Helen Crummy MBE LLD
1920 - 2011

Founder of The Craigmillar Festival Society

Helen Murray Prentice was born in Leith, the eldest of six children. Her mother was Joanna Blaikie and her father John, an accomplished fiddler, was a watchmaker who set up business in Haddington and then in Edinburgh. The family moved to Niddrie in 1931 and Helen left school two years later at the age of 13.

In 1942 Helen married Larry Crummy. During WWII she served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force as an administrative Corporal under Air Chief Marshal Bomber Harris, in charge of organising trainee administrative assistants.

In 1962 Helen was a founder member of what became the Craigmillar Festival Society, when a group of mothers from Peffermill Primary School Mothers’ Group, angry and frustrated at the lack of education and employment opportunities for their children, wanted to do something to improve the lives of people in the local community through artistic activity.

Helen wrote three books documenting the history of Craigmillar: Let the People Sing!, the Storyof Craigmillar; Mine a Rich Vein; Whom Dykes Divide about the lives of Niddrie colliers; also a booklet, Craigmillar Art, Culture and Heritage Trail.

She was awarded an MBE in 1972 for her services to the community in Edinburgh, and an Honorary Doctorate by Heriot ‐ Watt University in 1993. Her work is recognised in the Edinburgh Women of Achievement Trail, with a plaque in her memory within the Arts Centre at Craigmillar.

Helen is one of the 100 women who is celebrated on the Travelling the Distance sculpture by Shauna McMullan at the Scottish Parliament. The ceramic writing on these panels celebrates inspirational women, in quotes about them by other women. Ruth Wishart said of Helen, It’s so true, committed citizens are the people who can really change the world . In turn Helen's said about Agnes Moffat, one of the child coalbearers at Craigmillar, whose testimony helped prevent women and children continuing to work in coalmines in the UK, At 10, she carried coal up ladders – distance exceeded height of St Pauls daily .

In 2014 a statue in her memory was unveiled outside the East Neighbourhood Centre and Craigmillar Library, depicting Helen with her son Philip and his violin.

The work of Helen and those who worked alongside her left a legacy of opportunities in creative endeavour and enjoyment in music, drama and art to generations of people. Another of her three sons, artist and designer Andrew Crummy, carries on her vision with his involvement in community artwork in the Three Harbours towns of Cockenzie, Port Seton and Prestonpans and more widely. His recent tapestry projects have gone from local with the Battle of Prestonpans Tapestry, to national with the Great Tapestry of Scotland, to global with the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry.

Margaret Ferguson Burns


Helen Crummy Biography: wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Crummy
Obituary: Dr Helen Crummy MBE, social activist. The Scotsman 18 July 2011 Dr Helen Crummy MBE
Publications: smallandcrummy.co.uk/whomdykesdivide.htm
Craigmillar Festival prepares to mark its 50th. Edinburgh Evening News 21 June 2014 edinburghnews.scotsman.com
A Communiversity of Life. Scotland on Sunday 7 April 1996
Author pens third novel at age of 88. The Scotsman 8 December 2008
The Tapestries: prestonpanstapestry; .scotlandstapestry; scottishdiasporatapestry





Dr helen Crummy
Helen Crummy

Image with kind permission from Andrew Crummy


Helen Crummy Statue

Statue of Helen Crummy (and son Philip holding a fiddle) on Niddrie Mains Road Edinburgh

helen Crummy plaque

Plaque outside Craigmillar Community Arts centre, Edinburgh

Photos courtesy of Margaret Ferguson Burns.