Progress on Edinburgh’s Ross Fountain restoration has seen the city’s resident mermaid population increase by eight.
The eight mermaid statues were painstakingly lifted into place by a crane yesterday, a development that marks the half-way point in the re-assembly process.
Other pieces still to be added include the fountain’s upper bowl, muse figures and its female finial figure, which has been christened Elsie.
Sited in West Princes Street Gardens, the Edinburgh icon boasts a brand new verdigris-bronze colour palette, knowingly chosen to echo other French-built fountains of the same era.
Restoration of the historic landmark, which was forged at a Parisian foundry more than 150 years ago, is being handled by the Ross Development Trust, which took on the £1.6 million repair bill. Apex Hotels founder Norman Springford, who heads the Ross Development Trust, parted with his own money to kick-start the project.
Half a million pounds of private donations and a £200,000 grant from Edinburgh World Heritage have also contributed.
Last July the fountain was dismantled and transferred to the workshops of Wigan-based cast iron experts Lost Art. Since then each of its 122 pieces has been repaired and repainted with parts coming back to Edinburgh in shipments. The project has just three shipments to go – the latest one containing the eight mermaids.
David Ellis, managing director at the Ross Development Trust, said he was “wowed” by the mermaids’ return. “They look incredible,” he said. “I walked along the gardens this morning and, for the first time in months, I am able to see the fountain from stepping out the cottage at the opposite end.”
However, Mr Ellis revealed that restoring the fountain has been a far more complicated project than first anticipated with foundation issues responsible for it breaching its budget by more than £300,000.
“It’s gone slightly over,” he explained. “But to place the fountain back on the infrastructure that was there wouldn’t have given it the longevity that we envisaged.”
Pressed on the bold new colour scheme, which has divided opinion, Mr Ellis said the most important thing was the fact the fountain was being restored: “I think people will eventually forget about this change and will just enjoy the fact that we have one of the most incredible cast iron fountains anywhere in the world right on our doorstep and working.”
Work on the Ross Fountain restoration is due for completion on 26 June.