Childhood and youth 1909-1928

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1st August, Mildred Elsie Eldridge (known as Elsie) born in Wimbledon, London; second child of Frederick & Mildred Mary Eldridge (nee Chevalier).


Age 7, began her education at the independent, girls only, Wimbledon School; remained here until 1927, aged 18.


Family moved to Leatherhead, where her father had bought an established jeweler’s shop.


Awarded a certificate at the Royal Drawing Society’s annual exhibition.

Around the age of 18, she had an extended stay in France, where she perfected her colloquial French and painted in the countryside.


Received certificates in English and French, Wimbledon High School; awarded the Royal Drawing Society, annual exhibition, Silver Medal.

Art education 1928-1934

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September, began formal art education at Wimbledon School of Art.


Age 21, won a Free Studentship to the Royal College of Art, South Kensington, London; studied in the School of Painting.


Graduated as an Associate of the Royal College of Art; won a £180 ‘Travelling Scholarship’ for her compositions ‘Telling the Bees’ and ‘Music in the Countryside’.


Age 24, late March, she went alone to Italy on the Travelling Scholarship to study Renaissance art; stayed with Lina and Aubrey Waterfield.

6th July, returned to Leatherhead; painted one panel of a mural at the Brockley County School, Hilly Fields, London.

Early career 1934-1942

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Miss Eldridge, in the foreground

1934 or 1935

Moved to 55 Willow Street, Oswestry, North Wales, to be the art teacher at Oswestry Girls High School.


Age 27, solo exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery, Bruton Place, London; the proceeds enabled her to buy a second-hand, open-top Bentley.

Moved to lodgings Bryn Coed, Chirk, where she met the Revd RS Thomas, 24, curate at Saint Mary’s Church, Chirk.


Elsie completed a mural for the new Ibis Cricket Club, Prudential Assurance Company, Chiswick, London.

Designed the East window for Llanpumsaint Church, Carmarthenshire.


5th July, age 30, married RS Thomas, age 27, in Saint Beuno’s Church, Llanycil, on the shores of Bala lake.

Moved to Talarn Green, Hanmer, Flintshire, where Thomas was curate of the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene.

Throughout the 1940s, commissioned to illustrate books for children and adults. Few were published until 1948 when paper was no longer scarce. [Link to Gallery page Book Illustrations].


Painted Welsh scenes for Recording Britain, a project for artists to record daily life, buildings, and landscapes that might be destroyed by war or urban development.

Manafon 1942-1954

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Moved to Manafon when RS Thomas became rector of the Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, Manafon, Montgomeryshire.

Elsie taught at Moreton Hall private girls’ school [dates unknown].

Elsie taught extra-mural studies; Art Appreciation in Newtown and Welshpool.


29th August, Andreas Gwydion (known as Gwydion), their only child was born.


28th June, the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, Gobowen, Oswestry, approved Elsie’s proposal for a mural, The Dance of Life, for the nurses’ home dining room; it would take five years to complete.


Gwydion, aged 8, became a boarding pupil at Packwood Haugh Preparatory School, outside Shrewsbury.

Eglwys Fach 1954-1967

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RS Thomas appointed vicar of the Church of Saint Michael, Eglwys Fach, Ceredigion.


January, the final panel of The Dance of Life completed.

Teaching ‘The History and Appreciation of Art’ for the Department of Extra-mural Studies, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Two days per week at Barmouth, Newtown, and Welshpool.


March, became a Member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours.


Elsie’s father, Frederick Charles, born 1874, died in Leatherhead.


Elsie’s mother, Mildred Mary, born 1871, died in Leatherhead.


Secured a 99-year lease on Sarn Plas cottage, Llŷn Peninsula, first, as a holiday home, then as a place to live in retirement.

Late 1960s

Diagnosed with a thyroid problem.

Aberdaron 1967-1978

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Garden planting scheme Aberdaron Vicarage.


RS Thomas appointed vicar of the churches of St Hywyn, St Maelrhys, and
St Aelrhyw in and around Aberdaron, Gwynedd.


Elsie started painting greetings cards for The Medici Society, London.

Began sending her paintings to the art dealers, Spink, in London.


Whilst in hospital for thyroid surgery, contracted an infection that was treated with cortisone, leading to bloating, and became reluctant to go out in public.


April, developed shingles whilst hospitalised.


29th March, RS Thomas, 65, retired from parish ministry.

Cataracts were starting to develop in Elsie’s eyes.

Sarn Plas 1978-1991

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'Hump backed gone in the middle spindle shanked me. 1989’


Mid-April, Elsie and RS moved into their retirement cottage Sarn Plas, Y Rhiw,
a few miles from Aberdaron. Her work for The Medici Society continued.


Was suffering extreme pain in her eyes. She declined cataract surgery.


Designed, wrote, and illustrated In my Garden, a children’s book published by
The Medici Society.


Fell and broke her thigh bone.


Designed, wrote, and illustrated The Sea Shore, another book for children published by The Medici Society.


January, age 77, began writing a year-long garden journal.


A Christmas card design was her last commission for The Medici Society.


10th March, age 81, ME Eldridge died at Sarn Plas; her ashes are buried in
the churchyard of St Maelrhys, Porth Ysgo, Aberdaron.

The years that followed

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Nurses’ home dining room at the Orthopaedic Hospital, Gobowen, was closed and used as a storeroom with The Dance of Life panels still on the walls.


25th September, R. S. Thomas died, his ashes buried in St. John’s Churchyard, Porthmadog.


The Dance of Life panels placed in a professional art storage facility.


Officials of Glyndŵr University, Wrexham, offered to display The Dance of Life in the Creative Industries Building.

May - Welsh language TV documentary about Elsie and The Dance of Life broadcast on S4C: ‘Pwy Oedd Mrs RS Thomas?’ (Who Was Mrs RS Thomas?)


March, 60 years after the first brushstrokes The Dance of Life was on view again.


Spring exhibition M E Eldridge 1909-1991at Oriel Plas Glyn-y-Weddw Gallery, Llanbedrog, Gwynedd.


Summer exhibition of her work at Gwynedd Museum & Art Gallery, Bangor.


16th September, Andreas Gwydion Thomas died, age 71. Buried with his mother.


14th February, RS Thomas & ME Eldridge Society created.