Royal Burgh of Linlithgow
Civic Insignia Sculpture Project
Working with the Linlithgow Town Centre BID and the Linlithgow & Linlithgow Bridge Town Management Group, Linlithgow Burgh Trust, through its newly-formed Public Art Committee, is promoting the installation of two bronze sculptures based on Linlithgow's two traditional civic insignia of the 'Black Bitch' and 'St Michael and the Dragon', as depicted on the town's ancient burgh seal (left and right above) and coats of arms.
Please help us fund this exciting project which will bring together the community of Linlithgow in celebrating the rich historical and cultural heritage of our ancient Royal Burgh!
You can contribute, free of commission, in one of the following ways:
- Wonderful.org: https://www.wonderful.org/charity/linlithgowburghtrust
All of these methods allow Gift Aid which adds 25% to the value of your donation.
The Sculptures and the Artists Involved
Following a public consultation exercise earlier in the year, more recent feedback and the receipt of planning permission, we are about to commission, in two phases, the two pieces of sculpture which will be erected on different prominent sites, mounted on stone plinths.
The intention is to involve two of Scotland’s best known and respected artists – David Annand has been selected to make the dog sculpture, and Alan Herriot will create his vision of St Michael and the Dragon.
Both of the current interpretations are likely to change further as the design process evolves, but the main changes already being made in response to the outcome of exhaustive public consultation are to show the dog chained up more in accordance with the ancient seal and coat of arms (left) and to depict St Michael in a less aggressive pose, as shown above.
Locations and Context
At the top of the Serpentine Bed, opposite St Peter’s Episcopal Church in the High Street, it is envisaged that the 'Black Bitch' sculpture will form the centrepiece of a new seating area with three bench seats, two litter bins and an interpretation board explaining the historical background and providing information about the sculptor concerned. The ‘St Michael’ sculpture will be located in a suitable historic location, the subject of current negotiations, along with another interpretation board.
Involvement of Young People in the Project
As part of the public engagement process, we asked Primary 5-7 pupils, from all five mainstream primary schools in Linlithgow, to undertake some of their own research and produce drawings and paintings to show their own ideas of how they would like the female hunting dog and 'St Michael and the Serpent/Dragon' to appear in sculptural form. The results were exhibited at the Low Port Centre on Wednesday 29 May, from 2.30pm until 7.30pm, with prizes awarded to the entries which most impressed the judges. Some of the children’s work will be featured on the proposed interpretation boards near the sculptures and, to a greater extent, in a new booklet on the overall project which will be published for general public distribution.
Although local historians agree that the female greyhound most likely represents a hunting dog temporarily tied to a tree trunk to conserve its energies, legends abound about its origins, most popularly that it depicts a faithful hound which fed its master who was chained to a tree on an island in Linlithgow Loch (and which, when discovered, led to the dog being similarly chained up). St Michael, the patron saint of Linlithgow, derives from the Bible in which, as the archangel or 'chief angel', his slaying of the dragon (or serpent) symbolises the conquest of good over all things sinful and evil. More specifically, as the town's 'guardian angel', he represents a force for good, being ‘kinde to straingers’ and the town’s inhabitants by keeping them safe from evil, harm or danger.
Both the dog and St Michael appeared on Linlithgow's burgh seals as long ago as 1296 and 1357. In those days, it was customary for burghs to have a double-sided seal, one side normally carrying a secular object and the other a religious object, usually referring to the town’s patron saint - and this was the case in Linlithgow until the town's official Royal Burgh status was abolished in 1975.
Left: The coat of arms most often used by Linlithgow Town Council.
Middle: The St Michael insignia and motto depicted as they might have been shown on a sacred flag.
Right: The new coat of arms of Linlithgow & Linlithgow Bridge Community Council (used by permission).