Her family were originally from Australia, and had planned a short stop in South Africa on their way to England when Shelagh, the youngest of three children, was still a baby. As fate would have it, they ended up settling in South Africa, first in Pretoria and then in Cape Town.
From a young age, Shelagh and her sister Patricia were keen dancers, and at the age of four, Shelagh was known as the Shirley Temple of South Africa, with her bouncy blonde curls and bubbly personality.
Their father died when Shelagh was just 12 years old, and this led to difficult times for the family financially.
At the age of 20, Shelagh joined her sister in England, where she met up with Betty Fox, who was to become a lifelong friend. Together they started the Fox Miller Dance Studio, and toured around the country with their talented young dancers. One group even danced on a Beatles video!
Shelagh married Peter Wood in 1962, and they had one child, Gregory, who died tragically at the age of two. The couple later divorced, and Shelagh returned to South Africa in 1973. She joined up with impresario Brian Brooke’s theatre group and worked with him for many years, touring all over South Africa with his various productions, the most well-known of which was Ipi Tombi.
At the age of 65 she retired to Aberdeen, after staying overnight whilst on holiday. She quickly became a part of the social life of the town, and made many friends. She also joined the local Publicity Association, working conscientiously as a volunteer in the office once a month, and enjoying many outings and activities with the group.
Still full of energy, she shared her love of dance with many township children, giving free lessons and even providing clothing and shoes for them. Until the age of 83, she still ran exercise classes for local residents – and although she was 30 years older than most of the ladies, she could still outperform most of them with her flexibility and fitness level! As recently as three years ago she went on holiday to Port Elizabeth with a good friend, and enjoyed sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the sea, as well as feasting on a huge buffet meal at the Beach Hotel!
Sadly by the beginning of 2015 her health had deteriorated to the extent that she needed a full-time carer, but her friends tried to ensure that she could still enjoy the little luxuries in life that meant so much to her. Once a month her “surrogate daughter” Dallis Graham would take her to Graaff-Reinet to be pampered, with visits to the hairdresser and beautician, and she still enjoyed outings to the local Padstal and the coffee mornings at the Bookshop.
In July of that year she moved into Aalwynhof, where she was looked after with compassion and kindness. She became increasingly less aware of her surroundings with the progression of her vascular dementia, but she still enjoyed the regular visits of close friends. She passed away from chronic bronchitis.
A memorial tea was held in her honour last Saturday, where many old friends gathered to share their own fond memories of this special lady.