Edinburgh Evening News
Edinburgh Evening News

My article for the Edinburgh Evening News on the legacy left by three special community heroes. You can also read the article on the Evening News’ website.

It’s been a tumultuous time in politics but as the summer commences it provides a time for reflection. And what a year it has been. We have concluded this term with warnings from the Tory Government that they may have to start stockpiling medicines, food and water. In 2018, this Governments strategy on leaving the EU has gone from sunlit uphill’s to this. I’m not sure it is going too well. Do you?

Now this makes it easy for me to write yet another article on the impending tragedy of Brexit but, instead, I want to concentrate on an issue that is very close to my own heart – community champions. I have thought about this a lot recently due to the passing of three Edinburgh South community champions. It has helped me conclude that real change comes from the people who live, work and breathe their local communities.

The community in Moredun will be much diminished without 85-year-old great-grandmother Ann Burn MBE who worked on the committee of the Moredun Community Association, which runs the local community centre, for over 50 years and was given an MBE for her service to the community back in 2008.

She was a formidable campaigner, a compassionate neighbour, a doughty champion, and just the loveliest person. She always used to say that the sense of community “was not the same these days” but she wore her MBE with pride on behalf of the entire community and the thousands of local people who have benefited from her work in Moredun. She devoted the majority of her adult life to fight for the place she called home. A true community champion who inspired everyone around her.

On the very same day, June 25, the community in Liberton lost one of their most committed, effective and long-standing community heroes. Ann Sutherland was Secretary of the local Liberton Association for over 20 years. Her passion for preserving the unique surroundings of old Liberton and improving local amenities was unsurpassed.

Her professional life as a Map Librarian and long-term member of the British Cartography Society, which resulted in her being named an Honorary Fellow, was invaluable when arguing the finer topographical details of why a planning application should not be pursued. Ann, “without the ‘e’” as she first introduced herself to me, was formidable. Her lovely nature was combined with a steely determination to ensure things got done. I’m not quite sure what the local community will do without Ann.

Then on July 3 I received an email to say Richard Ellis had died. Richard was a key campaigner on a plethora of local organisations and bodies from the Morningside Community Council to The Friends of the Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hills, and many more. He gave his time with such enthusiasm and vigour. Richard spent his 35-year professional career at Edinburgh University’s School of Divinity teaching ministers the tricks of public speaking. He certainly used those skills to make the case for the local community.

Richard was extremely well-liked and respected and there is a considerable hole in the local community now.

We send our sympathies to their families, friends and all who knew them. They leave a long-lasting legacy.

The reason I tell of these three wonderful people is to demonstrate how important local people are to their communities and how their work both gets things done and inspires others.

Projects, programmes, and even politicians can’t effect real change in the way that people do. Ordinary, everyday people committed to where they call home, are the true change makers.

We should celebrate and cherish them all. And say thank you for all that they do.

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