Historic 'Black Bitch' pub renamed after owner fears it's racist despite thousands opposing 'The Willow Tree' rebrand

17 November 2022, 00:18

The pub has been renamed
The pub has been renamed. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A pub has been controversially renamed from The Black Bitch to The Willow Tree after its owner feared the name was racist.

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Pub firm Greene King approved the name change to the Linlithgow, West Lothian watering hole despite more than 10,000 people signing a petition against it.

Supporters of the old name point to a local legend about a black greyhound that would bring food to her owner by swimming across a loch.

"While the story is undoubtedly of historic and cultural importance to Linlithgow it is evident that the listed buildings were erected after the event took place," planning official Elspeth Cook.

"Consequently they have no direct connection to the event. Since the middle of the 20th century the public house name has commemorated the event but this is not the original business name.

"It had two names prior to that: the "Western Tavern" and "Robert Braes Wine and Spirits". As a result I do not consider the name of the business is an integral element of the historic interest of these buildings."

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The West Lothian History and Amenity Society said the Black Bitch legend had been associated with Linlithgow for more than 700 years and the name as "no negative connotations", referring to a dog.

Greene King has reviewed the names of other pubs it owns in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

CEO Nick Mackenzie said late last year: "This is an important decision to take but we feel strongly that it is the right one.

"We are well aware of the pub's history and where the name originates and so we are choosing a new name that still reflects the pub's history and will look to retain the coat of arms and images on the pub's sign.

"We have spent many months reviewing and discussing this as we understand that changing this name will attract a range of views, but as part of our commitment to being an anti-racist organisation we want our pub names to be welcoming and inclusive and that means taking action when there is a need to make a positive change for the better."