10 of the best lesser-known monuments in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has no shortage of mighty monuments to celebrate those considered to be the great, the good and the powerful of their time.

Bum the Dog, Princes Street Gardens West. This statue was gifted to Edinburgh by San Diego to mark the ties between the two. Bum became the California city's 'town dog' after arriving as a stowaway in the mid-19th Century.
Bum the Dog, Princes Street Gardens West. This statue was gifted to Edinburgh by San Diego to mark the ties between the two. Bum became the California city's 'town dog' after arriving as a stowaway in the mid-19th Century.

But look again and you’ll find the city holds close a number of statues and memorials that pay tribute to the quieter heroes of the day, as well as those whose colourful lives were woven into the rich tapestry of the capital’s back story.

Author and tour guide John Mackay has written Edinburgh Well Read on the lesser-known statues, fountains and memorials that mark an ever-evolving city and those who made it tick. From a blind pianist to a pirate, a poet, a birth control pioneer and the spot where a mob killed the man in charge of Edinburgh’s law and order, the capital has honoured them all.

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The story of ‘Bum’ the dog is immortalised in Princes Street Garden. He arrived in San Diego, Edinburgh’s twin city, in 1886 as a ship’s stowaway and became the ‘town dog’ after winning the hearts of local people. Bum arrived in exchange for a statue of Greyfriars Bobby in 2008.

The Helen Acquroff Memorial Fountain, The Meadows. A tribute to Helen, who went blind as a child but became a top teacher, pianist, poet and singer as well as a leading light in Scotland's Temperance Movement. She lived and died at 51 South Clerk Stret nearby.

Blind pianist and Temperance reformer Helen Acquroff is remembered in The Meadows with a drinking fountain while a plaque for birth control pioneer Marie Stopes hangs outside her home at Abercrombie Place. Elsie Inglis, a suffragette who helped to force open education to women at Edinburgh University, is remembered where the old maternity hospital she founded in High Street once stood.

A statue of poet Robert Fergusson, who died aged 24 and whose doctor went on to found the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in his memory, stands in the Canongate. On Corstophine Road, Robert Louis Stevenson’s characters David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart mark where their journey in Kidnapped came to an end.

Edinburgh’s seedier side is remembered at Morocco’s Land, where pirate Andrew Gray took the Lord Provost’s daughter hostage and cured her sickness. And violence too is also recalled at the Grassmarket, where Captain William Porteous was hanged by an angry mob.

Two cannonballs lodged in the wall of Canonball House on Castlehill are also included, as is Hutton’s Rock at Salisburgy Crags, which pays tribute to James Hutton, the father of modern geology.

Morocco's Land, Royal Mile- Statue for Andrew Gray, a young exiled Edinburgh criminal who returned to Leith as a pirate in the mid-17th Century and took the Lord Provost's daughter hostage. He cured her of sickness using some herbs he picked up on his travels. The pair went on to marry.

To purchase a copy of Edinburgh Well Read, contact John Mackay at [email protected]

Elsie Inglis, High Street. In honour of the Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital, overlooking Holyrood Park, set up by the suffragette and doctor who did much to force open medical education to women after a long-fought campaign with others at Edinburgh University.
Canonball House, Castlehill. Two cannonballs are embedded into the wall facing the Esplanade. The two balls marked the level of the Comiston Springs in Oxgangs near the Pentland Hills to the south, from which water could therefore be drawn by gravity to the reservoir which is now the Tartan Weaving Mill on the other side of Castlehill. This early drinking water system used wells on the Royal Mile and at the bottom of the West Bow, which were served by a gravity feed in the mid-17th Century.
David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart- There are many statues and memorials to Robert Louis Stevenson in the capital but this one commemorates the successful conclusion of the overland journey of David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart, the two principal characters in his novel Kidnapped, who crossed Corstorphine Hill and saw their destination, Edinburgh, before them.
Robert Fergusson, Canongate - The 18th Century poet who wrote Auld Reekie and inspired Robert Burns died aged 24 after falling down the stairs, with his injuries causing him to become 'insensible'. His doctor, Andrew Duncan, decided to found a hospital to treat the mentally ill with dignity and respect. He did not get a huge amount of support with fundraising starting in 1792, eighteen years after the poet's death. The hospital opened in 1813 adn was known as “the Andrew Duncan” and then the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. The Scottish Neuro Behavioural Rehabilitation Service Unit is in the Robert Fergusson building.
Marie Stopes plaque, Abercrombie Place. Born in this house 1880, Stopes was the first female in the science faculty at Manchester University. In 1911, Stopes - who was also involved in the suffragette movement - married Reginald Gates, but after two years found that her husband was impotent and in 1914 had marriage annulled. In 1921 she opened the first birth control clinic in Britain.
James Hutton's Rock, Salisburgy Crags. The 'father of modern geology' is remembered at the section of rock where Hutton found the layers, or strata, challenged geological understanding of the period. He concluded that the Earth’s surface is constantly being eroded into the sea, compressed, folded and uplifted, with or without volcanic help, to continue the erosion process. It was ongoing; “the result therefore, of our present enquiry is that we find no vestige of a beginning – no prospect of an end”.
Porteous Plaque, Tolbooth, Grassmarket - This marks the spot where Captain William Porteous was hanged by a mob of city folk in 1736. It came after he ordered the City Guard to open fire after an angry group of protesters tried to free a prisoner in the Grassmarket. Porteous was found guilty of murder after witnesses said he himself fired shots, with six people killed in the incident. Due to be executed, was instead dragged by a mob from the old Tolbooth prison, taken to the Grassmarket and hanged on a dyer's pole. His gravestone is in Greyfriars Kirkyard.