Design revealed for Galashiels statue of Coulter’s Candy writer

These days he’d probably fall foul of a crackdown on unhealthy foodstuffs being lined up by the Scottish Government, but because he’s long dead and no longer inciting children to risk getting double chins by eating his sweets, Galashiels confectioner Robert Coltart is off the hook.
What Angela Hunter's statues of Robert Coltart and two young customers will look like.What Angela Hunter's statues of Robert Coltart and two young customers will look like.
What Angela Hunter's statues of Robert Coltart and two young customers will look like.

Far from facing sanctions for encouraging obesity and tooth decay, Coltart is in fact being celebrated by Scottish Borders Council, one of the government’s prospective partners in its bid to encourage healthy eating.

It has commissioned a statue of the 19th century candy man, best known for writing the lullaby-cum-advertising ditty Coulter’s Candy, also known as Ally Bally Bee, and a design for it has now been agreed.

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Angela Hunter with one of her previous works.Angela Hunter with one of her previous works.
Angela Hunter with one of her previous works.

The statue of former weaver Coltart, alive from 1832 to 1880, will be accompanied by sculptures of two customers, a boy and a girl.

It’s being produced by sculptor Angela Hunter, originally from Galashiels but now living in Innerleithen, and is due to be completed by the end of the year.

It will be created in two stages, with the statue of Coltart expected to be in place in Market Square in Galashiels this summer, and the children’s sculptures following later in the year.

That’s near a former home of his in Overhaugh Street, and it’s also next to another tribute to a song with links to Galashiels, progressive rock band Marillion’s 1985 single Kayleigh.

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Overhaugh Street in Galashiels was once home to Robert Coltart.Overhaugh Street in Galashiels was once home to Robert Coltart.
Overhaugh Street in Galashiels was once home to Robert Coltart.

Lyrics from the song, a No 2 hit, were carved into paving stones in the square in 2012 to mark the inspiration the town provided for it, it being about a former girlfriend of then singer Fish, alias Derek Dick, once a student at the Heriot-Watt University campus there.

The Coltart sculpture will form part of a new town trail being part-funded by a Scottish Government regeneration grant of £1.18m.

Mrs Hunter worked alongside local historians Mary Craig, of Stow, and Graeme McIver, of Galashiels, along with councillor Sandy Aitchison and the Energise Galashiels Trust, to come up with her design.

An appeal in January for information on Coltart, buried in an unmarked grave in Eastlands Cemetery in Galashiels following his death from a brain tumour at the age of 47, triggered responses from across Scotland and even Canada.

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“I am delighted we now have an agreed design we are able to let the Borders public see,” said Mrs Hunter, 67.

“The agreed design of the Robert Coltart sculpture is based on newspaper cuttings, including an image we have of him.

“While we can never be 100% certain of his appearance, the research by Mary and Graeme and feedback to our appeal means I feel I can now portray his stature and personality.

“I will now press ahead with producing a lasting legacy for Robert Coltart that Galashiels can be proud of.”

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Ms Craig said: “Robert Coltart’s story is one that many more people should know about, and I hope this sculpture will encourage people to find out how the famous song Coulter’s Candy came to be written by a weaver from Galashiels.”

The town trail will also take in the location of Robert Coltart’s one-bedroom flat in Overhaugh Street.

The council’s executive member for business and economic development, Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, added: “In line with other regeneration works going on in Galashiels, the Coulter’s Candy project has been taken forward with a number of partners, and it was important they all had sight of the initial design before it was issued publicly.

“A real effort is being made to ensure visitors are attracted to Galashiels, and the wider Borders area, and it is worth noting that without the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor attraction, which helped secure the overall support from the Scottish Government regeneration grant fund, these improvement works would not have been possible.”

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Mother-of-two Mrs Hunter’s other works include busts of West Linton nurse Margaret Kerr at the Borders General Hospital at Melrose and Hawick rugby commentator Bill McLaren at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium, plus the £100,000 statue of William of Rule wrestling a bull outside Hawick Heritage Hub.