The St Giles’ Weathercock

The weathercock on top of the crown steeple of St Giles’ was put there nearly 350 years ago, in 1667.

Weathercocks have for centuries been placed on top of buildings, particularly churches, to show the direction of the wind. We know that there was one on St Giles’ in the sixteenth century, for in 1567 Alexander Honeyman was producing a new weathercock to replace the old one. It took 15 ¾ pounds of copper to make its body, with another 7 pounds 6 ounces to be its tail.

Over the next century, battered by the winds, the weathercock became worn, and so in 1667 Alexander Anderson, coppersmith, was employed to make a replacement, at a cost of £90:10 shillings. As the centuries went by, it and the two globes below it were regularly re-gilded and repaired until, in December 1979, during a strong gale, there was a near disaster. Looking up, people passing the Cathedral were alarmed to see that the weathercock was rocking perilously from side to side. Not only was it loose, but the top eight feet of stonework had come loose too.

At the start of the urgent repairs, the weathercock was brought down and examined. The bronze pole on which it stood was bent, one of its eyes was missing and its coating of gold leaf had almost entirely worn away. It was carefully repaired, re-gilded and then put on display inside the Cathedral for some months before being taken up to the top of the steeple again, where it stands proudly once more on its accustomed perch.