Shetland Vikings look to save Meadows jawbones

The jawbones at the Meadows. Picture: Jane Barlow
The jawbones at the Meadows. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE Vikings are being drafted in to help in the fight to save a historic much-loved Edinburgh landmark.

Heidi Pearson, who hails from Shetland but now lives by the Meadows, is fundraising to save the Jawbone Arch after it was revealed it was in desperate need of conservation.

Jawbone Walk, the main path between Marchmont and the city centre across the Meadows, was closed by the council earlier this month after a survey found the structure’s condition had deteriorated so much it was deemed unsafe.

Now Ms Pearson has got Shetland’s Up Helly Aa’ Vikings on board to promote the plight of the 19th-century arch – originally gifted to the Capital by the people of Shetland – when they visit the Capital for the Torchlight Procession at Hogmanay.

She said: “They are such an iconic structure, the Meadows wouldn’t be the same without them and people in Shetland care about them too. I’m just trying to get word out and fundraising is going to start properly in the New Year. I really hope there’s a big response as you simply couldn’t have Jawbone Walk without the jawbone.”

The bones came to the Capital as part of the Edinburgh Exhibition in 1886 as the basis of the Shetland and Fair Isle Knitters’ Stall. They were erected at the entrance to the Meadows a year later after being gifted to the city.

Specialist assessments have been carried out for the £50,000 project which will strengthen the structure by injecting the affected areas with a conservation-approved acrylic resin. Bespoke “shoes” in stainless steel or bronze will replace the concrete blocks in a bid to prevent future damage.

The work will be undertaken by specialist contractors, and requires the four whale jawbones to be well dried out, so the arch would be dismantled and removed from site to a workshop for about six months.

Now efforts to raise the cash for repairs are under way both in the Capital and in Shetland.

David Hicks, communications manager for Edinburgh World Heritage, said Edinburgh’s jawbone arch was unique. He said: “The others were erected by whaling communities, whereas Edinburgh’s example was gifted by Shetland knitters. The jawbone arch is now a well-loved local landmark, but it is in need of repair.

“Our main role at the moment is to work closely with the City of Edinburgh Council and to support the local community in a fundraising campaign, that will be properly launched shortly.”

A council spokesman said they were working with Edinburgh World Heritage to ensure the structure can be conserved and reinstated in a timely fashion.