The Ballad of Ellen Tring

As we head into the final six months of the Worn Stories project we are collating and gathering together the findings from our research and community-based projects. We will be delivering some one-off workshops as part of this. First up is ‘The Ballad of Ellen Tring’ on Tuesday 17th July 1-3 pm at Hive. Ellen Tring was a rag worker and her story emerged through the work of our research project. We will be exploring the history of the industrial ballad through the story of Ellen and creating our own ballad, to be performed at our end-of-project events in November and December. Volunteer researcher Tracey has been researching Ellen’s life and shares some of her story below:

Where do you start with Ellen Tring? What about her name? Ellen Tring was also known as Ellen Cameron and as Ellen Quinn. Her date of birth varies between 1846 and 1850 and she was born in either County Armagh or Glasgow, depending on the alias she used! Varying in height from 5ft 1inch to 5ft 3 inches, she was easily identifiable with a scar on the right side of her forehead and a tattoo on her left arm above her elbow. A Roman Catholic, she was married to John William Tring but was also described as living with Robert McMillan. Her profession varied too as she worked as a rag picker, rag sorter, a weaver and a common prostitute. She didn’t just reside in Bradford either, as Barnsley, Dewsbury, Halifax and Lancaster are listed as her residences, among others. However, one thing is certain, it was her criminal convictions that brought her to the attention of the courts and the newspapers. Described as “a woman of notoriously bad character,” “well known to the police,” “a wretched looking woman,” and “an imbecile,” she had approximately nineteen criminal convictions between the years 1879 and 1886. Her sentences ranged from three days to twelve months hard labour for drunkenness, stealing, prostitution and assault (including that of a constable). As an old woman, of no fixed abode she was sent to jail for seven days for drunkenness despite being “a poor creature” and “destitute”. Was she really as bad as she appears or was she a product of her time? 

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If you’d like to find out more about Ellen please contact to sign up for the workshop.

You can read more about Ellen here.