The history of Edinburgh’s famous statues

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby being replaced on pedestal after repairs that were required when the statue was knocked off its pedestal by a car the previous June.
Statue of Greyfriars Bobby being replaced on pedestal after repairs that were required when the statue was knocked off its pedestal by a car the previous June.
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They range from the famous and brave to the anonymous and downright baffling.

Edinburgh is, of course, full of statues and this week we learned another will soon be on the way.

Mr William Young polished the Duke of Wellington Statue at Register House in Edinburgh

Mr William Young polished the Duke of Wellington Statue at Register House in Edinburgh

More than 150 years after William Henry Playfair’s death, the New Town architect is set to be honoured with his own statue on the doorstep of the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.

About time you would think but the move may not be popular with everyone – especially those campaigning for equal sculpture rights for women.

Only two in the city – of Queen Victoria at the bottom of Leith Walk, erected in 1907, and Anne Davidson’s anonymous African Woman and Child, unveiled in Festival Square in 1986 – depict the fairer sex.

Of course, few would argue with perhaps the most famous statue in the city – that of Greyfriars Bobby at the junction of George IV Bridge and Candlemaker Row. Our main picture on the previous page shows workmen replacing it after it was hit by a van in May 1971.

The Jacob Epstein statue St Michael and the Devil above Waverley Market, promoting the Epstein Exhibition during the Edinburgh Festival 1961.

The Jacob Epstein statue St Michael and the Devil above Waverley Market, promoting the Epstein Exhibition during the Edinburgh Festival 1961.

Queen Vic is a Leith landmark and during the 1955 general election campaign, independent liberal candidate Sir Andrew Murray chose to address an open air meeting from the statue.

While many are enduring icons, others have only graced city streets for a short time. In 1961, the Jacob Epstein statue St Michael and the Devil towered over the then Waverley Market, promoting the Epstein Exhibition during that year’s Festival.

And while the George IV statue remains on George Street, the rest of this scene from 1952 is barely recognisable – hardly any traffic and a moving tram.