Elinor Mary Brent-Dyer was born in South Shields, an industrial town in England, on April 6th 1894. In 52 Winchester Street she lived with her parents, Charles and Nelly, one full brother, Henzell Watson Dyer (25 June 1895), a "brother by marriage" from her fathers first wife, Charles Arnold Lloyd Dyer, and her grandmother, Hannah Rutherford. Unlike most of the characters in her books, Elinor's family situation was not a happy one - her step-brother never seems to have stepped foot in 52 Winchester Street, in 1897 her father left never to return, a secret concealed by Hannah and Nelly. Her grandmother died in 1901 and her best friend followed in 1912. In 1913 it was her brother, Henzell, aged 17, who died tragically of meningitis. Surrounded by this tragedy, Elinor found that a year later, her mother had remarried to a man that Elinor never liked - Septimus Ainsley.
Her own school life, had little in common to what she wrote for the students of the Chalet School. She attended an old-fashioned and "ladylike" school which she joined in 1900, and hated that she was not being taught a more academic curriculum. Elinor was never a great success at St. Nicholas' but she carried the idea of a ladylike attitude throughout her books. In 1912, aged 18, she became a teacher and spent the next 36 years teaching in a variety of places. She gained a reputation for eccentricity during her teaching years, and went under an alias - Patricia Maraquita. Finally, in the 1930s she set up her own school, the Margaret Roper school. This school lasted for 10 years and had much in common with the Chalet School. Unfortunately, it never grew as the Chalet School had, and Elinor herself was not a very capable headmistress. When the school closed she gave her complete attention to the Chalet School.
With her first book published in 1922 (Gerry Goes to School), and several books in the following two years, Elinor began the Chalet School series in 1924 (published in 1925) after her trip to the Tirol, Austria. Many of the places in the Tirol years of the school are real places and can still be found.
Elinor M. Brent-Dyer died peacefully on 20 September 1969. Her loss is still felt by her fans, old and new.
Adapted from The Chalet School Companion