Paul Diamond on Researching ‘Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mackay’, Thursday 11 May 2023

Thursday 11 May 2023, 5:30pm to 6:30pm

Taiwhanga Kauhau — Auditorium, (lower ground) National Library Wellington. Entrance on Aitken Street and on Zoom.

A scandalous society trial

In May 1920 New Zealanders received the shocking news that the brilliant, well-connected mayor of Whanganui, Charles Mackay, had shot a young gay poet, D’Arcy Cresswell. A riveting trial followed where it was revealed that Cresswell had threatened to reveal Mackay’s homosexuality, unless he resigned as mayor.

Mackay was sentenced to hard labour and later left the country, only to be shot by a police sniper during street unrest in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis.

Retracing a tragic tale in Berlin, London, and Whanganui

Historian Paul Diamond’s research for his book about these events, Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mackay (Massey University Press, 2022), took him from Whanganui, to Berlin and London.

In this talk he will retrace his research journey and how his discoveries shine a clear light on the vengeful impulses behind the blackmail and Mackay’s ruination. At its heart, the Mackay affair reveals the perilous existence of homosexual men at that time and how society conspired to control and punish them.

Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mackay

About the speaker

Paul Diamond (Ngāti Hauā, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) is Curator, Māori at the Alexander Turnbull Library and a former recipient of the FoTL Research Grant. He is the author of A Fire in Your Belly: Māori leaders speakMakereti: Taking Māori to the worldSavaged to Suit: Māori and cartooning in New Zealand; and Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mackay. He has previously worked as an oral historian and broadcaster, and in 2017 was awarded Creative New Zealand’s Berlin Writer’s Residency.

A Friends of the Turnbull Library event

The Friends of the Turnbull Library, Nga Hoa o te Whare Pukapuka Turnbull, offers a monthly programme of public talks that are free to all. The public programme highlights the work of researchers who draw on Turnbull material for their projects.

Friends of the Turnbull Library

This event is free but a koha from non-members appreciated.

More information including how to register for the Zoom link can be found here.