Dame Ngaio Marsh was just seven years old when her family moved from Merivale to Valley Road, Cashmere – to a house her father built; the house that served as her muse, the house where she wrote and the house where she had her last breath. It now serves as a museum in her honour.
After finishing her secondary education at St Margaret’s College – where she was one of their first students – she attended the Arts School at the Canterbury College (University of Canterbury). Wanting to become a painter, acting for the Allan Wilkie Company served as a great distraction. At this time, she also wrote for ‘The Sun’ newspaper and toured all around New Zealand acting.
In all she wrote 32 detective novels; mostly centred on the character of Roderick Alleyn. Some of these books were later adapted for television during the 1970’s and 1990’s (BBC). She returned to her acting roots when she produced her first play for the Canterbury College – supporting their drama productions for many years. The Ngaio Marsh Theatre at the University acknowledges this history today.
She never married or had any children but was the granddaughter of Canterbury pioneer Edward William Seager who was the police officer who single-handily arrested sheep thief James McKenzie in 1855 and was the first warden of the Sunnyside Asylum.
She received an OBE in 1948 and a DBE in 1966 from the Queen for her excellent work in the arts.
Ngaio died on 18th February 1982.