Helen Crummy

Title: 
M.B.E., LLD (Dr)
Other names: 
Helen Murray Crummy; nee Prentice
Dates: 
10 May 1920 – 11 July 2011

Helen Murray Prentice was born in Leith on 10th May 1920, the eldest of 6 children. Her mother was Joanna Blaikie; her father John, an accomplished fiddler, was a watchmaker who trained by Royal Warrant holders Brooks & Co. He set up business in Haddington, then in Edinburgh. The family moved to Niddrie in 1931 and Helen left school at the age of 13, two years later.

In 1942 Helen married Larry Crummy (who died in 1995 aged 84) and they had 3 sons, Philip John (born 1946), Stephen Prentice (born 1952) and Andrew Thomas (born 1959), an Artist and Designer. She had 6 grandchildren, Jamie, Kate, Rob, Jess, Aoife and Prentice.

During the war she served in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) as an administrative Corporal under Air Chief Marshal "Bomber" Harris, in charge of organising trainee administrative assistants.

Helen was a founder member of the Craigmillar Festival Society in 1962. Its aims were to improve the lives of people in the local community through artistic activity.

She wrote 3 books: Let the People Sing!, the Story of Craigmillar; Mine a Rich Vein; Whom Dykes Divide about the lives of Niddrie colliers (published in 2008); also a booklet, Craigmillar Art, Culture and Heritage Trail.

Helen was awarded an MBE in 1972, 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 Ruth Wishart said of Helen "It’s so true, committed citizens are the people who can really change the world." Helen's own quote "AT 10, SHE CARRIED COAL UP LADDERS - DISTANCE EXCEEDED HEIGHT OF ST PAULS DAILY" refers to Agnes Moffat, one of the child coalbearers at Craigmillar, whose testimony helped prevent women and children continuing to work in coalmines in the UK.

On 21st March, 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.

Helen died on 11th July 2011, aged 91. Her legacy continues in her son Andrew who is involved in community art in the 3 Harbours (Cockenzie, Port Seton and Prestonpans). 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.

Images: 
Helen Crummy
Sources
Obituary: Dr Helen Crummy MBE, social activist
Scotsman Obituary
Andrew Thomas, Stephen P, Philip John, Larry, Helen Crummy
birth, marriage and death search records