Leith Walk’s bronze pigeons return home after 17 years as part of the Trams to Newhaven project
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Leith Walk’s beloved bronze pigeons have returned to their original home 17 years after they were removed as part of the original tram project in 2006.
The unique sculptures made their long-awaited return on Thursday morning as part of the Trams to Newhaven project’s public realm improvements which are set to be completed by the end of August. During their near two-decade sabbatical, the pigeons have been refurbished or completely recast by Powderhall Bronze in time for today’s unveiling where they were welcomed back to Elm Row by artist Shona Kinloch, transport convener Scott Arthur and council archaeologist John Lawson.
Artist Shona Kinloch, who assisted workers laying the sculptures said: “It’s lovely to have them back – I have missed them being there.” Shona, who was commissioned to create the sculptures in 1996, explained she was asked to create something that would help warn pedestrians of ‘invisible steps’ at the corner of Elm Row after reports of people fallen down them.
Shona said the inspiration for her design came after visiting the site in the mid 1990s when ‘a wee flock of pigeons turned up.’ The sculptures would become a flagship artwork on Leith Walk for ten years before they were removed for the original tram project.
The pigeons are now located near the London Road Pillar Clock which returned to Leith Walk in August 2022, and join a series of historic and cultural monuments in the area that include the Robert Burns Statue on Bernard Street, the Ken Buchanan statue near Picardy Place and a pair of tram wheels dating back to 1898 on Iona Street that were discovered during excavation works as part of the tram project.
Council archaeologist John Lawson said: “It’s very exciting to see the Elm Row pigeons back where they belong. I love them – they’re an iconic piece of art for Leith and a bit of fun. It’s also a big milestone for the cultural and archaeological side of the Trams to Newhaven project.”
Councillor Scott Arthur, transport and environment convener, said: “I’m so pleased to welcome the Elm Row pigeons back to their rightful home. Improvements in areas like Elm Row, as well as walking and cycling infrastructure along the line, are helping to create a much safer, more welcoming environment, where people can relax, spend time and support local traders.”
Cllr Arthur added: “This will complement the new tram service, which has gone from strength to strength since launching, with passenger numbers doubling in the first few weeks and remaining high since then.”