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Writer who mixed with icons dies

Eluned Phillips
Eluned Phillips did not get along with Dylan Thomas but liked Edith Piaf

A writer whose associates included poet Dylan Thomas, legendary singer Edith Piaf and artist Pablo Picasso has died.

Eluned Phillips, from Cenarth, near Cardigan, passed away aged 94 in Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthenshire on Saturday.

Born on the same day as Thomas in 1914, she mixed in the same Bohemian circles in the 1930s.

She was also believed to be the oldest member of the National Eisteddfod's Gorsedd of the Bards.

Archdruid Dic Jones said he understood she had been a member of the Gorsedd - an association whose members consist of poets, writers, musicians, artists and individuals who have made a contribution to Welsh language and culture - since the 1930s.

"She was probably the oldest member of the Gorsedd and certainly the most faithful," he said.

Clockwise top left, Edith Piaf, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Picasso, Augustus John
Eluned Phillips met some of the 20th Century's most infuential arts figures

"She was a character, there's no doubt about that. She had the strange quality of being mysterious and accessible at the same time."

Andrew Gilbert, a good friend of the writer, was with her when she died.

He said she picked up a cold after Christmas and developed pneumonia.

"Eluned will be well missed, she was a lovely, lovely woman," he said.

"She was like a mother to me and my partner Bernadette. We stayed with her when we first moved to Cenarth. We were blessed to have known her."

Ms Phillips published her memoirs in 2007 after her family persuaded her to share her memories of some of the world's most famous writers and artists.

In her book - The Reluctant Redhead - she revealed that, although she shared a love of writing and poetry with Thomas, she did never really got on with him.

She told the BBC News website, shortly before her 93rd birthday: "Either he was too drunk to talk or in a world of his own."

"I was an ignorant girl from the country really and Dylan was a bit of a scrounger.

"I like most of his work - it's just I did not like his way of life."

Winning her second Eisteddfod crown in 1983
In 1983 she became the only woman to win the National Eisteddfod crown twice

The pair met through their mutual friend the artist Augustus John, a man she had far more time for.

"Augustus was so generous - but he had an ego and could get out of hand," she said.

She also wrote of her friendship with Piaf, who she met after travelling to Paris.

"When she sang I had never heard anything like it - it paralysed me," said Ms Phillips.

"We talked a lot - she was wonderful, really a very nice person.

"She was a very capable person - quite religious - it was a marvellous time."

Another anecdote she recalled was the time she travelled to Spain to meet Pablo Picasso.

She told Piaf of her desire to meet the artist and the singer set the meeting up.

"He had a sense of humour. He took me into his studio, made coffee and we spent an afternoon going through his pictures. He really was a kind person," she said.

Ms Phillips first became a household name with Welsh-speaking families 40 years ago when she won the crown at the National Eisteddfod, becoming only the second woman to win the competition.

Then in 1983 she repeated the achievement and remains the only woman to do so.

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Edith Piaf, Picasso, Dylan and me
11 Oct 07 |  South West Wales

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