Places of interest in the community

The rich history of Craigmillar

Craigmillar has it's own rich history. From Craigmillar Castle where Mary Queen of Scots resided, to our very own White House, there is a lot to see. How many places have you visited?

Helen Crummy Memorial

Helen Prentice, the eldest daughter of Joanna Blaikie and John Prentice, was born in Leith on the 10th May 1920 but later moved to Craigmillar. She married Larry Crummy in 1942 and moved to Greendykes where they raised their three children, Philip, Stephen and Andrew.

One day, in a meeting with the Headmaster of her son Philip's primary school, she asked if her son could be taught to play the violin. The response she was given was that it took the school enough time to teach the children "all three R's".

Not put off by this remark, Helen teamed up with a group of local mothers to show how talented the children in the area really were. In bringing together all of the talent in the area the Craigmillar Festival Society (CFS) was born.

The CFS was set up in 1962 and, as well as showcasing the arts, this helped drive social change in the area by creating a platform to lobby on local issues through theatre. It's popularity grew and it became very well known, they even had a visit from members of the Notting Hill Carnival.

As well as being a community activist Helen was also an accomplished writer and published at least three books. The first, Let The People Sing: A Story of Craigmillar was published in 1992 and tells the story of the foundation of the CFS. Mine A Rich Vein: A History and Vision of Craigmillar was published in 2004 and tells the history of the mine workings and the final book in the trilogy was Whom Dykes Divide: A Story of the Niddrie Coalbearers.

Helen also published a booklet called the Craigmillar Art, Culture and Heritage Trail, which gave information and history on the many landmarks in the area. In 1992 she was given an honorary doctorate by Heriot Watt University.

Helen passed away peacefully on the 11th July 2011 at the age of 91. In her memory a statue was erected outside the East Edinburgh Centre, unveiled in a ceremony which was attended by her former colleagues in the Craigmillar Festival Society. At the time the statue was unveiled this was the third statue of a woman in Edinburgh, the other being Queen Victoria at Leith Walk and the statue of the Woman and Child at Festival Square. A room in the library was also named in her honour.

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The White House

The White House is a B-listed art deco building which was designed in 1936 by W Innes Thomson for Mrs Gair. It was built as a roadhouse which was popular at the time and is one of three in Edinburgh, the others being the Maybury and the Hillburn. These roadhouses were built at the time where motorcars were becoming popular and family outings could involve going to somewhere which was a step up from the local pub.

The original plan contained a tearoom, public bar, saloon bar and skittle alley. The upper floor comprised of a lounge bar and billiard room. The building was later run as a pub until it fell into disrepair and was later damaged in fires. It lay empty for over a decade and was purchased by PARC in 2007.

At the time it was purchased, the White House was in such a sorry state that the building may not have remained standing for much longer. None of the original doors or windows remained and all of the fireplaces had been stripped out. Large sections of the roof had collapsed which caused the fabric of the building to become waterlogged and flooded the basement. The skittle alley was in such a dangerous condition that it had to be demolished.

Funding was secured from the Scottish Government's Town Centre Regeneration Fund and from Historic Scotland to restore the building as part of the plan for regenerating Craigmillar Town Centre. The building opened once again to the public in 2013 and now features a community cafe and various events.