DOWN in Leith, at the foot of the Walk, is a rare thing indeed. You might walk by or stare past it while stuck on the bus, not for a moment pausing to marvel at just what an object of supreme scarcity it really is.
For here, in a city stuffed with statues, Leith’s Queen Victoria monument is the only one that pays homage to a woman with an actual statue created in her image.
And while there may be a scattering of plaques and so on that reflect upon individual women or symbolise accomplishments, good old Vic is the only one that stands tall and proud and very obviously is her.
Curious, isn’t it, despite producing incredible pioneering women like doctor Sophia Jex-Blake, brilliant female minds such as Dame Muriel Spark and brave souls who against many odds and social barriers – usually, it must be said, put there by men – like medic and suffragette Elsie Inglis, we somehow completely neglected to show our respect and gratitude by chucking up a statue or two?
So we have statues to military men and poets, men of science and learning, a monument to a male writer which on a clear day may well be visible from space, a much photographed tribute to a dog, and soon there’ll be a statue marking the wartime achievements of a fag smoking, beer swilling Polish bear.
There are characters, like Sherlock Holmes, who have only existed in books, a giant foot, some giraffes, pigeons . . . well, you get the picture.
Edinburgh isn’t alone is this neglect of half the population: Scotland has just 20 statues that depict individual women – five of them Queen Victoria, whose main life achievement was to be born royal.
Soon, if the current swell of enthusiasm for the idea becomes reality, there could be a new statue to masculine achievement in the form of five footballers. Not just any five, but the Famous Five: Hibs’ incredible front line of Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond.
Which is absolutely fantastic. Seriously – it’s brilliant, because the more statues we throw up to honour those whose achievements and skills were extraordinary and inspirational can only be a wonderful thing.
If the money was around, then it would be fabulous to have lots of new statues, ones that celebrate exceptional people from all walks of life, writers and musicians, modern doctors and great thinkers, sports stars and adventurers.
If it just so happened that some were to pay tribute to the astonishing women whose achievements and fortitude helped pave the way for a more equal society today . . . well, if nothing else, at least Queen Victoria would not be quite so lonely.