Coffee Morning: Robert Collyer – the making of a biography

28th Jan 2022
10:30 am - 11:30 am

Robert Collyer, a former blacksmith in Ilkley, emigrated to the United States in 1850 and ten years later became a Unitarian minister in Chicago. His transformation from simple artisan to prominent preacher is a story that captured Mike Dixon’s imagination. Collyer’s story, however, is not simply one of self-education and advancement, there is tragedy and adventure. He lost his first wife in childbirth and turned to the Methodist church for solace.

From Chicago he took the city’s relief funds to the victims of a tornado in Iowa and a massacre in Kansas; he witnessed the horrors of the Civil War and saw his church and home burnt to the ground in the Great Fire.

Collyer’s story is well worth the telling, but writing a biography and bringing it to publication was something of a saga in itself. Mike’s book, From Anvil to Pulpit: the making of Robert Collyer, is on sale at the Grove Bookshop and from

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