Being International Women’s Day, this would be a worthy time to introduce you to Catherine Sinclair, notable for being one of very few women commemorated with a monument in Edinburgh’s city centre.
We have plenty of likenesses of men - and quite a few dogs and animals - but in terms of historical women, only Queen Victoria has a statue in her honour. The monument to Catherine Sinclair, whilst not a statue of her, is a significant structure to celebrate a woman who left her mark on the city. It was designed by the architect David Bryce, and sculpted by John Rhind.
Located off Charlotte Square (named for another woman, Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III) in the New Town, the monument at the bottom of North Charlotte Street at the junction with St Colme Street is modelled in a similar style to that of the Scott Monument on Princes Street.
Sinclair was, like Scott, a writer, as well as being a social philanthropist. Working in the 1830s and 40s, Sinclair produced a number of popular books for children, as well as range of titles for adults, with inspiring titles such as The Journey of Life and Anecdotes of the Caesars.
Her association with Walter Scott is well-known, and it is believed that it was Sinclair who discovered that Scott was the author of the Waverley novels, which had originally been published anonymously. Recognising their quality and value, Sinclair urged Scott to go public as their author, and in doing so helped secure his reputation as one of Scotland’s great literary heroes.
Her kindness was well-known, as well as her charitable spirit of support and care for animals and those less well-off in society. She introduced public benches into Edinburgh’s busy streets, to help provide respite to pedestrians, as well as introducing public water fountains, to provide clean drinking water to the public.
Today she may seem a minor figure in the pantheon of great Edinburgh citizens past, but the monument to her is a significant indicator of her standing and reputation, and a valuable reminder that great cities like Edinburgh were not (and are not) only shaped by the men who live and work in them.
For more information about other significant figures from the city’s past, why not book a customised walking tour of the city?
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