Mayors shouldn’t presume what dead people want

Justin Lester generally seems to have started of his job as mayor of Wellington well, but he has not done well in trying to presume what Katherine Mansfield would want to happen to her body.

Mansfield died in France of tuberculosis in 1923, aged 34.

Last Friday: Wellington mayor wants to bring Katherine Mansfield’s remains home

Wellington’s mayor wants to exhume Katherine Mansfield’s remains in France so she can be laid to rest in the capital.

Justin Lester has written to the mayor of Avon, where Mansfield’s grave is.

He said Katherine Mansfield House and Garden is leading the repatriation of the author’s remains but was happy to offer his support.

“It’s about making sure Katherine Mansfield is in a place where she did want to be buried.

“She fell ill very quickly and she wasn’t living in the place where she was buried for very long. She was there for a short period of time.

“There’s no real connection to that location, whereas Wellington was her birthplace and a place she held fondly in her heart.”

Lester said it was early days and the move would need the support of French authorities and Mansfield’s family to move ahead with the process.

“There is no rush, there’s no urgency around this but I think it is a nice idea and something I’m happy to support.”

Lester (and Katherine Mansfield House and Garden) seems to be presuming what someone who has been dead for nearly a hundred years would want. And what Mansfield’s family would want. But the latter doesn’t want.

On Wednesday: Move to have Katherine Mansfield’s bones returned to NZ blocked by English relative

The eldest relative of Katherine Mansfield has blocked a move backed by Wellington Mayor Justin Lester to have the author’s remains exhumed from her burial site in France.

Englishwoman Janine Renshaw-Beauchamp – Mansfield’s great niece – is understood to have petitioned the mayor of Avon in France after moves by the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society in Wellington to get the celebrated author’s bones returned home.

On Thursday, birthplace society president Nicola Saker confirmed it had received a letter from Avon’s mayor rejecting the proposal.

The wishes of relatives were a consideration under French law.

Didn’t those wanting to move the remains check with relatives?

But the idea has not met with universal acclaim – English Mansfield biographer and member of the International Katherine Mansfield Society Gerri Kimber called the proposal a “crass and ill-judged venture.”

“Why on earth do the mayor of Wellington and the [birthplace society] believe they have the right to disinter a private individual’s remains? Shall we also disinter Lord Rutherford’s remains from Westminster Abbey and send them back as well?”

Kimber called the proposal ignominious and urged New Zealanders to reject it as Renshaw-Beauchamp had.

Victoria University Mansfield scholar Lydia Wevers echoed Kimber’s sentiments.

“It’s a mad and idiotic suggestion that goes against everything she wrote about herself.”

And this also sums it up: Martin Doyle Cartoon: Put away your spades

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15 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  25th March 2017

    She thought New Zealand was a back water, and had little connection to us. Is Lester a Leftie? Shades of Maori fighting over bodies here with the rellies and the deceased ones wishes being an afterthought.

    Interesting historical fact…she resided at famous mystic George Gurdjieff’s headquarters for awhile.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  25th March 2017

      She died there.

      I had real doubts about the Unknown Soldier being brought back, too-he might have liked to be left with his mates. I wonder if he would have minded the skateboarders going along the edge of his tombstone ? probably not, he was likely to have been their age.

      Reply
  2. Pete Kane

     /  25th March 2017

    Perhaps just a foot (or even two). It was all walking in Thorndon in those days.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  25th March 2017

      In the 1920s ??? Hardly. Nor was it for some time before that.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  25th March 2017

        When do you think cars, trams bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles were invented ? Look at old photos. The Beauchamps had their own vehicles, walking to and from Karori would have been poor fun.

        Reply
        • Pete Kane

           /  25th March 2017

          I live at the top of The Gardens. I know the gauges backwards Ms Kitty. It’s not Huntley.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  25th March 2017

            Huntley ? where’s that ?

            I have lived in Karori and Mt Victoria, also at the top of The Terrace…

            I have seen a lot of photos of old Wellington, and know that people were not confined to their own two feet for transport even in the early days. It would take all day to walk from Karori and back. Wheeled vehicles were invented many centuries ago.

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  25th March 2017

              Huntly is not that far from..Hamilton,about 20 mins drive.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  25th March 2017

              Huntley isn’t. There isn’t such a place.

            • Pete Kane

               /  25th March 2017

              And that’s the ‘tight’ geography we are talking about? Really?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  25th March 2017

              Who was talking about tight geography, whatever that means ? Not me.

              There are steep places all over Wellington. I lived near the Aro Valley, and some of those streets-like Devon St-are very steep indeed.

            • Pete Kane

               /  25th March 2017

              40 Aro St myself for a time.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  25th March 2017

              I was in Maarama Cres. Before that Karepa St in Brooklyn. I loved the Aro Valley, it hadn’t succumbed to gentrification, but it was coming.

  3. Conspiratoor

     /  25th March 2017

    Gone are the days when councils were about water, rubbish and rates. This mayor sets the benchmark for new and creative ways of stiffing ratepayers. I’m sure they are delighted to know their rates are to be used in the good fight against global warming .

    “Wellington’s rates are set to jump by 3.6 per cent while the city’s debt will increase by almost $60 million, as the city council sets its sights on some major projects. This year’s draft Annual Plan includes a new climate change strategy, with a focus on reducing car ownership, as well as plans for a new council-controlled organisation that can play the property market.”

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  25th March 2017

      I hope that the car reducing brigade will lead by example. Ha ha ha.

      Reply

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