Black Bitch campaigners vow to fight on in face of name change

Campaigners say the won’t give up their fight after the owners of the Black Bitch pub said they will force through controversial plans to change its name to The Willow Tree.

Locals say they are “appalled” Greene King is pressing ahead with the plans despite objections from 12,000 people, calling it nothing short of a “vendetta”.

Campaigners have been fighting against the plans since pub bosses at Greene King announced their intentions to make the name more “welcoming and inclusive”.

Alistair Old, who is leading protests, said: “We’re appalled at Greene King’s refusal to accept the massive and widespread opposition to changing the historic name Black Bitch on our pub in what clearly has become a vendetta against the overwhelming support to keep the historic name of the pub.“

The company announced yesterday that the pub’s name will be changed to Willow Tree.

The name is a nod to the nearby statue of drover Katie Wearie and Katie Wearie’s willow tree, which was originally planted in 1832 to mark the Reform Act in Scotland.

But Alistair said the choice is “ironic”, pointing to the fact Greene King’s founder, Benjamin Greene was against the act.

He continued: “They ironically picked the name the Willow Tree. The tree was indeed planted in 1832 to commemorate the Reform bill being passed in Parliament.

“Benjamin Greene, their founding slave owner, was a fanatical opponent of the reform bill and fought against the will of the people to improve democracy.

“Linlithgow celebrated the power of democracy in 1832. Greene King continue to celebrate their Slave owner by keeping his name in their corporate branding and continuing his behavior by ignoring the views and opinions of people when they go against them.”

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Alistair added: “This company continues to pretend that they have some sort of mandate to proclaim that the historic name of the Black Bitch is racist and offensive; when nearly 12,000 people have signed a petition telling them they are wrong. West Lothian Council have asked them to stop defaming the town’s heritage, but the removal of the name sends out that exact message.

Over 12,000 people have objected to the name change

“The action committee will be meeting shortly and will be consulting with the larger community on what appropriate action to take in the face of this appalling insult to the town of Linlithgow

Greene King CEO Nick Mackenzie said: “Changing the pub’s name has been something we’ve been considering for some time and I’d like to thank people who’ve written to us to offer their views.

“There’s been plenty of publicity around those who don’t agree with our decision, but we’ve also had letters of support from people in Linlithgow.

“This is a difficult balance and throughout this we have continued to highlight our respect for the history of Linlithgow. Our decision is not meant to diminish or denigrate the heritage of the town but at the same time we recognize that language has changed and the name can be extremely offensive to people.

The pub is named after an historic Linlithgow legend

“Our commitment to changing the name is unwavering, as we strongly believe it is the right thing to do for our teams and our customers, but we do understand why our original idea to just change the one word on the sign from Bitch to Hound was not well-received by all. It was done with the best of intentions to retain the spirit of the story, but we’ve listened to people who felt it would impact negatively on the town’s emblem.

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“We’re pleased therefore to be instead changing it to The Willow Tree, which retains links to the town’s heritage, and look forward to this next chapter of the pub’s history.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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