Ilkley historian, Professor Mike Dixon, has recently published a biography of his local hero, Robert Collyer.
Mike explains how he found it to be a life filled with adventure, triumphs, and tribulations:
“Collyer was a blacksmith in Ilkley who emigrated to America in 1850 and became a famous preacher in Chicago and New York. His story captured Mike’s interest soon after he came to live in Ilkley in 1970 and he has been researching Collyer’s life and times for over 40 years.
“Born into poverty to mill workers, Collyer began work in West House Mill, Blubberhouses, at the age of eight. His job was a relentless one, changing the bobbins on the flax spinning frames, and from the outset he had to work the same hours as the adults, 76 hours a week, in appalling conditions. At the age of 12, fearful that he would soon contract the diseases and deformities so prevalent among workers in the mill, his parents secured him an apprenticeship at the smithy in Ilkley.