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David Mackay: Elgin still a hometown to be proud of despite city status snub

David Mackay outside Elgin cathedral
David Mackay outside Elgin Cathedral. Photo: Blair Dingwall/DCT Media

Elgin City, thanks to Jeff Stelling the words go together for football fans across the UK as easily as Granite City.

It flashes up on screens around the world and people read it without questioning whether Elgin is actually a city or not.

I’m sure there are people in Australia, Japan, the US, wherever, who have no doubt that Elgin is Moray’s capital city simply due to the football team.

It has now been confirmed the Queen has overlooked our ironclad case for official city status.

But does it matter? And will it change anything for the good people who live there?

What does city status matter anyway?

Ok, firstly, a disclaimer: I live in Elgin, or rather the Free State of New Elgin to be precise, so might be looking at this through fuzzy glasses.

You don’t need to live or work here for long though to see references to city status all over the place.

Alright, it’s not as if Dandy Lion has etched it into the Plainstones or scrawled it across the High Street.

But whether you’re delicately making your way out of Joanna’s onto City Arms Close or seeing the signs welcoming you to the “historic cathedral city” as you drive in, the clues are all around.

Yes, I’m aware of Elgin Town Hall, but I prefer not to dwell on that name and instead choose to marvel at its B-listed architecture.

My point is that official city status, whether that comes on a piece of paper or a birthday card from Her Majesty, hasn’t stopped Elgin clinging to its historic status of being a city for centuries.

I recently visited Elgin Library and delved through their extensive archives on the subject with newspaper clipping dating from the late 19th Century arguing about this very topic.

Welcome to Elgin sign

It seems as though a reorganisation of local government in the 1970s finally, and I think erroneously, robbed Moray’s capital of its title. It won’t be the last thing to get lost in bureaucracy.

Is Elgin a city in the traditional sense? No, probably not. It doesn’t have a population as vast as Aberdeen, Inverness or even Stirling.

But it is not just a community in its own right, but also sustains residents from wider afield who visit for our five supermarkets among other things.

Sadly, as more and more services are withdrawn from other communities, including banks, Moray’s dependency on Elgin as an unofficial capital is only likely to grow.

Does that make it a city? I don’t know, but it certainly makes it an important community in the north-east.

Elgin’s place in the world

Ok, so Elgin might not be getting official city status, and I doubt there will be many tears about this news.

Far more important, I think, is the pride the people here take in our city (Yes, I’ll persist with it) being known across the world.

Johnstons of Elgin takes the name of our home to some of the finest fashion houses in the world.

Entrance to Johnstons of Elgin

Glen Moray whisky is on the backbar of venues across the world and Linkwood distillery produces a good dram itself while also ending up in Johnnie Walker.

The smell of butter from Walkers shortbread is an almost ever-present constant from one of Scotland’s most famous brands.

And ok, Elgin City might not be winning the Champions League anytime soon, but they’re a team known across the land.

Elgin may not get the piece of paper and wee party that comes with being named an official city as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

But it’s still a community that punches above its weight on the world stage with celebrated exports, which makes it a hometown to be proud of.


David Mackay is a Live News team leader for the Press & Journal. He lives in Elgin and is quite fond of it. 

Is Elgin a city? We dive into the archives to try and solve the question once and for all

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