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Cameron Cruz
Cameron Cruz

The Ballad Of Shirley Collins

The life story of Shirley Collins is one that could effectively stand parallel to the traditional folk ballads she once so plainly yet beautifully and faithfully sang to the accompaniment of her sister, Dolly. Think about it; it could be easy to consider that one such overwrought pagan fable could tragically conclude with a distressed heroine struck dumb by the betrayal of her man. And that is exactly what happened to Collins some thirty eight years ago when her husband Ashley Hutchings, formerly of Steeleye Span, left her for another woman. Unable to sing as a direct result of this emotional trauma, literally struck dumb on stage, Collins was subsequently diagnosed with dysphonia and reluctantly withdrew from the English folk scene she had helped put on the map to work instead in, among other places, the British Library and a jobcentre. As someone who has previously worked both in libraries and jobcentres, she has my deepest sympathy. It was hard enough for me - what must it have felt like for someone who had performed Peel sessions and had the respect and admiration of comrades like Bert Jansch and Ewan MacColl?

The Ballad of Shirley Collins

Beginning in 1846, soon after his graduation from Harvard College, Francis James Child, Harvard professor, eventual first president of the American Folklore Society, and the greatest ballad scholar of the nineteenth century, began what would become a twenty-year correspondence with his closest college friend and future brother-in-law, William Ellery Sedgwick. Based on this cache of letters contained among the Sedgwick family papers deposited at the Massachusetts Historical Society, this presentation will examine this "secret autobiography" for what it reveals about Child the man; his hopes, dreams, and frustrations; and his growing involvement in the intellectual and social cultures of late antebellum Cambridge.

Michael Bell is a folklorist who has been a professor at Wayne State University and Grinnell College, and an administrator at Suffolk University and Merrimack College. He retired as Vice President and Dean of the University, Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky. He has been researching Francis James Child and his volumes of ballads for many years. 041b061a72


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