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Elm Row pigeons fly home for good

Posted: 27th July 2023

Edinburgh’s iconic Elm Row pigeons have come home to roost as the finishing touches are put to Leith Walk as part of the Trams to Newhaven project. 

The eight bronze birds, created by sculptor Shona Kinloch, were removed during the original tram project in 2006. They’ve since been refurbished or completely recast in time for their return.

On Thursday 27 July they were installed in their new spot near the top of Elm Row. Transport Convener Councillor Scott Arthur was joined by Shona Kinloch and Council Archaeologist John Lawson to welcome the pigeons back.

Passenger services on the tram line to Newhaven launched on 7 June, with the project delivered on schedule and within the £207.3m budget. Outstanding public realm works are ongoing in some sections, including on Elm Row and Blenheim Place, which are scheduled to be completed next month (August).

Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment Convener, said:

“I’m so pleased to welcome the Elm Row pigeons back to their rightful home. They’re an iconic part of the Leith Walk streetscape and their return is fitting as we put the finishing touches to the public realm along the tram route.

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. 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.”

Shona Kinloch said: 

“It has been a very long time since the pigeons were removed for the tram works so I’m looking forward to seeing them back on Elm Row.”

John Lawson, City of Edinburgh Council Archaeologist, 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.”

Specialists from Powderhall Bronze have renovated existing statues, involving sandblasting and applying ‘patina’, which creates the familiar green colouring, as well as casting three brand new pigeons. To do this, wax replicas were created using the original moulds for the sculptures, before pouring in molten metal to produce a finished product.

The pigeons have been installed alongside the London Road Pillar Clock, which was returned to Leith Walk in August 2022, following its full restoration. In addition the Robert Burns Statue on Bernard Street has been refurbished as part of the project as were the Pilrig Wheels that were discovered during construction and are now on display on the new public realm at Iona Street.

Find out more about Trams to Newhaven.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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