Catherine Sinclair Monument – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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Catherine Sinclair Monument

A rare memorial paying homage to an altruistic woman from the 19th-century. 


This statue is dedicated to 1800s writer and philanthropist, Catherine Sinclair. 

Sinclair was born to a well-to-do family not far from where the sculpture is located at No. 9 Charlotte Square. She wrote nearly two dozen literary works covering a variety of genres but is most well known for her children’s stories. Her bestseller was Holiday House, a tale involving adventurous youth and their watchful guardian. She is also attributed as the person who divulged the author behind the anonymously published Waverly Stories, Sir Walter Scott.

It was this last tidbit of information that inspired the designer David Bryce and carver John Rind of the Sinclair memorial to emulate the gothic spaceship on Princes Street, known as the Walter Scott Monument, for which Sinclair was a major funding contributor to its construction. It resembles an Eleanor Cross with six sides containing an assemblage of foliage, a cornucopia, and several water spouts in the shape of mythical beasts. The memorial was paid for by public subscription and unveiled in the late 1860s.

Besides being a prolific author, Sinclair was also an adamant philanthropist. Her altruistic good deeds ran the gambit of helping those less fortunate. She provided soup kitchens for the poor, sublimated institutions for both underprivileged girls and boys, supplied cabbies with taxi shelters, and launched a campaign to furnish the city with public benches that are still in use to this day.

She also founded the very first public drinking fountain in Edinburgh in 1859. The fountain not only supplied clean water for human consumption but was also constructed to accommodate animals. As civilization advanced, the fountain was removed to make way for traffic in the 1930s. It would eventually be removed from storage and a remnant of the upper portion was placed at the Steadfast Gate, along the Water of Leith Walkway in the early 1980s.

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