The story of the gay Whanganui Mayor killed in Berlin

  • 06/07/2017
Charles Mackay
Mayor Charles Mackay circa 1906 - 1920. Photo credit: Whanganui Regional Museum Photographic Collection

A New Zealand historian is heading to Berlin to retrace the steps of former Whanganui Mayor Charles Mackay, whose story has been forgotten because of its "unsavoury" nature.

Journalist and broadcaster Paul Diamond will spent up to 11 months in the German capital as the latest recipient of Creative New Zealand's Berlin Writer's Residency.

Mackay was killed in Berlin in 1929, shot by a police officer while reporting for a British newspaper on street fighting between communist protesters and police.

He had earlier been jailed in New Zealand for attempted murder, and his story and memory were actively suppressed by his family and local authorities.

"Described as 'the greatest and most painful sensation Whanganui has experienced', the story was forgotten because of its 'unsavoury' nature," Mr Diamond said.

"Being in Berlin will help with retracing Mackay's steps and investigating further research leads."

Mr Diamond said Mackay went to Europe after serving six years in jail for attempting to murder returned soldier Walter D'Arcy Cresswell.

Mackay shot Cresswell in 1920 when he threatened to reveal that Mackay was homosexual unless he resigned as Mayor.

After Mackay was sent to prison, his wife and daughters changed their surname.

His name and title were expunged from the foundation stone of the Sarjeant Art Gallery in Whanganui, Mackay Street became Jellicoe Street and his mayoral portrait was destroyed.

Mr Diamond said Mackay's life was a "micro-history" covering events such as treatment and regulation of homosexuality and the last years of the Weimar Republic.