Linlithgow’s historic Black Bitch pub to have name changed amid ‘racism’ concerns

Owners of a historic pub which saw its name at the centre of a racist row has confirmed that it will be renamed despite local opposition.

Pub group Greene King have confirmed that Linlithgow pub The Black Bitch will be renamed to The Willow Tree.

On November 30 last year an announcement was made to rename the 17th century drinking hole as The Black Hound after Greene King said there were fears it has racist and offensive connotations.

The Weary Drover and The Linlithgow Arms were also proposed as names for the pub

The proposed change sparked a torrent of protest from locals as they claimed the controversial name commemorates a legendary black female greyhound who has featured on the Royal Burgh’s coat of arms for centuries.

References to the legend can be found throughout the town; a black dog featured on Linlithgow burgh seals in 1296 and 1357, and in the coat of arms in 1673.   

There is also a contemporary sculpture, The Black Bitch of Linlithgow in the town’s high street, and locals proudly refer to themselves as “black bitches”.  

More than 11,000 people signed a petition to stop Greene King’s bid to change the name of the pub and have claimed that Greene King are ignoring locals as well as West Lothian Council, which also backed residents’ campaign.

Greene King CEO Nick Mackenzie told the Scottish Express: “Changing the pub’s name has been something we’ve been considering for some time and I’d like to thank people who’ve written to us to offer their views.

“There’s been plenty of publicity around those who don’t agree with our decision, but we’ve also had letters of support from people in Linlithgow. 

“This is a difficult balance and throughout this we have continued to highlight our respect for the history of Linlithgow. Our decision is not meant to diminish or denigrate the heritage of the town but at the same time we recognise that language has changed and the name can be extremely offensive to people.

“Our commitment to changing the name is unwavering, as we strongly believe it is the right thing to do for our teams and our customers, but we do understand why our original idea to just change the one word on the sign from Bitch to Hound was not well-received by all. It was done with the best of intentions to retain the spirit of the story, but we’ve listened to people who felt it would impact negatively on the town’s emblem.

“We’re pleased therefore to be instead changing it to The Willow Tree, which retains links to the town’s heritage, and look forward to this next chapter of the pub’s history.”


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