Hilda Miller was impressed by Founder of the Steps to Hope charity, Richard Roncero, who recently slept rough for eight weeks to raise funds – so much so that she came up with a couple of ways to keep his spirits up.
First of all she recorded a video message to wish him Happy Birthday. Roncero celebrated both Christmas and his 40th birthday while he lived on the streets in eight cities over eight weeks.
Hilda sent him the video message on his birthday congratulating him on his success with Steps to Hope. The fundraiser has now reached £215,000.
Hilda then decided to do a walk around Holyrood Park, visiting The Palace of Holyroodhouse, and The Scottish Parliament on the way and then making her way back home to her nearby flat. During the walk her photo was taken at various places to confirm that she had indeed completed what she set out to do, and she sent the photos to Richie to keep him going during his Sleep Rough campaign.
Hilda said: “I had heard about Richie and I have also met him. I wanted to just send him a message of support.”
The main thing you need to know about Hilda is that she will celebrate her 100th birthday on 12 June…so her achievement is all the more remarkable.
Hilda’s neighbour Jacqueline Baillie walked with her round the park for company, and to make sure the energetic pensioner completed the full route – which was much further than she normally walks each day. Jackie said: “Hilda is an inspiration to me. She goes to church on a Sunday, she goes out for a daily walk, and she has some very good friends.” Hilda also lives independently in her own flat which is kept as neat as a pin.
Hilda was born in 1924 at the east end of London Road near Gayfield, and first lived with her mother-in-law for four years before she and her first husband Bob McCoy moved into their own home on Edina Place in Restalrig. This was “handy for Bob” as he worked in Edinburgh Crystal alongside his brothers. The couple then moved round the corner onto Brunton Place.
She married her second husband Alan Miller (“a lovely man”) when she was 84 and he was 87. They had met on holiday, but sadly he died a few years ago. She has now lived at the Viewpoint Housing complex at Croft-an-Righ for 32 years and we are told her nickname is “Queen of the Croft” – something she absolutely denies.
Looking ahead to her own big day this summer Hilda said: “I don’t have any children and only very few relatives but I will be going out for a meal with them to celebrate my 100th. I had a party here last year but this year it will be a private celebration.”
Asked if she had ever worked she exclaimed that yes she worked “all her life”. She started out as a shorthand typist having studied on a commercial course at Bellevue, and during the war she attended night school at The Royal High to increase her typing and shorthand speeds.
Hilda said: “Through the years I moved to a few jobs and stayed a long time in each one as you did in those years. You never left a job until you had another one to go to.
“I finished up going to the council in the housing department. Before I went to work there they would have single typists in each department, but they wanted to set up a typing pool where all correspondence had to be typed. It was in the days at the start of word processing and I had to go to the South of England and be taught on a huge word processor. I came back and taught two of my girls.
“We were in an office on the High Street and at first we sat on dining room chairs before we then we moved into the City Chambers. Of course in the days of Maggie Thatcher we didn’t have lights because of the strikes. We looked out onto one of the sets of stairs that go down to Cockburn Street and we were supposed to be able to type up the handwritten versions which I had already checked for spelling and grammar. We wondered how we would be able to work at that point. They said they could get us candles!”
Hilda congratulated Richie on his efforts to help homeless people. She said: “It’s ridiculous. There should be more places built to take people off the streets. It is amazing that Richie at 40 years of age was sleeping out on the streets and raised that amount of money. He did very well.”
Richie arrived home in Edinburgh at the weekend and he has sent Hilda his thanks for her support.
All photos of Hilda on her walk are courtesy of Jacqueline Bailie