Papers and Correspondence of Helen Burness Cruickshank (1886-1975)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The Papers and Correspondence of Helen Burness Cruickshank include letters connected with her career in the Civil Service, and retirement from it, covering the years 1913-1945; an engagements diary for 1972; an address book of friends; autobiographical notes; contributions to PEN; letters; short stories; lectures, talks and speeches; notes for articles; accounts and reviews; a horoscope. There is holograph and typescript material, drafts of poems, pencil sketches, a scrapbook, cuttings, and photographs. There is correspondence between Cruickshank and Valda Grieve (second wife of Christopher Murray Grieve).

Administrative / Biographical History

The poet Helen Burness Cruickshank was born near Hillside, Montrose, in Angus, on 15 May 1886. She was educated at the local Hillside Public School and at Montrose Academy. In 1903, she joined the Post Office as a civil servant in London. There she became involved with the Suffragette movement and in particular with the Woman Clerks' Association which campaigned for better pay for women. In 1912, Cruickshank returned to Edinburgh, working in the newly established National Health Insurance Scheme. In Edinburgh she made contact with Christopher Murray Grieve (1892-1978), otherwise known as Hugh MacDiarmid, and William Soutar (1898-1943), among many other writers and artists. She became involved with Scottish PEN (an association of poets, playwrights, editors, essayists and novelists) founded by Grieve. Cruickshank's poems are rich in the sights and sounds of 20th century Scotland and contain sharp political perception of the position both of women and of Scotland. On the death of her father in 1924, she looked after and then nursed her aged mother for many years and some of her poetry confronts the sadness of lifelong virginity and childlessness. At a graduation ceremonial on 2 July 1970, Cruickshank was awarded the honorary degree of M.A. from Edinburgh University for her services to literature. Helen Burness Cruickshank suffered a slight stroke in 1973 and in 1974 she entered Queensberry Lodge, Edinburgh, where care and emergency help was on hand. She died there on 2 March 1975.

Conditions Governing Access

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Note

The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland, edited by John Keay and Julia Keay (London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1994). (2) University of Edinburgh Journal, Vol.24. 1969-1970., p.228 (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd). (3) Octobiography, Helen B. Cruickshank (Montrose: Standard Press, 1976).

Other Finding Aids

An important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.

Related Material

The Index to Manuscripts shows references to other letters and postcards at Gen. 2122/4, and to miscellaneous poems, articles, notes, press cuttings and correspondence at Gen. 2122/5-8. There is correspondence between Cruickshank and Valda Grieve and Christopher Murray Grieve at Gen. 886., and other miscellaneous and relevant references.

Additional Information

The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland, edited by John Keay and Julia Keay (London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1994). (2) University of Edinburgh Journal, Vol.24. 1969-1970., p.228 (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd). (3) Octobiography, Helen B. Cruickshank (Montrose: Standard Press, 1976).

Corporate Names