With the design for its successor to be announced on Tuesday, the curtain is coming down on the existing incarnation of the Ross Bandstand.
Built in 1935, West Princes Street Garden’s ageing concert venue fell out of favour many moons ago and, if all goes to plan, it will be replaced by a structure more befitting of its spectacular setting.
Supplying a considerable chunk of the £25 million required to make it all happen is Apex Hotels tycoon, Norman Springford, a chap who has expressed a desire to overhaul the Ross Bandstand for well over a decade.
Stage one for Norman and his group, the Ross Development Trust involved the launch of an international design competition for the replacement bandstand. After being inundated with 125 entries from across the globe, the Trust revealed which seven made their shortlist just last month.
This Tuesday, the hotly-anticipated winner will finally be announced.
A multi-million pound restoration of the Ross Fountain - which is already ongoing - and improvements of other prominent aspects of the Gardens are also included in the ambitious plans.
Exciting stuff, and great to see a private benefactor such as Mr Springford part with their own money for the benefit of Edinburgh.
The existing Ross Bandstand is the product of a similar act of philanthropy. It was funded in the 1930s by William Henry Ross, of the Distillers Company Ltd in Edinburgh.
Mr Ross joined the Distillers Company as a junior clerk back in 1878, working his way up over a period of 57 years to eventually become chairman.
He retired in 1935, gifting a sum of £5,000 to the city corporation for the construction of a new bandstand in West Princes Street Gardens.
Born on a farm in Carluke in 1862, Ross was a well-known benefactor whose generous gifts included 8,000 to help with an extension of the Royal Infirmary and £40,000 for the foundation of a centre for the study and prevention of blindness. Ross himself lost the sight of both eyes in the latter part of his life. The depth of his pockets was matched by the size of his kind heart.
It’s recorded in numerous places that Ross was responsible for the first bandstand on this site in 1877. But this is false, not to mention practically impossible.
Designed by architectural firm Peddie & Kinnear, the original structure was a 19ft by 17ft octagonal wooden pavilion - a bandstand in the truest possible sense. Its £500 cost was met by the Princes Street Proprietors, who had exclusive access to the West Gardens until 1876. William Henry Ross would have been a 15-year-old student at George Watson’s College when the bandstand was built.
Every Sunday for more than five decades, the original bandstand was a focal point of the Gardens, but by the early 1930s, it was described by one commentator as “grimy”, “weather beaten” and in dire need of replacement - sound familar? In the eighty-odd years since it was first opened, the Ross Bandstand has played host to thousands of concerts and helped to create an untold number of happy memories for generations of Edinburgh residents both young and old. But now it is time to bid farewell to the weather-beaten structure.
Buildings may come and go but they can’t demolish memories. Regardless of what the new theatre will look like, let’s just look forward to creating some new ones.