South Scotland

Galashiels statue planned for sweet-selling songwriter

Galashiels Image copyright Scottish Borders Council
Image caption The statue is part of wider regeneration works being carried out in Galashiels

A statue of a sweet-selling songwriter is to be constructed in his home town in the Scottish Borders.

Galashiels weaver Robert Coltart penned Coulter's Candy - also known as Ally Bally Bee - to boost his confectionery sales back in the 19th Century.

A monument in his honour will be put up in the town's Market Square as part of wider regeneration works.

Sculptor Angela Hunter is appealing for information and images of Coltart to help create the statue.

Coltart made the aniseed flavoured sweets to supplement his income, and is said to have sung the song to attract customers as he visited Borders fairs and markets.

He died aged just 43 in 1880 and the recipe for his sweets was lost but his song was passed down through generations.

In the 1950s a song historian published it in a newspaper, giving it another surge of popularity.

Coulter's Candy lyrics

Ally bally, ally bally bee,

Sittin' on yer mammy's knee,

Greetin' for a wee bawbee,

Tae buy mair Coulter's candy.

The word bawbee in the lyrics refers to a halfpenny coin.

Innerleithen-based artist Ms Hunter has been commissioned to produce the work in his honour.

She is finalising her design with the help of local historians Mary Craig and Graeme McIver and councillor Sandy Aitchison.

'Best known children's song'

Ms Hunter said: "I was born in Galashiels and am therefore incredibly proud to be involved in this project.

"I have previously worked on other Borders projects such as Turnbull monument in Hawick.

"While Robert Coltart lived over 100 years ago, it is hoped that someone may have further information on his life, so we can make this sculpture as accurate as possible."

Mr McIver said Coulter's Candy was "arguably Scotland's best-known and loved children's song" and it was "fantastic" to see a permanent reminder being built.

Image copyright Scottish Borders Council
Image caption Plans for a permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland have been credited with helping to attract the funding

Scottish Borders Council's Mark Rowley added: "The story of Robert Coltart is a fascinating one which should be known by more people and alongside the other regeneration works taking place in Galashiels, I am sure it will attract people to the town and the Borders."

He said the work would not have been possible without the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre which helped to secure financial support.

Helen Calder, of Energise Galashiels Trust, said: "We are delighted to play our part in the telling of the story of Robert Coltart.

"Ally Bally is such a world-famous nursery rhyme that we see real opportunity in celebrating its link to our town."

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