Royal Burgh of Linlithgow Civic Insignia Sculptures Project
Working with the Linlithgow & Linlithgow Bridge Town Management Group and the former Linlithgow Town Centre BID, Linlithgow Burgh Trust, through its Public Art Committee, has completed the installation of two bronze sculptures based on Linlithgow's two traditional civic insignia of the 'Black Bitch' and St Michael, as depicted on the town's ancient burgh seal (left and right above) and coats of arms. The project was funded through the generosity of numerous local groups, national organisations, families and individuals. The 'Black Bitch' sculpture was the first to appear and was officially unveiled by Provost Tom Kerr at 10.30am on Friday 31 January 2020. The St Michael statue and its granite plinth were installed on 13 November 2020.
The 'Black Bitch' Sculpture
At the top of the Serpentine Bed, opposite St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Linlithgow High Street, the 'Black Bitch' sculpture forms the centrepiece of a new seating area. Following an exhaustive process of public consultation carried out during the first half of 2019, Linlithgow Burgh Trust commissioned the well-known Scottish artist, David Annand, to create the dog sculpture and W L Watson of St Andrews to make the sandstone plinth, mainly using recycled material. David Annand has considerable experience in the field of public art, previous Linlithgow examples being the Mary, Queen of Scots statue at Linlithgow Palace and of course Dudley the Cat at the Union Canal Basin. David responded positively to the strong local view that the dog should be chained to a tree trunk in accordance with the ancient seal and coat of arms, rather than standing alone.
The artist completed the clay version of the sculpture at his Fife studio in September 2019 (photograph above left), followed by casting at Powderhall Bronze in Edinburgh. Landcape work in September was followed by the erection of the stone plinth in late November and the installation of the finished sculpture (photograph above right) on 17 December 2019. The other contractors and suppliers were Fernbrooke Scotland LLP (concrete foundation, paving and landscape setting), Ogilvie Engineering (benches and litter bins) and the Osprey Company (interpretation board).
The new flower bed which provides a setting for the sculpture and plinth was furnished with permanent planting by Burgh Beautiful Linlithgow in June 2020.
Alan Herriot, another renowned Scottish figurative sculptor with many works of public art to his name, was commissioned to create the St Michael sculpture now standing on its dark grey granite plinth at Low Port, both statue and plinth having been installed on 13 November 2020. Again, the exhaustive process of public consultation, backed by the firm views of the main funders, led to modifications to the original proposals, including siting as the centrepiece of a flower bed rather than within a paved setting.
In common with the sandstone base for the 'Black Bitch' sculpture, St Michael's grey granite plinth was supplied and inscribed by the St Andrews stonemasons, W L Watson & Son. The preparatory foundation works and the related interpretation board were installed by Fernbrooke LLP in June 2020. Also, in common with the 'Black Bitch' statue, Powderhall Bronze in Edinburgh was responsible for the foundry and assembly work, faithfully reproducing the sculptor's meticulous detail. We are very grateful to all concerned for working safely within the coronavirus restrictions to bring the project to fruition in good time, only five weeks later than originally envisaged.
Involvement of Young People in the Project - and Proposed Book on the Civic Insignia and Sculptures
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 2019, with prizes awarded to the entries which most impressed the judges. Some of the children’s work is featured on the interpretation boards near the sculptures and, to a greater extent, in a new booklet on the overall project which is planned for publication in early 2021, probably to coincide with the official unveiling of the St Michael sculpture. The well-illustrated 84-page booklet will cover the civic insignia, the legends, the sculptures and related school work in some detail.
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', St Michael's 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, keeping the town’s inhabitants 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. The inscriptions on the rear of the plinths of both the new sculptures commemorate the granting of Linlithgow's original coats of arms by the Lord Lyon King of Arms on 16 July 1673.
Grateful Thanks to the Project Funders
Linlithgow & Linlithgow Bridge Town Management Group; Linlithgow Town Centre BID; Scottish Government's Town Centre Fund; Linlithgow Burgh Trust; Scottish Landfill Communities Fund; National Lottery Heritage Fund; Edinburgh Airport Community Fund; Rotary Club of Linlithgow & Bo'ness; Court of the Deacons of the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow; Tesco 'Bags of Help'; Customers of Platform Three; one very generous anonymous bequest and 51 public-spirited individual 'crowdfunders'.
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).