In 1859, Catherine Sinclair, daughter of Sir John Sinclair (of Statistical Account fame), paid for a fountain to be erected at the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road. Princes Street's traffic was very different back then - horses pulling carts, horses pulling carriages and horses pulling omnibuses. This fountain was a way of saying thank you to these beasts for their work, allowing them a stop-off point to have a drink whilst wending their way through our streets. It was very popular with the dogs of the city too - and, judging from the photo above, with the thirsty children of the city! Named after Catherine, the Sinclair Fountain remained in place until 1926 when it was removed to allow freer movement for the ever-increasing traffic. Sadly, it was then forgotten about and languished in council storage at Bonnington Road for many years, split into many pieces and eroding as time passed by. In 1983, part of the main body was reused in the walkway by the Water of Leith but it is no longer recognisable as a fountain, as you can see from the picture below, taken from http://martinveart.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/the-sad-fate-of-steadfast-gate.html . Sitting amongst vandalised cobbles and suffering from hooligan-inflicted damage itself, this lonely stone is a sad reminder of what happens when we do not care for the beautiful architectural legacy of our city. How many people now know of the Sinclair Fountain? Every day, thousands pass over its former site not knowing of the happiness it must have brought so many animals for nearly seventy years. And also, what other stones are lying forgotten and eroding in the council's stores at Bonnington Road? As memorials to our past should we not be looking after them better?
With thanks to Alan Judge of Vintage Collected Photography on Facebook for his kind permission to reproduce the above black and white image. Alan is a genius, taking old, half-ruined photographs and negatives and breathing new life into them. Please check out his page.