Helen Cruickshank lived from 15 May 1886 to 2 March 1975. She was a poet and suffragette and did much to promote the Scottish Renaissance. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Helen was born in Hillside near Montrose, and she went to school there, spending family holidays in the Angus Glens, whose landscape and people were greatly to influence her later work. On leaving school, Helen took up a Civil Service job in London from 1903 to 1912, working for the Post Office, before moving to Edinburgh, where she was to spend much of the rest of her life.
In Edinburgh, Helen soon became involved in the Women's Social and Political Union, campaigning with them for women's suffrage. She was also a Scottish Nationalist and a member of the Saltire Society. She also became a focal point of the literary movement that was later to become known as the Scottish Renaissance, and her Corstorphine home became a regular gathering place. Amongst the young writers she advised and encouraged were Hugh MacDiarmid, Lewis Grassic Gibbon and Violet Jacob.
Helen Cruickshank's own poetry was published in journals like Scottish Chapbook and Northern Numbers, as well as in five collections that emerged between the 1930s and the 1970s. Much of her poetry was written in Lowland Scots and evokes the world of the Angus Glens in her youth. Many of her poems have since been set to music to become folk songs or ballads.
Cruickshank cared for her elderly mother for many years and retired from her post as a Civil Servant in 1946. In 1971 she was awarded an honourary MA by Edinburgh University. She died in 1975. Her autobiography, entitled "Octobiography" was published twelve years after her death in 1987.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".