Shirley was born in Invercargill, New Zealand in 1931 and died in Wellington (New Zealand) in 2020. She was a prolific hymn text writer and hymnal editor. Her Church traditions were Methodist, Presbyterian and ecumenical. Shirley’s work appears in over 50 collections worldwide, and her hymns have been set by more than 30 contemporary composers, notably Colin Gibson and Jillian Bray (NZ), Jane Marshall, Carlton Young and Jim Strathdee (USA), I-to Loh (Taiwan), Per Harling (Sweden), and Ron Klusmeier (Canada).
Shirley’s themes range from the Church Year and the sacraments to inclusiveness, personal faith, non-violence and ecology. She was the Erik Routley Fellow in 1996, and has twice addressed The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. She has worked as teacher, Parliamentary researcher and producer of radio hymn programs.
Shirley’s hymns are represented by The Hope Publishing Company worldwide (except for Asia, Australia and New Zealand). In 2001 Shirley was honoured on the Queen’s birthday, being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) “for services to the community as a writer of hymns.” She is the first New Zealand hymnwriter ever so honoured.