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In search of naked men

Let’s start at the very beginning.

Anthony Gormley’s 6 Times series of his naked statues were installed along the River of Leith in 2010. Sadly, a tendency to topple over when the river flooded, led to the removal of most of them, but now they are back.

These classic life-size Gormley men were commissioned by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, with support from the Art Fund, funds from the Gulbenkian Museum of the Year award 2004, plus further support from Patrons of the National Galleries of Scotland, Claire Enders and The Henry Moore Foundation.

Outside the Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, May 2019

The first of the Gormley look-alikes is buried at the entrance to the Gallery of Modern Art. The 6 Times men are replicas of Gormley, but each with a very slight difference in attitude. The “Ground man”, here, has a very low-level view across the road in the direction of the distant sea, that he cannot see. I’m not sure why he his buried to his chest, but he makes a quirky start to our hunt, giving us just a hint of what is to come.

This spot makes the perfect start to our hunt for the rest of the gang, but let’s grab coffee and cake first. There’s a great cafe with garden seating on the river-side of the Modern One building, and the cakes there are irresistible.

Calories and sugar levels topped up, let’s head down to the river – the path down is right outside the cafe garden. At the bottom is a small wooden bridge to take us across to the river walk, where we turn left to head towards Leith.

River of Leith, May 2019

Don’t dash on yet, though, as here we have number two, just to our left. This is the man I had spotted a couple of days earlier, the appearance which made me realise that the drowned men had returned.

The men are made of solid cast iron, with each figure weighing more than 600kg. Their rough finish gives a rugged texture to the statues, and the joins of the original plaster mould of Gormley’s body are clearly visible, as are the marks and projections left from the casting process. Their gazes are fixed solidly in position, with a slight difference of angle for each: up, down, left and right, and straight ahead.

The Sky man, here, is gazing upwards.

but he’ll keep his eye on us as we wander off down the path.

The walk along the Water of Leith, is one of my favourite things to do whenever I’m in Edinburgh. I usually do the stretch between Roseburn and Stockbridge, but today we’ll walk to the end of the river at Leith. Our next nudity stop, though, will be at Stockbridge.

The man here is hard to spot. As we come into Stockbridge, the path itself ends and we transfer onto Saunders Street, which runs alongside the river. The man is hiding to our left just as we approach the main road, but the summer greenery protects his privacy. If we turn left onto Deenhaugh Street and peer back down from the bridge, we’ll spot him staring studiously at the water below.

View from Deenhaugh Street, Stockbridge, May 2019

He stands again, exactly where he stood for the first time in 2010. For pictures of him and a couple of other originals, you might like to come back later for dinner at the Pizza Express over the road. You can sit out on their verandah for a view down onto the river, but don’t miss the naked men on the walls inside.

We’ll now drop back onto the river near the pizza place and continue our walk towards Leith. It’s a 25-30 minute walk to the next man, who is in the water alongside St Mark’s Park at Powderhall.

There’s a pedestrian bridge across the water to housing on the other side, and there’s a perfect view from here down to the Gormley man below. If you scramble through the riverside greenery, you can get a closer peek at the man, who stares solidly away from us, head turned to his right.

The next one to hunt for is the “man looking left”. His position is close to the Bonnington Bridge and the Newhaven Road. However, I’m afraid my search here failed – I’m not sure if I just didn’t spot him or whether he hadn’t yet been returned to the water.

This part of the walk is turned away from the water a few times, due partly to geography and partly to building works. We just have to follow the signs and get back to the water whenever it allows. The last short stretch is by the water, though, and we soon pop out at the mouth of the Water of Leith, as it rushes into Albert Dock Basin and out into the mouth of the Forth.

Now, we just keep heading to the waterfront, turning left on Ocean Drive towards the ugly Ocean Terminal. If at all unsure of the direction, we can just follow the signs to Royal Yacht Britannia. Keeping the Ocean Terminal to our left, we head to a small wooden jetty that points out to cargo ships beyond.

Hang on to you hats and scarves out here; the wind is picking up and umbrellas give no protection against the rain. The wooden pier has been long closed and neglected and climbing across it is not allowed. But at least this means that there are railings to hang on to in our battle against the gale.

And there is our final man, gazing out to the horizon. You can tell from his rugged look and his white coiffure, that he has been standing here for a fair few years, doused by rain and with only the company of pigeons and seagulls.

That brings our walk to a damp and chilly end, and I’m sorry we only found 5 out of 6. Now time for a bit more refreshment, so let’s go and find a local pub.




Copyright Debbie Smyth, 3 June 2019

Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walks, even though Jo is off being extra-restless at the moment

11 replies »

    • Thanks Jane
      I was so pleased to see these statues return – I hadn’t seen them first time round, and some other Gormley statues were on my “to see” list for this year. I was delighted to find some extras!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. These make me laugh and wonder what aliens would think if they really did land. Not sure what the point is, but they’re certainly not something you see every day. 🙂 I’m walking today as well although not very far.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely a wonderful walk Debbie. What an adventure, sorry I took a while to catch up at the small wooden bridge, I had to have another coffee which was good as I was warm when we got to the pier 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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