Jason Collett – “Charlyn, Angel of Kensington”

Album: Here’s to Being Here
Year: 2008
Artist Website: arts-crafts.ca/artists/jasoncollett/
Location: Denison Square

Listen Here:

The Story:

“This song came about after my wife, a social worker, brought home a history book from St Christopher House where she was working at the time. St Christopher house was the original social service hub for new immigrants in Kensington Market. We were living in the neighbourhood and my wife’s family had roots here for a couple generations. What she had discovered in the book was a story about her aunt Charlyn who as it turned out was the first Community Worker at St Christopher House. Charlyn was a dynamic force in the community throughout the 50s and 60s, organizing actions to prevent city hall from bulldozing the neighbourhood. She was fondly referred to as “the angel of Kensington.” There was once a statue dedicated to her in Denison Park but the city has long since removed it, such is our reverence for our history. We knew very little about Charlyn as she was somewhat estranged from the family and died of cancer long before my wife was born. This discovery was a kind of marvel to us – to have not known what an integral part she had played in shaping the very neighbourhood we called home.
-Jason Collett


“From St.Christopher’s house
Into the streets you set out
With the dispossessed and the broken down
You looked around and saw the need
Dug in your heels, rolled up your sleeves
You were no stranger to the refugee
And you wouldn’t let the bully boys get you down
These are your streets from the projects to the sums of Chinatown
From Denison square to the synagogue steps
The shopkeepers and merchants all families of immigrants

Charlyn, Charlyn, Angel of Kensington

Laundry hanging in the ally yards
Cats sunning on the hoods of parked cars
Children messing ’round in the vacant lots
Fish market woman laughin’ out loud
Old Portuguese men hanging ’round
In the ancient smoke of a local bar
You feeding birds right out of your hand
On the sidewalk cafe while the street preacher quotes old testament

Charlyn, Charlyn, Angel of Kensington

Down in Alexandra Town
I can almost hear the old steel drums ringing out
Courage take courage
For every lonely soul that you lifted up
Pushing out the walls of this neighbourhood
I guess that’s why they call you the angel of Kensington

Charlyn, Charlyn, Angel of Kensington

This is your family, this is your family…