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The unforgettable story of a New Zealand family's life, love and tragic loss in the "Lusitania" disaster of 1915.
The unforgettable story of a New Zealand family's life, love and tragic loss in the "Lusitania" disaster of 1915.
82 backers pledged NZ$ 11,340 to help bring this project to life.

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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, Mary and family, c.1900
Joe, Mary and family, c.1900

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.

Lusitania leaving New York
Lusitania leaving New York

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.

Masters Project

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.

Masters project manuscript
Masters project manuscript

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)

Publication

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.

Professional edit

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

Front book cover
Front book cover

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.

Receiving Post Graduate Research Excellence Award
Receiving Post Graduate Research Excellence Award

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. 

 YOUR 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.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge NZ$ 1 or more About $0.68

    Perfect if you want to support this project but don't have room in your library for a book right now, and you will receive a heartfelt "thank you" for your support on "The Darlimurla Letters" Facebook page.

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    2 backers
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge NZ$ 20 or more About $14

    Perfect if you want to support this project but don't have room in your library for a book right now. You will receive one of my favorite letters from the book by E-mail each week for 4 weeks.

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    6 backers
    NZ$
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  3. Reward no longer available

    Pledge NZ$ 100 or more About $68

    A numbered, signed, copy of the book, "The Darlimurla Letters". Limited to the first one hundred copies.

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    Reward no longer available 6 backers
    NZ$
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge NZ$ 100 or more About $68

    A numbered, signed, copy of the book, "The Darlimurla Letters". Limited to the first one hundred copies.
    Add an extra $100 NZD for each additional copy of the book, (plus shipping if outside NZ).

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    Limited 63 backers
    NZ$
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge NZ$ 100 or more About $68

    For supporters who missed out on one of the first one hundred copies. A copy of the book, "The Darlimurla Letters".
    Add an extra $100 NZD for each additional copy of the book, (plus shipping if outside NZ).

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only certain countries
    3 backers
    NZ$
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Funding period

- (30 days)