Robert Burns: Reinstated statue unveiled in Leith on Burns Night following tram works forcing its removal

Edinburgh is celebrating the reinstatement of a 124-year-old statue of Robert Burns which was removed in 2019 to allow trams works in Leith to get underway.

The poet is celebrated across Scotland and the unveiling of his statue on Burns Night was a brilliantly fitting way to mark the occasion this year.

The nineteenth century bronze sculpture was put into storage in December 2019 as the Trams to Newhaven construction began and it has since undergone specialist conservation work in the lead up to its reinstatement.

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On Tuesday morning, January 25, local residents joined council leaders, tram project officers and contractors, conservationists and former Edinburgh Makar Alan Spence to unveil the monument which is now at the Bernard Street junction with Constitution Street.

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said: "I’m delighted to see this much-loved Robert Burns statue returned to its home in Leith - and spruced up thanks to specialist conservation work - just in time for Burns night.

“It’s fantastic that so many members of the community have been able to contribute to the new time capsule placed underneath the statue.

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"Thanks to their input we’ll be able to share an insight into Leith today with future generations, just like our nineteenth century forebears did when they buried the original time capsule.”

A new time capsule has been placed underneath the statue, alongside an original capsule from 1898 containing relics from both the late nineteenth century and the 1960s.

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Robert Burns: Reinstated statue unveiled in Leith on Burns Night following tram works forcing its removal. (Picture credit: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia)

The original capsule was sealed into the base of the statue when it was built and contained a note written by its creators to whoever might open it in future.

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It also held newspapers from 1961 including both the Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News, showing that it had been discovered and opened when the statue was moved then.

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The capsule also contained newspapers from 1961 including both the Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News, showing that it had been discovered and opened when the statue was moved then.

The 124-year-old statue of Robert Burns was removed in 2019 to allow trams works in Leith to get underway. (Picture credit: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia)
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As part of the unveiling ceremony, Alan Spence read out a specially written poem which has been added to the new time capsule.

Poems and stories by Victoria Primary School pupils, a letter from the Edinburgh Burns Club, coins from 2021 and a face mask have all been included as well, amongst other artefacts

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It has been placed in a purpose-carved socket in the plinth underneath the monument along with the original 1898 capsule.

Councillor Karen Doran, Transport and Environment Vice Convener, said: "What better way to celebrate Scotland’s national bard than the unveiling of this newly-restored statue?

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Former Edinburgh Makar Alan Spence read out a poem specifically written to be included in the latest time capsule. (Picture credit: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia)

“Its return also marks progress being made on the Trams to Newhaven project, as the area begins to take shape.

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"I’m excited to see what the coming months will bring as ongoing improvements are delivered.”

In November the Trams to Newhaven project reached its two-year point and remains on track for opening for revenue service in Spring 2023.

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This week the next main phase of construction between Coatfield Lane and Queen Charlotte Street began, while it is hoped the current stage of work on Picardy Place will be completed by spring.

The entire section from York Place to London Road is expected to be completed in Autumn 2022.

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