SEYMOUR Hill man who was well known in Northern Ireland's
amateur drama circles and in his early life was a good friend of
the Northern Ireland actor who played Charlton Heston's chariot
race adversary in the classic film 'Ben Hur' has passed away
following a short illness
Ernest Edward (Ernie) Bennington, a member of
Dunmurry Dramatic Society, whose talents as an actor, producer
and playwright made him one of the most highly regarded people
on the local amateur dramatics scene, was 83 when he died at
Lagan Valley Hospital on the afternoon of November 23.
Depite their grief, his family knew how much
importance he attached to the old adage 'the show must go on'.
For this reason they decided to withold the
sad news from his grandchildren as two of them were due to sing
at a concert just a few hours later.
This adherence to theatrical tradition was a
very fitting tribute to a man who made a huge contribution to
the Dunmurry group's decades of success.
was one of its leading actors and producers and a major
highlight of his amateur theatrical career came when he played
the lead in 'The Auction at Killybuck' to a packed Grand Opera
Another high point was the performance of
three plays he penned himself - Rhyme or Reason, Bargain
Basement and Full Circle - by drama groups throughout Northern
Ernie, who acted as an amateur drama
adjudicator, was also expert at dealing with backstage crises.
These sometimes included the failure of
actors to show up on the first night of one of his plays.
On these occasions he simply re-wrote the
lines backstage in between scenes to ensure the audience was
none the wiser.
Ernie, whose English father met his mother
during his time in the Merchant Navy, was born in Belfast.
However, during his childhood he lived at
Hale in Cornwall as well as a number of other locations in
His family returned to Northern Ireland when
his father was relocated to Belfast and set up home at Cregagh
Ernie, who became a fitter by trade, married
Portadown woman Marie Downey in 1949.
It was also around this time he knew
Glengormley actor Billy Millar who used the professional name
Stephen Boyd when he appeared in Ben Hur.
Ernie's long membership of Dunmurry Dramatic
Society began in 1963 when he was working at Belfast City
Hospital and moved to Seymour Hill with Marie and their three
sons Billy, Paul and Ian.
Once the boys were married he and Marie
enjoyed touring with their caravan until the arrival of their
grandchildren meant upgrading to a static site at Annalong where
they spent many happy weekends with their family.
Ernie's funeral service took place at St
Hilda's Church in Seymour Hill and was followed by cornmital at
He is survived by Marie, their three sons and
their daughters in law Pearl, Roberta and Catherine. He is also
sadly missed by his grandchildren Lynne, Amy, Christina, Peter,
Jo n, Karen and Andrew.