by PAT VELTKAMP SMITH
INVERCARGILL — Marie Seymour Searle played the organ at St Mary’s Basilica in Invercargill for 70 years — and stopped about 11 years ago only because the hike up the steep circular iron stairs to the choirloft was a tad too tough.
She’d begun playing for Mass as a 17-year-old, having before her 18th birthday earned her letters in both schools of music — as a Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music, LRSM: and Fellowship of Trinity College, London, FTCL.
Her teacher, Dominican Sister Mary Borromeo, OP, thought she could do it, and by dint of practising eight hours a day, Marie did.
It was 1931. She was not yet 18, but with all her letters gained — a remarkable feat.

Marie Searle with the Papal Blessing received on her 89th birthday (Southland Times photo)

She began teaching and playing the organ at Mass. Soon there were four Masses on a Sunday, two funerals during the week and always a wedding on Saturday.
She shared the roster with fellow musicians Rose Shepherd and Mary Fitzgerald, and later with renowned teachers Sr Mary Gertrude, OP, and Marilyn O’Grady.
Basilica archivist Wendy McArthur said Marie, the only daughter of the Harry Searles, choristers in Invercargill’s first little wooden Catholic church, lived her whole life within one kilometre of the basilica.
Her late brother Jim and his wife Moira lived next door.
In earlier days Marie worked for a law firm, Hanan and Arthur, but over more recent times her focus has been her family, Jim’s sons John and Jamie and their
partners Ann-Marie and Gaye.
She was 98 when she died recently. A greatly loved aunt, great aunt and friend, known for her generous unconditional love, she is missed.

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