The Ballad of Margaret Mayall

Dedicated to Margaret Mayall, Director Emeritus, The American Association of Variable Star Observers. Written by Mike Saladyga, with apologies to Woody Guthrie ("The Ranger's Command"), and sung to Margaret by the AAVSO Staff, January 1992, on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

The Ballad of Margaret Mayall

Come all you observers
All over this land
I'll tell you the tale of
Margaret Mayall's command

To keep this Headquarters
From falling apart
As long as there's clear skies
And plenty of charts

She was just a fair maiden
Whose name wasn't known
When Annie Jump Cannon
Said "with me would you go?"

As a working astronomer
Margaret got her start
Measuring stellar spectra
For the HD Cat.

Margaret Mayall saw wonder
In those variable stars
As a VSO member
She curated the charts

First Recorder Leon Campbell
Is a name you well know
Came a day he said "Mayall,
Won't you take control?"

She was named the Recorder
In nineteen forty nine
When AAVSO with Harvard
Was a pair at its prime

But when Shapley retired
In nineteen fifty-two
The Observatory required
AAVSO to move

Yes, some administrators
Said to Margaret "tough luck,
We've decided that variable stars
Aren't important enough"

You may speak of your Miras
And your U Geminis
But no upswing inspires
As Margaret's reply:

"Variable stars are important"
Was Margaret's decree
"non-profit, independent,
is the way we shall be"

"Astronomy is for everybody"
Margaret Mayall would say
Amateurs and Astronomers
Each have their parts to play

Her first big achievement
As Director, you see
Was to start an endowment
Keeping VSO free

Then she set up Headquarters
Along Brattle Street way
making VSO stronger
While she worked without pay

It was Margaret Mayall
Who thought it correct
That we have our own journal
For all to inspect

And to aid young astronomers
Since �seventy-four
An Assistantship's named
For Margaret Mayall

Well she's served as Director
For twenty-four years
And for that we all thank her
And we give her three cheers

As for Margaret's success
We can sum it all up as
Margaret Mayall's Motto:

Come all you observers
And don't ever quit
As long as there's clear skies
And data to get!