Greene King renames pub again over fears it could cause offence

By Nikkie Thatcher contact

- Last updated on GMT

Name change: Greene King previously revealed the pub would be rebadged the Black Hound but this has now been altered to the Willow Tree
Name change: Greene King previously revealed the pub would be rebadged the Black Hound but this has now been altered to the Willow Tree

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Pubco and brewer Greene King has renamed its Linlithgow pub for the second time, after community consultation.

Last year (November), the pub company announced it was changing the Scottish pub’s name to the Black Hound, due to the offence Black Bitch could cause people as language has evolved and the meaning of words has changed.

This followed research, where Greene King explored the history of the name and its origin and it also heard from people in the town with a wide range of views on the name.

At that time, the name Black Hound meant only one word would need to change in the sign and it could retain the spirit of the story.

However, following further conversations with local groups, the pub group then agreed to consult on alternative new name options to the Black Hound after concerns were expressed that altering the name, rather than changing it entirely, could impact the local emblem.

It was then suggested locally new name options could including the nearby statue of Katie Wearie and her willow tree, which was originally planted in 1832 to mark the Reform Act in Scotland.

Greene King has now decided to rename the pub the Willow Tree, in a bid to recognise part of Linlithgow’s history and was one of the options put forward in the consultation.

However, the Daily Record​reported an action committee to save the Black Bitch are planning to hold a protest this weekend against the renaming of the pub.

Resident backlash

This follows a petition against the changing of the pub’s name, which currently has more than 10,000 signatures.

Greene King CEO Nick Mackenzie said: “Changing the pub’s name has been something we’ve been considering for some time and I’d like to thank people who’s 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.”

Mackenzie outlined the reasons behind changing the pub’s name again and how discussions with local people impacted on the decision.

He added: “Our decision is not meant to diminish or denigrate the heritage of the town but at the same time we recognise 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 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 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.”

Council criteria

West Lothian Council sent a letter to Greene King, following a motion voted on by local councillors, which laid out four criteria for any name change.

The criteria was any name change should be on the basis of retaining rather than expunging the heritage of the town, to retain and enhance the mural on the gable end of the building, to erect an interpretation plaque at the gable end of the building to explain to legend of the Black Bitch and the civic insignia and to alter and extend the building to make it an inclusive and barrier-free establishment, accessible for the community.

Greene King said it had already publicly confirmed a plaque would be installed and the new name of the Willow Tree retains a piece of the area’s history.

The company also said it would consider retaining the mural and will discuss physically altering the building with the council.

However, it pointed out the pub is a listed building so property alterations are not straightforward and would require careful consideration.

The Black Bitch dates back to the seventeenth century and was originally named for a black, female greyhound, which features on the town’s heraldic crest. It also symbolises a well-known local legend of a hunting dog that saved its master’s life.

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