Novel revives Whanganui legend

By Anne-Marie McDonald

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TALES OF OLD WHANGANUI: Author Murray Crawford with his latest book, Granny Dalton and the Firebug. PHOTO/BEVAN CONLEY
TALES OF OLD WHANGANUI: Author Murray Crawford with his latest book, Granny Dalton and the Firebug. PHOTO/BEVAN CONLEY

A Whanganui legend has been brought back to life in the pages of a book which will be released later this month.

Murray Crawford's novel Granny Dalton and the Firebug tells the story of the woman known as Granny Dalton, a hermit who lived on the outskirts of Whanganui in the late 19th century with her menagerie of animals. She lived in a series of shacks, many of which were burnt down.

"Let's just say that the combination of gin and candles wasn't ideal," Mr Crawford said.

Other events of the time make their way into the book, including the antics of the newly-formed Whanganui fire service and the rivalry between the Wanganui Chronicle and the now-defunct Wanganui Herald newspapers.

Granny Dalton arrived in Whanganui in the 1870s and died in 1903. Mr Crawford said he still heard her name mentioned from time to time - even though she's been dead for more than a century.

"She was one of Whanganui's real characters. She was a domestic servant who fell on hard times, and her life was quite well documented by both the Wanganui Chronicle and the Wanganui Herald.

"The community seemed to have a real soft spot for her, on the one hand. On the other hand, she was the bogie man and parents would tell their kids to behave or 'Granny Dalton will get you'."

Mr Crawford said after one accidental fire, students from Wanganui Collegiate built Granny Dalton a hut, which sat approximately where the London St roundabout is now.

"For years, Carlton Ave extension was known as Granny Dalton's Lane."

Mr Crawford said actual quotes from the two newspapers helped steer the story, which is nonetheless a fictionalised account of Granny Dalton's life.

Granny Dalton and the Firebug will be released at The Rutland Arms at 11am on July 23. All welcome.

The book is available from Amazon, Rangitawa Publishing, and local bookshops.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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