Pub changes ‘racist’ name

After much furore, Greene King has announced that a controversially-named pub will be renamed, but some locals are not happy.

Credit: Google Maps

The name of The Black Bitch Tavern in Linlithgow, West Lothian, might seem particularly jarring in the modern day, but it’s one with a connection to the area even older than the 350-year-old pub. According to local myth, a man was sentence to death by starvation. Chained to a tree on an island in the local loch, he seemed to be surviving against all the odds. It was then discovered that his faithful black greyhound had been swimming through the icy water to bring him food.

While at the time the locals of Linlithgow did not take too kindly to the dog’s loyalty, chaining it to the tree to die with its owner, today it has become a symbol of the town – there is even a statue to it. The new name, The Willow Tree, is a reference to a tree planted by drover Katie Wearie to mark the 1832 Great Reform Act. The historic site changing its name is not without precedent – it was previously known as The Western Tavern and Robert Braes Wine and Spirits.

While the controversy over the name has rumbled on for over a year, with a Change.org petition to prevent Greene King from changing the name gaining over 11,000 signatures, it seems that there are no grounds to prevent the renaming, according to government Elspeth Cook: “I do not consider the name of the business is an integral element of the historic interest of these buildings”.

Reaction to the decision has been mixed, with some suggesting it is the erasure of local history while others suggested it was no big deal:

“That’s sad. It was a lovely tribute to a brave and loyal dog. I get that the name doesn’t wear well – shame the dogs name hadn’t been used in first place – but the term meant something different then and this was part of our history. All erased for the uninvited newcomers.”

“It transpires that the building itself previously housed pubs with other names. You’re not lamenting the demise of the ‘Western Tavern’ or ‘Robert Braes Wine and Spirits’ then?”

“It’s just a pub name that looks ambiguous in the modern world. It’s still a pub, sells beer, all that. No big deal. Irrelevant in fact. Find something important to care about. Preferably nice and positive and not your usual vitriol.”

This article was originally published by the drinks business and has been shared with permission.

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