Nostalgia: Statues of Edinburgh

John Knox statue being removed from St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh for cleaning.
John Knox statue being removed from St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh for cleaning.
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IT has been 30 years in the waiting, but Robert Burns and Highland Mary have finally been reunited – with their heads.

The pair featured in the Evening News this week as we reported a Victorian statue of the couple – decapitated by vandals in the 1970s – was under restoration and soon to be returned to its Bathgate home.

Robert Burns statue casket found by workmen under statue when removed for cleaning

Robert Burns statue casket found by workmen under statue when removed for cleaning

Looking at these pictures, our national bard is not the only iconic Scot to have needed some TLC over the years. In fact, Greyfriars Bobby suffered a blow from a rogue vehicle in 1986, leaving him badly scratched. Removed for some months from his home on George IV Bridge, conservationists raced to repair him in time for tourist season.

He’s not the only legend to pass through the casualty ward. Robert the Bruce was swept off to London to restore his decayed face and sword after 99 years took their toll. The two-metre sandstone statue was reinstated high above the entrance to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, where he has stood since 1889.

Another royal, King Charles II, absented himself from the city in 1972 for a six-month stay at Basingstoke, where he was filled with latex and cement. Pictured here, two joiners packaged him carefully on to his royal carriage – a Pickfords lorry.

Also on the casualty list is the Royal Mile’s Mercat Cross, which has witnessed a lot of harm in its time, not least 17th century public hangings. Its own suffering was less drastic, however – wear and tear in 1970. Its unicorn statue was suspended in nylon slings while old stones were replaced.

Workmen move the statue of King Charles II onto the back of a Pickfords removal lorry in Parliament Square Edinburgh, February 1972.

Workmen move the statue of King Charles II onto the back of a Pickfords removal lorry in Parliament Square Edinburgh, February 1972.

But Burns is our most common troublemaker. Back in 1961, he became so filthy on his Leith plinth he had to be removed for cleaning. The statue rewarded its restorers with a historical secret; a statue casket hidden underneath.

Robert Burns statue in Constitution Street Leith - Being removed for cleaning

Robert Burns statue in Constitution Street Leith - Being removed for cleaning