Margaret Frances Elliott
4/11/1945 - 9/6/2015
“A small child playing near the forest sees a nature spirit for the first time. They become acquainted, together they journey through the forest to meet more nature spirits. The child learns what each spirit does to help the forest and finally receives a special name as their friend.”
Margaret, our Mum, married our Dad, Cam, and together they had three children Lachlan, Louis & Leonore. Margaret had two wonderful sisters, Lesley and Susan. Whom she loved very much.
We were so blessed to have her as our mother. She loved us unconditionally and she tried her very best, teaching us as much as she could so that we may have the best life possible. I think she did an incredible job.
I did not know my wise and wonderful mother before I was born, but from what I have heard, mum was always happy and joyous. However, underneath that exterior she suffered chronic depression most of her life. Unfortunately this took her into isolation many times throughout her life.
The memories she shared with me about her early childhood were about her interaction with nature, and she said she had vague but wondrous memories of sharing the forest with nature spirits. She said that from her upbringing, this connection to the spirit realm disappeared over the years only to return to her very late in life. Her first (or perhaps second) introduction to them was in 2008. From this time on she was driven and encouraged to continue to represent the nature spirits and write a story for children. 'Nature Spirits in the Forest', written and illustrated by Margaret Frances Elliott (you can read more about this here: www.shar-la.com.au/margaret-frances-ellliott.html)
Little did I know, until recently, she had also completed a sequel to Nature Spirits in the Forest, which will be published in the future.
Throughout this time she focused her spare time on the grasses books, and forest floor book, which she produced with Penny Watsford. These plant identification books have been a huge success and many have been sold to people, businesses and institutions all over Australia during the past 6 years.
Her passion for plants and nature all of her life lead to and prepared her for these ventures. As these projects began to draw to a close she began to lose joy and the will to live. A few years ago she found out she had cancer. She began to do everything she could to cure herself.
Mum had little faith in her talents, fearing they would not be accepted, which is why she never sold nor marketed any of her nature spirit books. I was sure I was her biggest fan! However, the more I heard from others the more I realised I was not the only one.
Teaming up with Penny Watsford surely helped make the other books a huge success!
Her legacy lives on in her artwork, the production of all these books and in the incredible physical work she did regenerating and rejuvenating every piece of the land she lived on. Mum also kept busy with other projects, many with Landcare, around the Mt Warning caldera where she resided for the last period of her life.
Mum moved in with me in November 2014 and I became her carer while she slowly and painfully succumbed to cervical cancer. Just before the end of her life she was blessed to finally enjoy some days of love, pure joy and bliss with her sisters, children and friends which she relished! She passed away in the early hours of the 9th June, 2015.
Her memory and love will live on in her art and in our hearts.
Mum expressed clearly to us that she had never wanted a big funeral or celebration, she simply wanted to have her body cremated, buried under a tree in bushland somewhere with a simple plaque. That was mum, never wanting to make a fuss. So we didn't.
Although we know that many people would have indeed attended a memorial for her, and that memorials can help bring closure, we followed her request out of respect for her wishes. We planted a red cedar in her honour in a small forest area in Butterwick, NSW. Some of her ashes lie beneath this tree so that she can re-nourish it the way nature nourished her. The rest of her ashes lie in a beautiful pot under an olive tree with a simple plaque recognising her life. The pot resides with me. Both trees are flourishing.
Why a Red Cedar? When she lived in Mt Burrell, NSW she used to look out from her balcony and admire and comment on the lone red cedar she had growing there. I read up on the Toona Australis and realised why she loved this one tree, which continued to push up through the local environment against odds, all by itself, alone, struggling to survive. Although once it was in abundance, now very few survive and they can also be hard to grow.
They are a rare and beautiful Australian deciduous tree. I believe it to be a very appropriate tree planted in her honour, a reflection of her determination to survive and grow amidst the pressures and challenges of her own life, and her love of the original native forests that she regenerated with a passion for so much of her life.
With all our love, may she be remembered for all that she brought to this world.
Leonore Bastow, East Maitland, NSW
“Nature Spirits in the Forest” is still in publication, but her grasses and forest floor plant books are both out of print, but are available as a PDF from me.
Ann Shaffer, Tasmania
Margie Elliott was my dear dear close friend. From the time I first met her as a sweet tiny eleven year old I loved her. I always held her in high esteem. It's one of those unexplainable little miracles life gifts to you very occasionally - a friend like Margie! She knew me, accepted me and cared for me. I hope to God that I gave back to her even a tiny amount of what she gave to me in her precious friendship. Fifty-nine years of her grace, her humour and her wisdom are sorely missed. I hear her sweet bird-song laugh now as I write this......
Elizabeth Jack, Tyalgum, NSW
Margaret was a very talented but very shy artist. Her water colours, when she exhibited in the Viridian Gallery in Tyalgum, were praised by many people. She became interested in identifying native grasses when she bought land on Mt Nullum and realized that there was a need for a book for local land carers With a friend Penny Watsford she researched and produced 3 books one on the Forest Floor and two on Grasses The big surprise this modest woman discovered about herself, was that she could not only paint, but she could draw. This she did with great artistry, and every illustration was drawn from fresh specimens. A time consuming task which is a legacy she has left us with for all time. Her love of the natural world will be long remembered by her many friends
Penny Watsford, Murwillumbah, NSW
Thinking about Grasses of subtropical eastern Australia and Plants of the Forest Floor, I look back on our productive and successful ten year collaboration with mild astonishment.
Our success was due to the fortuitous formation of our productive working relationship. Each of us admired and respected the other’s skills. We were flexible and could modify our contributions in response to comments from the other. Both of us were systematic, thorough and conscientious thus eliminating some of the potential tension points in our working relationship.
Perhaps the best part of the project was the initial research. Off on Elizabeth's intrepid bush walks, armed with a camera each, we crept along the paths, eyes fastened to the ground to spy a tiny flower, sedge or ground orchid. How patient were our walking companions, incorporating many “banana stops” into the day to allow us to catch up when we lagged behind. Instead of tramping blindly through the bush, we became sensitively attuned to the natural world surrounding us. A long-lasting benefit for me was to have had my eyes opened to the minute wonders that I’d previously overlooked.
We enjoyed each others company and became true friends as well as colleagues. Where there were differing values or beliefs, we acknowledged those respectfully. I was lucky enough to get to know her beautiful daughter, Leonore when she came to visit.
Lesley Moorehead, NSW
I knew her as ‘a gentle soul'
Sue-Jenssen-Clare, Murwillumbah, NSW
I was Margaret's osteopath for several years, and I found her to be a delightful person: funny, interesting, open and broadminded. She was a lady in every sense of the word. More than that, she was a compassionate and empathetic person, interested in other people, and because of this she exuded a warmth that was truly uplifting. She will be missed.
Pauline Vipen, NSW
Your mother offered me a wonderful kindness of heart. We connected through a similar desire to reflect on life with all it's external realities, and the infinite internal as well. I always felt at ease in her company. I found your mum to be a very humble person, especially about her artistic and creative talents. I admired her passion and sensitive connection to the essence and spirit of nature.
Karen Burge, Newcastle, NSW
It was such a pleasure to meet and know such a pure spirit.... Thank you Margaret for being the example of compassion, kindness, and gentleness.
Her books are listed at the National Library of Australia
Nature Spirits in the Forest: Here
Grasses of Subtropical Eastern Australia: Here
Plants of the Forest Floor: Here