And now, Edinburgh-born Sir Nigel Gresley has been honoured with a statue at one of the UK’s biggest train stations – but not without ruffling a few feathers in the process.
But the bird was missing when the statue was unveiled on the 75th anniversary of Sir Nigel’s death at King’s Cross in London yesterday, because his family, and others, were not keen on its inclusion.
SEE ALSO: Full steam ahead for Flying Scotsman on Waverley LineMore than 3200 people signed a petition which called for the duck to be reinstated, claiming it would spark interest in the engineer’s achievements.
And a hardy band of protesters even gathered at the station, holding aloft rubber ducks on sticks to make their point.
Around 200 people were on the concourse at King’s Cross to catch a first glimpse of the finished sculpture, which was unveiled by members of the Gresley family and Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy.
John Cameron, president of the Gresley Society, told the crowd: “There has been what I might call a lively debate about the statue design and the proposal to include a mallard duck to emphasise Sir Nigel’s link with the locomotive of that name. However, the Gresley Society trustees decided not to include such a feature.
“I do realise there may be some who still have different views on the matter.
“But today is all about honouring the memory of Sir Nigel Gresley and his various achievements.”
Born in Dublin Street in the New Town in 1876, Sir Nigel became chief mechanical engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway.
His Flying Scotsman was the first steam locomotive to exceed 100mph in service, while the Mallard achieved a then world-record speed of 126mph in 1938.
Sir Nigel was knighted for his career achievements in 1936. He died at home unexpectedly on April 5, 1941 at the age of 64.
The statue shows him holding a copy of The Locomotive magazine, which carries a description of Mallard.
In a speech to mark its unveiling, Sir Peter said: “This marvellous sculpture commemorates a man who looked relentlessly forward in his day to more powerful locomotives, faster locomotives and the world steam speed record with Mallard.
“We’re proud to have Sir Nigel on our station as a commemoration to a great railway mechanical engineer who pushed the technical boundaries of the steam locomotive further than anyone else.”
Sculptor Hazel Reeves said her work shows Sir Nigel “in a moment of quizzical reflection”.
She added: “He’s looking out towards the future.”
A memorial plaque to Sir Nigel was unveiled at Waverley station in 2001.