Felicity Campbell's Books
No Epitaph, The Bennier Story, Wanganui 1917
is a novelised history of a haunting visitor to an abandoned cottage on Oeta, Mangamahu, a farm about twenty miles from Whanganui. Some blocks came on the market in 1990 and we bought one of them and it had a dilapidated cottage on it.
It was while resting on the verandah of this cottage that I became acutely aware of a strange woman on the road in front and I later discovered she had died violently some 90 years earlier. I did not know it at the time but my grandparents Lucy and George Campbell had been the first to occupy the cottage after the attack and had brought their children including my father John there as a newborn in late 1917. I feel my sensibilities were heightened by this unknown preconditioning - No Epitaph is my response to this paranormal prompting and unravels the struggle of the forgotten woman, Ethel Bennier.
When No Epitaph was published there was no verifiable photograph of the Benniers. The description of Frank was based on the Police Report and my descriptions of Ethel were as I "saw" her in the dusk.
"She is about five foot six or less and her body is tense, her face white and anxious. She's pretty in a way with a pointy face and a slight overbite, or is it gnawing her lip that makes it seem so?" (p15)
"Her face, with its neat features, was a daub of white paint beneath light brown hair; some strands trailed out of the bun in the heat. Slightly prominent front teeth and a small chin gave her an open-mouthed look as she scuttled about the kitchen like a pretty mouse." (p33)
Last year Marc Bennier, family genealogist discovered the only photo. It was pasted in a relative's bible with the inscription "Frank and Ethel" on the back. Portraits selected from this photograph are below.
It was with a mixture of recognition and finality that I studied Ethel's face ...
Marc Bennier Collection
Marc Bennier Collection
No Epitaph, The Bennier Story, Wanganui 1917 - Softcover, black and white photographs, 270 pages, NZ$29.95. Published by Steele Roberts, Box 9321, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
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Retail: Paige's Book Gallery, 60 Guyton Street, Whanganui 4500
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