Row Over Plans to Rename ‘Racist’ 350-Year-Old Black Bitch Pub ‘The Willow Tree’ Set to Be Decided by Scottish Government
Rachel Muir, Daily Mail, August 29, 2022
The renaming of a 350-year-old pub called The Black Bitch will now be decided by the Scottish government after a local council deferred a planning decision and thousands expressed opposition to the change.
The pub in Linlithgow, West Lothian is set to be rebranded as The Willow Tree by brewers Greene King over fears that the existing name could be seen to be racist.
But more than 500 objections have been submitted and 11,000 have signed a petition to stop the move, with many locals and historians arguing that the ‘Black Bitch’, which refers to a local legend about a black female greyhound, has been associated with the town for hundreds of years.
It has now emerged that Greene King have turned to the government to have their proposed name change rubber-stamped, after West Lothian Council deferred the planning decision.
According to Greene King, councillors want to encourage heritage bosses to include the pub name in a protected listing to avoid the name change.
But the pub chain said: ‘It is not for the council to control the name of the premises’. The statement added that Historic Environment Scotland had been consulted and raised no objection.
An earlier council report backing the plans said: ‘This is a commercial decision to change the name and there are no material planning reasons to refuse permission for the new signage.’
Dozens of objections have been lodged with the council over getting rid of the name The Black Bitch, which refers to a local legend of a black, female greyhound that brought food to its starving owner who was imprisoned on an island on Linlithgow Loch.
A statue commemorating the local legend still stands to this day in the centre of the historic Scottish town, while its coat of arms features the black dog chained to an oak tree.
The West Lothian History and Amenity Society said: ‘The term ‘Black Bitch’ has been associated with the town for over 700 years, natives of Linlithgow are proud to be known as ‘Black Bitches’; it is a term of affection with no negative connotations.
‘The term describes a female canine, rightly called a bitch which is black in colour – nothing offensive, no misogyny involved. Greene King have jumped to the wrong conclusions and read something into the name which does not exist.’
Linlithgow Civic Trust added: ‘According to the their managing director, Greene King is on a journey to become a truly anti-racist organisation and has already changed the names of a few of their public houses in England on the grounds that the names have racist connotations.
‘However, there is nothing racist about the name The Black Bitch. It accurately describes a female canine with a black coat.
‘We note that Greene appear to have no plans to change the names of their public houses called The Black Horse or The Black Bull.’
Another pub to have faced opposition to its name in recent weeks is the Bhurtpore Inn near Nantwich, Cheshire.
The name refers to a not very well-known British military victory in India by Lord Combermere 200 years ago.
The family-owned pub has featured in the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)’s ‘Good Beer Guide’ every year since 1992 and has been voted South Cheshire’s Pub of the Year a record nine times.
But an article in CAMRA’s Autumn 2022 magazine sparked some dispute, with one member Tom Uprichard complaining on the group’s Discourse site: ‘Given the current reassessment of Britain’s behaviour in the days of our worldwide Empire, I don’t think the inn should be proud of its name.
‘The battle to gain control of Bhurtpore in 1825 was a typical example of Britain assuming it had the divine right to (do) whatever and wherever it wanted.
‘Why do we have pubs in this country effectively celebrating British atrocities?
‘I don’t think you’ll find any beer halls in Germany celebrating the Holocaust.’
National executive director Ash Corbett-Collins weighed in: ‘The name of a pub is not something that is fixed for all eternity. Plenty of pubs change name.’
But Charles Murray hit back: ‘Oh dear, another attempt to erase history. What happened in the past was normal for that time even if it would not be acceptable today.’
Angela Lawron added: ‘Sorry, folks, It’s just a name for what is a unique gem of a pub. People flock to it from miles away.’
Last year locals criticised the decision to change the name of The Black Boy Inn in Bewdley, Worcestershire to The Bewdley Inn, accusing the Stonegate Group, the UK’s largest pub company, of ‘giving into woke’.
However, the company said the pub was renamed as part of a company rebrand and disagreed with accusations it was to do with race.
Historians believe King Charles II was referred to as the ‘black boy’ because it was a nickname given to him by his mother due to his dark hair and complexion.
The building dates back nearly 600 years and has been known as The Black Boy Inn since the early 19th Century. Before that it was known as The Blackamoors Head.
Locals were critical of the decision to rename the pub, saying the term ‘Black Boy’ is not racist.
Furious locals took to the pub’s Facebook page, with one person saying: ‘Perhaps we should refer to it as The Snowflake from now on if the name can be changed that easily.’
Julia Tracey said: ‘The Midlands was a Royalist region in the Civil War, so there are a few pubs with this name.
‘The old pub sign at The Black Boy had a painting of Charles II on it and it’s a pity this was taken down, as it’s a clear reference to the meaning of the name.
‘I’ve been in, many times with black friends, and my black relatives, and no one ever gave a s*** about the name.’
Ruth Roberts added: ‘It’s been The Black Boy for as long as I can remember and I used to work there. Political madness.
‘We should all stop bowing down to these people and stand up to them.’