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Elspeth Mary "Elsie" Dyer was the grandmother of Valerie Dyer. She appeared in five episodes of Call the Midwife; (three in series eight, and two in series nine). She was played by Ann Mitchell.

Overview[]

Elsie used to run a market stall which she eventually gave up. She kept banknotes in her oven, and her granddaughter Valerie never questioned why the money never seemed to run out. But Elsie had a dark secret: she was a backstreet abortionist, and she carried out at least two procedures which had catastrophic outcomes; aspiring model Cath Hindman developed a nasty infection which resulted in her having to undergo a hysterectomy; Jeannie Tennant also fell ill, and her husband called Dr. Turner who called an ambulance, but Jeannie died en route to the hospital, leaving behind her husband and two sons. Elsie was later arrested after her practice was discovered, and she eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison. She ended up serving only a year of her sentence as after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, she was released to spend her last days at home.

Biography[]

Elsie makes her first appearance in S08E06 when Valerie goes to visit her and brings her nurses bag at the request of Elsie, who reveals she has a boil on her backside. After tending to the boil, Valerie makes Elsie promise that she'll go to the doctor if any more come up or this one doesn't heal.

In S08E07, Aunt Flo calls Valerie at Nonnatus House and tells her to bring her nurses down to the pub and come in round the back. When Valerie says to Trixie it sounds like there's been an accident, Trixie says she'd better go with her. Rushing down to the pub, Trixie and Valerie walk into the backroom and find Elsie standing over a young woman lying on a table in intense pain. Valerie asks "Gran, has someone been doing an abortion?", and Elsie responds "Yes. Me". Flo calls for an ambulance after Trixie threatens to bring back a police officer if she has to do it herself. Trixie accompanies the young woman, Teresa, to the hospital whilst Valerie stays behind and chastises her grandmother for her actions.

In S08E08, Trixie tells Valerie they will have to report Elsie to the police (since abortion was illegal in most circumstances in the United Kingdom at the time). After they talk to the police, Elsie is arrested, but she pleads not guilty and is put on trial. Sister Frances and Sister Monica Joan track down Cath Hindman and persuade her to go to court and give evidence. On the stand, Cath tells the court about her ordeal, and how she thinks of Elsie whenever she looks at her hysterectomy scar in the mirror, every time she looks in a pram, and whenever she thinks of how she almost ran up those stairs into that backroom. After Cath gives her evidence, Elsie changes her plea to guilty and she is sentenced to six years in prison.

In S09E07, whilst visiting Elsie in prison, Valerie notices she is losing weight and tells her to see the prison doctor. During her next visit, Valerie learns Elsie has oesophageal cancer, and it is terminal. Valerie is devastated and blames herself as she learned from Elsie's notes that she had vomited blood in the workroom, and realized Elsie most likely inhaled some harmful substances in there. Elsie is released from prison and into Valerie's care, and Sister Julienne grants Valerie a leave of absence so she can look after her gran in her last days. A dying Elsie makes two requests: First, a minister of religion, much to Valerie's surprise since her grandmother, much like herself, didn't really believe in God; and secondly, she wants to see Valerie in her nurses uniform one last time. Valerie sends for her colleague Lucille and Lucille's boyfriend Cyril. When Elsie hears an ice cream van, she tells Valerie to go get herself a cone. Valerie objects, but soon relents, leaving Elsie in the care of Lucille and Cyril, who sing "Amazing Grace" to her. Unfortunately, there's quite a queue of people buying ice cream, and by the time Valerie returns, Elsie has passed away.

Elsie's death leaves Valerie heartbroken, and serves as a catalyst for her decision to leave Nonnatus House. In the 2020 Christmas Special, Sister Julienne announces Valerie's departure, saying she refused to accept Valerie's resignation as she was not in the right frame of mind to make such a decision, and has arranged for her to go to Hope Clinic in South Africa (from the 2016 Christmas Special).

Trivia[]

  • Elsie charged £7 pounds for the abortions she performed.
  • Elsie might have had aspirations to be a nurse, but she left school at twelve, so she never had the education.
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