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Recently Restored Burns Statue Unveiled in Leith


Leith’s iconic Burns statue has been returned to its home on Bernard Street, as Scotland prepares to celebrate the national bard.

The 19th century bronze sculpture was put into storage in December 2019 to make way for Trams to Newhaven construction. It has since undergone specialist conservation work before its reinstatement at Bernard Street’s junction with Constitution Street.

Contractors unveil the statue on the morning of Burns Night, Photograph by Nicola Hogg

On the morning of Burns Night (Tuesday, 25 January), Council leaders, tram project officers and contractors were joined by conservationists and former Edinburgh Makar Alan Spence to unveil the monument. They also marked the placement of a new time capsule underneath the statue, alongside an original capsule discovered in 2019, which contained relics from both the late 19th century and the 1960s.

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. Thanks to their input we’ll be able to share an insight into Leith today with future generations, just like our 19th century forebears did when they buried the original time capsule.”

The statue on the junction of Bernard Street and Constitution Street, Photograph by Nicola Hogg

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?

Its return also marks progress being made on the Trams to Newhaven project, as the area begins to take shape. I’m excited to see what the coming months will bring as ongoing improvements are delivered.”

Close-up of the Robert Burns statue, Photograph by Nicola Hogg

In November the Trams to Newhaven project reached its two-year point and, despite challenges posed by the Covid pandemic, including a 13-week site shutdown, remains on track for opening for revenue service in Spring 2023.

The next main phase of construction between Coatfield Lane and Queen Charlotte Street began this week, while it is hoped the current stage of work on Picardy Place, which has resulted in some changes to traffic management, will be complete by spring. The entire section from York Place to London Road is expected to be completed in Autumn 2022.

On Tuesday, Alan Spence read out a specially written poem, which has been added to the 2021 time capsule created for the statue’s reinstatement. The capsule also contains poems and stories by Victoria Primary School pupils, a letter from the Edinburgh Burns Club, coins from 2021 and a face mask, amongst other artefacts.

Former Edinburgh Makar Alan Spence reads a poem for the event, Photograph by Nicola Hogg

This has been placed in a purpose-carved socket in the plinth underneath the monument along with the original time capsule, which originates from when the statue was first erected in 1898. This was opened when the statue was moved in December 2019 and its contents include newspapers, coins and a letter from the Leith Burns Club. From 1961, there were newspapers and a letter from the people who had opened the original time capsule.

Find out more about the Trams to Newhaven project online.

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