The Black Bitch pub to be renamed

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

A new chapter: 350 year old pub gets new name
A new chapter: 350 year old pub gets new name

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Plans to rename the ‘offensively named’ Black Bitch pub in West Lothian, Scotland, are set to go ahead despite backlash from locals.

Pubco Greene King announced earlier this year it would rename the Linlithgow pub as the Willow Tree over concerns its original name could be racist.  

The pub dates back to the seventeenth century and was originally named after the 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.  

The name change has come under fire from locals, with a petition to keep the original name reaching 11,380 supporters.  

One person who signed the petition said: “Political correctness if out of control. Unopposed, it grows increasing in lunacy.” 

Another commented: “A classic case of pointless virtue signalling trying to create an issue where none exists. Speaks volumes about the absurdity and intelligence of those behind this utter stupidity. Keep the name.” 

The new moniker, the Willow Tree, will reference the nearby statue of Katie Wearie and her willow tree, which was originally planted in 1832 to mark the Reform Act in Scotland.  

Mixed opinions

This is the second time the pub’s name has been changed. The Suffolk-based pubco announced it would change its name to the Black Hound, but locals were worried this would impact the local emblem.  

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

A new chapter

He said the company was pleased to be changing the name to one which retained links to the town’s heritage, and “looked forward” to the next chapter of the pub’s history. 

A West Lothian Council spokesperson said: “Following a successful motion raised at a meeting of full council in January, the council wrote to Greene King to ask them to reflect on the wishes of the community and issues raised before deciding on an appropriate course of action."   

“The council as planning authority does not have a remit in determining the suitability of name changes of commercial properties.  

“At a meeting of the Development Management Committee in July, the committee voted to continue the two applications and requested that officers sought further information from Historic Environment Scotland regarding the listing of the building. 

“The applications were due to reported back to the committee in September, but the applicant appealed against the non-determination of the applications to the DPEA (Scottish Government Planning & Environmental Appeals Division and decisions on the applications have now been made by a reporter appointed by the Scottish Government.” 

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