Royal Burgh of Linlithgow Civic Insignia Sculptures Project


Completion Date:


Building owner/client:

Linlithgow Burgh Trust on ground owned by West Lothian Council

Architect or lead designer:

Ron Smith, Chair of Public Art Committee, Linlithgow Burgh Trust with sculptors David Annand and Alan Herriot

Local Authority Area:

West Lothian

Nominating Body:

Linlithgow Burgh Trust

Project Description

This project comprises the installation of two bronze sculptures based on Linlithgow’s two traditional civic insignia of the ‘Black Bitch’ and St Michael, as depicted on the town’s ancient burgh seal and coats of arms.

The ‘Black Bitch’ sculpture forms the centrepiece of a new seating area. Linlithgow Burgh Trust commissioned the well-known Scottish artist, David Annand, to create the dog sculpture and W L Watson of St Andrews to make the sandstone plinth, the latter mainly using recycled material. David responded positively to the strong local view that the dog should be chained to a tree trunk in accordance with the ancient seal and coat of arms, rather than standing alone. The sculpture was cast by Powderhall Bronze in Edinburgh. Preceded by landscape work and the erection of the stone plinth, the finished sculpture was installed on 17 December 2019. The other contractors and suppliers were Fernbrooke Scotland LLP (concrete foundation, paving and landscape setting), Ogilvie Engineering (benches and litter bins) and the Osprey Company (interpretation board). The new flower bed which provides a setting for the sculpture and plinth was furnished with permanent planting by Burgh Beautiful Linlithgow in June 2020.

Alan Herriot, another renowned Scottish figurative sculptor with many works of public art to his name, was commissioned to create the St Michael sculpture now standing on its dark grey granite plinth at Low Port, both statue and plinth having been installed on 13 November 2020. An exhaustive process of public consultation, backed by the firm views of the main funders, led to modifications to the original proposals. St Michael’s grey granite plinth was also supplied and inscribed by W L Watson & Son, with ground works by Fernbrooke LLP. Again, Powderhall Bronze was responsible for the foundry and assembly work, faithfully reproducing the sculptor’s meticulous detail.

As part of the public engagement process, we asked Primary 5-7 pupils, from the mainstream primary schools in Linlithgow, to undertake some of their own research and produce drawings and paintings to show their own ideas of how they would like the female hunting dog and ‘St Michael and the Serpent/Dragon’ to appear in sculptural form. The results were exhibited locally at the Low Port Centre on Wednesday 29 May 2019, with prizes awarded to the entries which most impressed the judges. Some of the children’s work was featured on the interpretation boards near the sculptures and, to a greater extent, in a 84-page book on the overall project, covering the civic insignia, the legends behind them, the sculptures and related school work in some detail.

Sources of funding were as follows: Linlithgow & Linlithgow Bridge Town Management Group; Linlithgow Town Centre BID; Scottish Government’s Town Centre Fund; Memorials Grant Scheme, Linlithgow Burgh Trust; Scottish Landfill Communities Fund; National Lottery Heritage Fund; Edinburgh Airport Community Fund; Rotary Club of Linlithgow & Bo’ness; Court of the Deacons of the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow; Tesco ‘Bags of Help’; Customers of Platform Three; one very generous anonymous bequest and 51 public-spirited individual ‘crowdfunders’.

Supporting Statement

Community Involvement, Benefit and Impact - This project was entirely conceived, designed, procured and implemented/supervised by volunteer members of Linlithgow Burgh Trust , mainly drawn from its Burgh Beautiful division, who also commissioned the two sculptors through a process of limited competition, organised two public consultation events and engaged with the local primary schools. The project exceeded the stated vision and needs of the community through the organisation of a schools competition, the erection of information boards and the compilation and publication of a book about the history/mythology of Linlithgow's civic insignia and the sculptures/sculptors.

Demonstrable Positive Impact on the Community – The project has not only delivered two bronze sculptures of the highest quality but increased public awareness of the part in Linlithgow's history played by the representation of the 'Black Bitch' and St Michael on the town's burgh seal and coats of arms. They have become worthy additions to Linlithgow's range of features of interest to tourists and visitors (including a range of earlier artworks) and are already included in the town's heritage trail. Information on the sculptures project also appears on local websites, particularly that of Linlithgow Burgh Trust.

Build Design and Quality - The sculptures are of the highest quality, mounted on granite or recycled sandstone plinths, both in upgraded landscape settings. They are entirely suitable for their locations within the central Conservation Area of Linlithgow, the materials have weathered well since installation and their scale is appropriate for their surroundings. The sculptures and plinths are very durable and very little if any maintenance will be needed for many years to come.

Preservation or Enhancement of the Local Built Environment - The project has successfully taken cognisance of its surroundings in an appropriate way, the sculptures sensitive to their surroundings. They have enhanced two small areas of open space and form new, well-known and already-loved, focal points within a nationally-important Conservation Area.

Achievements of the Project - The project, run entirely by community volunteers, successfully overcame the challenges of fund-raising, planning permission (including supervision of excavations by a qualified archaeologist), presence of underground services, public participation and working with several contractors, sculptors and suppliers. The results greatly exceeded the expectations of the community. Although costs were considerably higher than originally anticipated, it was recognised that quality was paramount and funding was successfully raised to cover the increased total cost of over £128,000. In fact, there was a surplus sufficient to purchase Alan Herriot's maquette of the St Michael statue for the local community museum, pay for a new silver trophy for annual competition between the local schools and contribute to improvements works at the site of Linlithgow's Carmelite Friary.