In Memoriam Elizabeth Harvey Odling

1925 – 2004

The people of Lismore were greatly saddened by the recent death of the artist Mrs Elizabeth Harvey Odling at the age of 79.

Born in Glasgow where her father was a civil engineer designing Argyll’s roads, Elizabeth Harvey was educated in The Laurel Bank School, with one year in Oban High School, before she went on to make her mark at the Glasgow School of Art where she not only won the top prize, the Newbery Medal – presented to the most talented student in the school – but also met her artist husband Ted Odling. After graduating, Elizabeth spent a year in the Royal College of Art in London before returning to Glasgow to teach at the Art School where Ted was also teaching.

Ted and Elizabeth married in 1951 and, while devoting herself to her three children Noelle, Charles, and Nicholas, Elizabeth taught part time and never stopped distinguishing herself in the world of art. She was a great illustrator and a long association with the Radio Times included her designing the cover in January 1958 for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Burns. As a life long lover of Burns this was a great pleasure and was followed by an educational animation of Tam O'Shanter, adapted from the BBC TV Production, for which she and Ted devised and drew the illustrations and credits. Indeed they often worked together as their skills entirely complemented one another with Elizabeth being a water colourist, illustrator, designer, and needlewoman with great power to depict the human figure, and Ted working larger bolder canvasses in oils. Their Burns’ Room Murals in Irvine, which they painted in 1965, are still described as stunning and fresh.

In the mid seventies Elizabeth and Ted were commissioned by the National Trust of Scotland to create an exhibition in murals and paintings telling the story of General Eisenhower at Culzean Castle. In 1945 the Kennedy family had gifted the Castle to the Scottish people with the proviso that the top floor apartment be reserved for the use of the General during his lifetime as a thank you from the people of Scotland. The Trust also commissioned them to research and interpret in murals the history of the old Coach House and Kennels of the Duke of Hamilton’s Palace at Chatelerault. And they were both part of a large distinguished team who put together Glasgow 2000, an educational CD Rom of Glasgow’s entire history from prehistoric times to the present, for which they provided landscapes and illustrations. Such interpretative research coupled with the wit and sharpness of Elizabeth’s observations, are also seen in her illustrations for books such as Sidney Macer-Wright’s A Dickens Anthology and Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

Elizabeth and Ted came to Lismore in the mid seventies. They bought the old United Free Manse and converted the disused church into a studio where they continued working and where, in the early days, they ran Summer Art Schools. Elizabeth made great contributions to many aspects of Lismore life, not least as a member and later President of the Women’s Guild. In 1987, to commemorate the Guild’s centenary, she was commissioned to design and make a new pulpit fall, her needlework skills already being well known from her exquisitely colourful large quiltings every stitch of which were hand done. After the Memorial Service for Elizabeth in the church she loved, the family invited us to view these quilts plus a sample of her broad ranging work displayed in her honour in the hall.

Elizabeth had an ever-growing love of the west coast of Scotland, not just the beauty but the everyday social history of its places and people, and it is fitting that she will long be remembered for the contribution she made to its life.

Below are some examples of her work.


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