Cherry Blossom In Edinburgh

These trees in blossom are on Jawbone Walk in the Meadows in Edinburgh, just a few hundred yards from the city center.

And the reason that the footpath is called Jawbone Walk is that at the Melville Drive end of the footpath there are four whale’s jawbones up-ended and joined at the top to make an arch.

I pass through the arch most days and the first time I did so I noticed the metal bands around the posts, inscribed with mention of The Faire Isles and Zetland and the Edinburgh Exhibition of 1888.

For a while I thought the arch may be made of wood, but then I examined it more closely and it seemed to be made of bone.

I’ll photograph it and put the photos up here when I can.

The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Records in Scotland, which looks after Scotland’s national collection of buildings, archeology, and industry describes the jawbones in this way:

Notes: Four whale jawbones placed vertically on a rough square and meeting at the top (held with metal strut), to form arch at start of pathway across the Meadows. Circular cobbled area on ground within the arch.

Exhibited at the Edinburgh Exhibition of 1886 where the Orkney and Fair Isles Knitters’ Stall was constructed of the jaw bones.

Erected at the entrance to the east and west Meadows from the Middle Walk in 1887, after the Town Council of Edinburgh received a letter from Sheriff Thomas recommending the acceptance of the jawbones.

Inscriptions : On each of four bronze bands around bones approximately 90cm off ground (incised and shaded lettering cast in the bronze): FROM ZETLAND & FAIR ISLE KNITTING STAND / EDINBURGH EXHIBITION 1886
Signatures : None
Design period : 1886
Year of unveiling : 1887
Information from Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA Work Ref : EDIN0065)

Do you find it easy or impenetrable to imagine the state of mind and the culture in 1887 that would want to erect four jawbones at the entrance to a walk through the grassy meadows?

18 thoughts on “Cherry Blossom In Edinburgh

  1. jenkakio

    Awe, that’s amazing! I love cherry blossoms and I’ve only seen it in person once in my own life. If you ask me, it’s a shame, really. I would trade a whole month of sunshine for a cherry blossom tree blossoming.

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    1. Times have changed. Reading your comment reminded me that there is a whale-arch in Whitby in East Yorkshire. I got this from Beautiful Britain (link opens in a new window), so maybe there was a while sub-culture of whaling monuments in Britain and Scandinavia…

      Whitby’s history includes connections with whaling and the explorer Captain James Cook. It was probably in the nearby fishing village of Staithes that Captain Cook decided to go to sea, before he subsequently became an apprentice to a Whitby ship owner in 1746. The town’s historical past is revealed in monuments that dominate Whitby’s east and west headlands and the harbour. For 80 years (1753-1833) Whitby’s fishermen were engaged in whaling. The whale jaw bone arch on the West Cliff – picture 1 above, was presented to Whitby by Norway in 1963.

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        1. I just googled for Dunedin because the name sounded Scottish and I see that “The Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland founded Dunedin at the head of Otago Harbour in 1848 as the principal town of its special settlement.”

          I guess you knew that – so yes, there is very possibly a connection.

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  2. I find it hard to grasp … the idea of erecting jaw bones..
    The cherry blossoms look heavenly. I’ve never seen that in real life …which is strange. People are posting these type of pictures from Stockholm, most every day now. Guess I just haven’t happened to be there the right time..

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    1. Yes, the world has changed a lot.

      Japan and Washington D.C. are the places I know for cherry blossom. I didn’t know about Stockholm. Could you point me to where the Stockholm photos are posted?

      I spent a few days in Stockholm some years ago. I remember Gamla Stan, and the old ship – maybe it was called the Wassa, or something like that, in the harbour?

      I thought Stockholm was very attractive. My favourite town in that part of the world is Copenhagen – it seems like a place where the general population is in charge, rather than a monolithic city where the ‘authorities’ seem to be in charge – looking at the architecture and the streets.

      🙂

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      1. In fact, I was surprised myself! I didn’t know that about Stockholm LINK.
        The ones I saw were mainly posted by my Facebook people..

        Gamla Sta’n [The Old City] is of course the most touristy and picturesque part. It’s wonderful to walk around there and sort of feel the wings of history touch upon you in each little, narrow alley. I’ve never been to see the ship Waasa.

        I come from a town 450 kilometres north of Stockholm and I’ve never lived there.

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        1. If you get a chance to visit the ship, take it. You can walk inside the ship – it is very special.

          The photos (including the panorama) are great. With these new tools we have all become part of a wonderful cultural exchange. 🙂

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  3. The late 19th Century was a time of great excitement in society about science and the pursuit of new finds, fossils, creatures and plants of all types. There was a real feeling that they were close “to knowing everything there was to know” about the universe! As a result, society loved to show off the bizarre and exotic.

    One famous scientist even had a dinner party INSIDE the skeleton of a dinosaur! In this context, the whale jawbones seems quite normal – bordering on being boring! It is only to us with our current sensibilities that it all seems a bit odd. 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Ken.

      Perhaps some people can see into those days and it all makes perfect sense.

      Speaking personally, I feel distaste for the pomposity of chopping up a whale and exhibiting its bones.

      But if I see a photo from the same period of an Oglala Sioux in his bone breastplate I feel none of that distaste.

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      1. a very good point that! We read into things from our own perspective and this changes depending on how we interpret the message/motive behind the things we see. What can be disgusting one moment can seem valid or interesting the next.

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  4. Pingback: Morris Men Dancing In Edinburgh – Video « Light Reading

  5. Joan E. Miller

    So lovely! I love the pink. I haven’t got to see much pink lately. Here, the wild cherries are white, and the apple blossoms I just saw in the orchards were also white. I think some crabapples are blooming and they are quite pink. I want to see the jawbones!

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    1. First there was a notice that the jawbones were unsafe. Then that they were going to be taken for restoration. I was there when a restoration company took the jawbones away about nine months ago. I think they have been slowly steeping in preservative since then. I will be glad to see them back in place.

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