Tributes paid to Galashiels ice cream man Adam Kelly

Adam Kelly as he was best known, serving from his van.
Adam Kelly as he was best known, serving from his van.

The man who was Britain’s oldest ice cream vendor, Adam Kelly of Galashiels, died this morning, aged 96.

Adam was something of a local legend in the town, and served the town’s children for over 50 years before he was forced to retire two years ago.

Since he made national headlines when he retired, Adam was awarded the British Empire Medal and was immortalised in a mural in the town’s Douglas Bridge, painted to celebrate the return of the railway.

He was also one of a few living former servicemen who received France’s highest military honour, the Legion of Honour, from the French Embassy for his services to the country during the war.

The D-Day veteran, who also saw action in El Alamein, Tobruk, Benghazi, Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, Sicily and Italy, died peacefully this morning at Borders General Hospital following a short illness.

A statement released by his family this morning read: “He was one of a kind and a true gentleman.

“In his 96 years he contributed to the community in countless ways and will be sorely missed.”

His love of driving saw him through the war ... and it continued with his chosen profession, but he also loved to meet people on his rounds.

When we interviewed him in 2016, he told us: “I just loved meeting the people. I was really busy when I started, because nobody had freezers in those days and no shops were open after five, so I could have gone on till 11pm if I wanted.

“The kids I served back then now have their grandchildren coming out to my van.

“There was nothing better than driving the van around on my rounds.”

Adam was so well-loved by his customers, no other vendor even attempted to edge in on his rounds – and it’s something he absolutely refused to do himself.

He said: “Some of my customers flitted to other towns in the Borders, and asked me if I would go there, but you can’t make money when you are travelling.”

Every nougat wafer, every 99 cone was handed over with a free gift – a warm smile.

It was a job he took great pleasure in, and he only retired when his optician told him he had to stop driving as his eyesight had diminished.

He told us at the time: “I’d still be driving now, but I have been told I have to stop.

“I can’t read the small type in the papers, so I thought I had better get my eyes checked.

“The optician said I shouldn’t be driving any more, so I’m having to sell up.”

When he retired, he achieved fame on the national stage, being interviewed on television and appearing in several national newspapers.

He also gained a cult following online, through the Facebook page Adam’s Ices Appreciation Society, which currently has more than 1,000 likes.

Its sole post this morning simply read: “R.I.P. Legend ... Thanks for the memories.”

Adam is survived by his wife of 67 years, Betty.