done. Especially as in my mind I’d also set the target launch date as the centenary of the Lusitania sinking, May 7, 2015. In 2014 approaches were made to publishers on my behalf by contacts in the literary field. Although responses were positive the manuscript did not meet their “severe commercial imperatives”.
Here are some of their comments:
“a remarkable collection and compilation” that “deserves to be published”. Finlay Macdonald, HarperCollins New Zealand.
“You have done an amazing job of putting all this material together and created a real taonga. . . Much of this information, particularly about the war and the Lusitania, will be of value to researchers.” Mary Varnham, Awa Press.
Encouraged by the positive feedback I decided to self-publish with the assistance of an Auckland publishing company.
The manuscript has been professionally proof edited, and designed, and is ready to go to the printers. Specifications of the book are as follows:
Trim Size: 190 x 255mm (Portrait)
Extent: 416 pages
138 images (full colour where applicable)
Stock: Internals: 128gsm Matt Art
Cover: Matt lamination + spot UV on 350gsm Art Board
These are the costs that I have met personally to date:
Professional proof edit: $2800
Print design: $9200
Purchase of images from Auckland Public Libraries: $640
There have been highs and lows in the process of getting the book this far. Many people have been supportive of the project and incredibly generous with their time and advice. The recognition received from Wintec with the Post Graduate Research Excellence Award was a great boost.
Falling behind with the design deadline making a May launch impossible was disappointing. Then discovering the print costs would be almost twice what had been estimated came as a blow. I had to rethink my approach.
I decided I needed help.
Now here is where you come in, in order to keep this project afloat I need help with print costs.
THE GOAL OF $10,000 WILL GO TOWARD:• Printing the book on high quality paper in full colour
• Fulfillment costs i.e. postage/packaging
• GST and taxes
• Kickstarter & financial processing fees (approx 10% of the amount raised)
Plus, kickstarting the book will allow me to gauge interest and get a feel for wider public interest. If the initial goal is exceeded I may be able to recoup some of the production costs and consider making the book available as an e-book and/or printing more copies.
You can 2 help in two ways:
ONE, get yourself, or a friend, a copy of “The Darlimurla Letters” by pledging $100 or more.
TWO, spread the word! Tell everyone you know about “The Darlimurla Letters” so they’ll want a copy too!
Risks and challenges
I have a local printing company on stand-by to produce the book. There is always the risk of unforeseen delays, but everything is prepared to go as much as possible. Allowing six weeks for the printing process I should be able to start shipping rewards in late October. I'll keep supporters informed through updates should any delays be experienced.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)