Whanganui historian Kyle Dalton loves telling people about the past and he's giving a public talk about Pukenamu/Queen's Park on June 27 in the Alexander Heritage Library. Laurel Stowell caught up with Dalton to find out what sparked his fascination with history.
Where were you brought up and how long have you been in Whanganui?
I was brought up in Dunedin and lived in central Otago, in Blenheim, at Uluru/Ayers Rock, in Porirua, Auckland and Marton before moving here 25 years ago.
Why did you come to live here?
I was living in Marton and had a private business, Security Rangitīkei/Manawatū. I have always had an interest in the military and I joined the territorial force that's based in the Maria Pl extension. Out of that I moved here because I was over here all the time with the Army. Very quickly after joining the Army I became an officer, based here and working as a platoon commander, looking after the Massey company. The territorials is supposed to be 20 days a year. I was spending about 200 days a year because there was a lack of officers in the district. I was often attached at Waiouru, and did several exercises there. Army culture is all good. It's changed over time but it still has military discipline, modified to suit the changing times.
What is your work now?
I am a consultant and have the Whanganui History and Heritage business. I do walks and bus trips with international visitors. When that dried up due to Covid, I took on paid work on the PS Waimarie.
What other work have you done?
I left school and went into the banking industry for two years in Blenheim. Then I went to Australia and lived at Uluru, as the supervisor of a coffee shop that was open 20 hours a day. I returned to New Zealand and applied to join the police. I trained in Porirua and spent two years in Auckland and two years in Marton. Then I decided it wasn't really my thing. I had a security business in Marton, and joined the Army. In 2013 I started working at the Whanganui Regional Museum as the external relations co-ordinator. In 2015 I became the secretary/manager of the RSA (Returned Services Association). In 2018 I started Whanganui History and Heritage.
Where did you get your interest in history?
I have always been interested in history. It's what got me through school. I got University Entrance but only on the fact that I did very, very well on the history paper. When I came to Whanganui I started looking at the role of the military in the district's development. I did a BA Honours in history at Massey. It was a standard BA, with a lot of military history content. My honours year dissertation was on the affair at Handley's woolshed.
What is your favourite era of history?
I like New Zealand colonial history, especially Whanganui. It's my specialist area of expertise.
If you could have dinner with three figures from history, who would you choose?
Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great and Tītokowaru. I would ask them their motivation for doing things. Where did it come from? Were they were just inspired people or were there catalysts, things around them that started them off?
How do you find doing all the talking that you do?
I didn't use to like giving talks. During the Army I was having to give lectures and even some later on at Massey. I overcame my fear of public speaking. I thoroughly enjoy telling people things, as long as what you are telling them is as accurate as you can humanly get it. History is an evolving thing.
What else do you want to research?
I have got a few things on the go at the moment. I'm part of the New Zealand Heritage Plaque scheme. The BNZ in Raetihi is getting a blue Heritage New Zealand plaque, and there's all sorts of things in the background - brochures, pamphlets, information at council.
What's your favourite Whanganui activity?
This season I have greatly enjoyed being on the Waimarie, getting paid to cruise the river every day. In peak season it was six days a week, travelling up and down our lovely river and telling people about our history and heritage. I enjoy anything history and heritage, even strolling down through the Heads Rd Cemetery. You always see something new. I'm looking forward to Heritage Month in September.