Media & Press

Family history matters

Journalist and Irish/NZ historian Peter Burke says he’s looking forward to running a series of workshops as one of the fringe events at Whanganui Literary Festival. Peter describes himself as a storyteller who helps people get across their messages and ideas. His topic is why our stories matter and is designed to encourage people to record their family histories and realise the importance of them to their own families and the wider community.

This is based on his own experience as an author – in 2019 he launched his book True to Ireland in NZ and in Ireland. The book is about a group of Irishmen who were living in NZ at the start of WWII but refused to be conscripted in the ‘kings army’. The book tracks their battle with the authorities to remain in the country and do‘non war work’. The book is regarded as a significant history publication and is in university libraries in NZ, Australia and Ireland.

“I get a real buzz out of talking to a whole range of people, all of whom have a unique story to tell and I get the satisfaction of writing this up in a way that reflects their ‘voice’ and gives pleasure to others,” he says. 

Peter Burke was born in Wellington in 1946 and attended St Patricks College in the capital. He admits he was no great shakes academically, but found his niche and love in life as a writer which he has done for more than 50 years.

His mother Mary was born in the desolate and inhospitable coal mining town of Denniston on the West Coast while his father Matt came from the equally desolate rural area west of the beautiful city of Galway in Ireland and was a true Irish patriot.

“I love Ireland and the Irish people because they are so friendly and welcoming. I also being immersed in the rich and amazing history of Ireland is very special. I have been back there thirteen times and with Covid I wonder if I will ever see my Irish family again. Having said that I have many happy memories and I still keep in regular contact with them,” he says

Life in the media began for Burke when he joined the then NZBC in February 1963 and in the course of his career in television, radio and print, he specialised in agriculture. This led to much travel overseas including Ireland which he first visited as a journalist in 1978. He also made trips to all parts of the world with politicians  such as Rob Muldoon, Mike Moore and Brian Talboys

Peter says he’s involved with the NZ Irish community and is working on a new book about the Irish/NZ poet Eileen Duggan and says that is challenging but rewarding. He still works full time for the farming newspaper Rural News.

Peter has a web site www.true-to-ireland.com

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