Letters from Elsi to Penny

Collections - Posted 16-07-2018

The Library has recently received a donation of letters written by Mildred Elsie Eldridge (Elsi), wife of R.S. Thomas, to Penny Condry of Ynys Edwin, Eglwys-fach. R.S. Thomas had met Penny’s husband, the naturalist and writer, William Condry, through their shared passion for ornithology, and both were involved in the Bardsey Island Trust. It was through a suggestion by William Condry that R.S. Thomas came to be vicar of Eglwys-fach in 1954. Their wives also enjoyed a close friendship which is evident in the letters written by Elsi to Penny between 1953 and 1988. A few of the letters were sent from Manafon rectory before the move to Eglwys-fach. However, the majority were written from subsequent abodes at Aberdaron vicarage and Sarn y Plas, Y Rhiw, Pwllheli, 1967-1988. The contents mostly concern the correspondents’ mutual interest in gardening, ornithology and other wildlife, and they are sometimes illustrated with delightful sketches of mice and plants, reminding us that Elsi was also a successful professional artist. This extract is fairly typical:

I have just been doing the water colours for R.W.S. autumn exhibition – rugosa alba and a study of a very lovely common lizard which I found who had a very beautiful turquoise tummy and chin. …..The toadflax is 3ft tall in the hedges and the harebells in great drifts on the banks.

In addition there are descriptions of the Thomas family life, their son, Gwydion, William Condry’s work at Ynyshir, conservation and heritage issues in North Wales, particularly the future of Bardsey Island and the garden at Plas yn Rhiw. Not least, we catch a glimpse of R.S. at home, making impressively good jam or heedlessly clumping through the house in his heavy outdoor boots because it was the bird migration season!

Hiliary Peters


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