New Reekie

I was one of the many thousands of visitors who enjoyed the rare opportunity of seeing a flowering Amorphophallus titanum at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

The hour and a half queue was actually well worth it. The plant is certainly spectacular and our fellow visitors were well-mannered and appropriately conversational.

The shared sense of occasion was much enhanced by the infectious enthusiasm of the staff, who entertained the patient masses with botanical snippets and insights into the 13-year story of the plant’s unusual life.

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The flower famously attracts a particular type of pollinating insect by smelling strongly of rotting flesh, the potency of which has subsided significantly by the time we arrived.

It’s perhaps then a little churlish of me to ask, but why was the whole experience badged “New Reekie” in all the Botanics’ promotional material?

I have only lived in Edinburgh for ten years but even I know that Auld Reekie is a traditional Scots sobriquet meaning “old smoky”, referring to the city’s many chimneys, that goes back as far as the reign of Charles II.

So it does seem strange that such a venerable Edinburgh institution should have fallen into the trap of thinking it means “old smelly”.

This is the only reason that I’m being so pedantic; if it was a school project, I would have smiled indulgently but I really can’t have been the only visitor slightly surprised by this mistake. Can I?

Peter Maxwell

London Road