A club for fans of Elinor M. Brent-Dyer's Chalet School
      A club for fans of Elinor M. Brent-Dyer's Chalet School

Elinor M. Brent-Dyer: Biography and FAQs

The life and times of Elinor M. Brent-Dyer    

 

If you have ever wondered about the person who wrote over a hundred books, including the 58 Chalet titles, wonder no more!

 

Helen McClelland, Elinor's official biographer wrote in 1994:

Elinor M Brent-Dyer (1894 - 1969) published over 100 books, but there is no doubt that she is remembered today mainly for her Chalet School series. This numbers 59 books, with numerous related titles, and it is not only the longest but the longest-surviving series of girls' school-stories ever known, having now been continuously in print for more than 70 years.

The first story, The School at the Chalet, was originally published in 1925; and Elinor's idea of writing about an imaginary school in the beautiful Tirolean lakeside village of Pertisau-am-Achensee grew from a memorable holiday she had spent there, probably in the summer of 1924. Today, this visit is commemorated by a plaque in Pertisau, outside the parish church (nowadays the plaque is found in the library within the Tourist Information Office); and undoubtedly the author's love of the Achensee district always remained important in the creation of her Chalet School books.

 

Elinor Brent-Dyer's own background differed greatly from those of her fictional characters, many of whom came from gracious homes and large, happily united families. She was born on 6 April 1894, at South Shields in the industrial north-east of England, and grew up there in a modest house, without garden or inside sanitation.

 

She had only one sibling, a beloved younger brother, Henzell, who died tragically aged seventeen, and she came, moreover, from a broken home, her parents having separated when she was barely three.

 

She attended a small local private school; and on her eighteenth birthday began a teaching career that eventually spanned 36 years, during which she taught in a wide variety of state and private schools, as well as spending two years acquiring a teaching qualification. Many of the schools were situated in the north-east, but Elinor's teaching took her also to Middlesex, Bedfordshire and Hampshire, and finally to Hereford, where she lived from 1933 to 1964 and, for ten years from 1938 to 1948, ran her own school, which she named the Margaret Roper School.

 

It, like the fictional Chalet School, was non-denominational but with a strong religious tradition, and many Chalet School customs were followed - the girls even wore a similar uniform, made in the Chalet School's colours of brown and flame!

 

However, Elinor was not really suited to being a headmistress, being far too erratic and flamboyant in temperament. After her school closed she was able to devote more time to writing, which was always her greatest life-time interest. Nevertheless, she has left affectionate memories with many people, including a number of former pupils.

 

From an early age, Elinor had shown ability as a writer, and among her 101 published books are stories of schools other than the Chalet School; family, historical, adventure and animal stories; a cookery book, and four educational geography-readers. She also wrote plays, some of which were performed at local theatres, and numerous unpublished poems. See the Library section for more about her published works.

 

Elinor was renowned for untidiness, and was considered eccentric in dress, appearance and manner. One old friend described her as 'Not at all pretty but. (with) a very mobile and expressive countenance'; another as 'dottily humorous.a very kind and generous woman. a fount of good common sense'.

 

Her final years were spent at Redhill in Surrey where she died on 20 September 1969. A headstone on her grave in Redstone Cemetery was specially commissioned by fans and erected in 1994, the year of the centenary of her birth.

 

Elinor M Brent-Dyer's Chalet School books have remained amazingly popular with around 100,000 paperback copies still being sold each year up to around 2001. Many of the titles are still in print today, thanks to Girls Gone By Publishers: www.ggbp.co.uk .

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

When was Elinor Brent-Dyer born?

  • 6 April 1894 in South Shields, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne

 

Did Elinor Brent-Dyer go to a school like the Chalet School?

 

  • Far from it - she was a day girl at private schools in South Shields. However, she became a teacher and set up the Margaret Roper School in Hereford between 1938 and 1948.
     
     
    She tried to run it along the same lines as the Chalet School with a brown and flame uniform, Christmas play and religious tolerance with emphasis on Catholic and Church of England. She was better at writing than at being a headmistress, though, and in 1948 closed the school to concentrate on her writing. Between 1938 and 1948 she had 14 books published while between 1948 and 1958 there were 38 published.

 

Was Elinor Brent-Dyer's family like the Maynards?

 

  • She only had one younger brother, Henzell, and he died when he was 17. Her father had left the family home when she was a toddler. Her mother, Nelly, did remarry in 1925. Elinor Brent-Dyer moved in with them in 1926 and moved with them to Hereford. After her step-father's death in 1937, EBD continued to live with her mother and various lodgers, until her mother died in 1957.

    In 1964 Elinor Brent-Dyer bought a house with Phyllis Matthewman, who she had known since childhood, and Phyllis' husband Sydney in Redhill, Surrey where she lived until her death.

 

When did she die?

 

  • 20 September 1969 in Redhill, Surrey 
The Margaret Roper School
The church in Hereford where Elinor worshipped

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Journal 77 (Spring 2017) is at the printers and will be posted soon to all members.

Journal 78 (Summer 2017) is in production. Email your contribution to the ediitor by the end of July 2017 using editor@newchaletclub.co.uk.  

 

NCC Journal 77 (Spring 2017)
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