Community Contributed

Local Historian of 2017 - Dorothy Pilkington

Manawatū Heritage2020-03-23T18:02:54+00:00
Dorothy Pilkington was awarded Local historian of the Year for 2016, by the Palmerston North Heritage, at Caccia Birch House on Sunday 18 June.

This award acknowledges Dorothy Pilkington’s multi-faceted contribution to history in our area, and the consistently high standard of her historical research. There are three elements to Dorothy’s standing as a historian in our area.   The first, for which she was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006, was as an advocate for heritage conservation. She chaired the Manawatu Branch of the Historic Places Trust between 1986 and 2005, and was active in the historical research which told the stories behind our built heritage. She continues to be involved in this aspect of our past.   The second element, which we especially want to celebrate today, is Dorothy’s publication record, which is characterised by quality as much as quantity. She has proven herself an adaptable historian, writing books relating to various locations in the Manawatu. There is her detailed history of the street names of Feilding, carefully embedded in the wider social and political history of New Zealand. She has published books on the history of the Manchester Block and of the Beaconsfield district. Her histories of Carncot School, and of St Dominic’s School for Deaf Children near Feilding show her comfortable with the history of educational institutions in our area, while her history of the Manawatu Youth Orchestra and the Manawatu Symphonia took her into the realm of cultural history. She is as adept at researching and writing brochures for heritage walks as she is producing illustrated histories of places.   But it is, perhaps, Dorothy’s articles for the Manawatu Journal of History that best illustrate her full repertoire, and the humanity and insight behind her research. There has been scarcely a year when Dorothy didn’t have something in the Journal. So we find, for example, an essay on a 1910 walking race between two Feilding rivals, a vegetarian and a meat eater, to see which diet gave the greatest stamina; we have a piece called ‘Spending a Penny’, on the establishment of that vital public facility, the Ladies’ Rest Rooms in Palmerston North and Feilding; and we have biographical essays on, for example, two women teachers, and on Palmerston North City Council politician Pat Kelliher. Dorothy’s work is always meticulously researched and, a reflection of her background in journalism, exceedingly well written.   The third element which distinguishes Dorothy’s work is her generosity in helping others. She has a phenomenal knowledge of the history of our area, and is generous in checking and correcting the work of others. Sometimes her hand has gone further than that – there are publications in the names of others which owe a good deal to Dorothy’s editorial work and checking to bring them together. If ever one is uncertain about an aspect of Manawatu’s history, one is well advised to check it out with Dorothy Pilkington. Dorothy has also been very generous in establishing the Pilkington Writer Fund, a loan fund to assist with the printing costs of Manawatu area publications.   This award recognises Dorothy’s professionalism as a researcher, as a writer on a wide range of topics, and as an advocate for heritage.