Coulter’s Candy to be brought to life in Galashiels

Weaver Robert Coltart put together the Scots lullaby Coulter’s Candy – also known as Ali Bali Bee - to aid his sweet sales in the 19th century, which is now recognised across the world.

A monument to Coltart will now be erected this year in the Market Square to mark his achievement, as part of a new town trail supported by the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

The fund provided a £1.18m grant last year, a proportion of which is being used to fund a £900,000 streetscape improvements programme within the town.

Sculptor Angela Hunter, who is based in Innerleithen but hails from Galashiels, has now been commissioned to produce the statue and is finalising her design with the help of local historians Mary Craig and Graeme McIver and local Councillor Sandy Aitchison, who have all championed Coltart’s story alongside Energise Galashiels Trust.

Angela is appealing for anyone who may have further information about Coltart, including any images of the man himself.

Angela 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.”

Graeme added: “Coulter’s Candy is arguably Scotland’s best known and loved children’s song and it is fantastic that at long last there will be a permanent reminder. To coin a phrase we used during our research - ‘Ali Bali is actually from Guid Auld Galae.’

“The town has faced challenges in attracting new visitors and this statue, along with the other proposed regeneration works, will I’m sure provide a much-needed boost for Galashiels. 

“Angela Hunter’s work is fantastic and it has been a pleasure looking at her ideas for how the finished statue will look. I am sure it will become a much loved local attraction and will rekindle interest in the story of Robert Coltart and the song.”

The regeneration funding from the Scottish Government is also supporting new visitor signage and improvements to Channel Street and Douglas Bridge, as well as helping to fund the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor attraction.

Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Business and Economic Development, Councillor Mark Rowley, said: “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. 

“A partnership approach is being used to take forward the project, with a variety of groups from the local community and businesses involved in finalising the streetscape improvements as priorities. These improvement works would not have been possible without the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor complex, which helped secure the overall support from the Scottish Government Regeneration Grant Fund.

“This year is to be an exciting one as Galashiels is re-shaped and investment encouraged in the town and the wider Borders economy as part of the Galashiels Masterplan.”

Helen Calder of Energise Galashiels Trust, who has also championed Coltart’s story, added: “We are delighted to play our part in the telling of the story of Robert Coltart. Ali Bali is such a world-famous nursery rhyme that we see real opportunity in celebrating its link to our town.”

Anyone with information or images of Robert Coltart can contact angie@angelahunter.co.uk.