The Flying Scotsman
To celebrate the visit of The Flying Scotsman to Galashiels on 15th May 2016, artist Chris Rutterford produced the Crowd Mural located on Douglas Bridge, unveiled on 1st October 2016.
Local volunteers supported Chris and his team of artists in creating the artwork, which depicts many people, including those in town on the day of the famous locomotive’s visit, along with Gala’s celebrated sons and daughters.
As an additional element of including people from the local community, Chris ran a Crowdfunder campaign, with everyone who made a donation invited to send a photograph of themselves for Chris to use to include them in the mural.
Some of the people in the mural are:
Source: Mike Gray. There is no official record of those depicted in the mural.
Weave the Magic
Originally the location of ‘The Royal Hotel’, Channel House is owned by the Paterson family and is now home to several local businesses and the Weave the Magic Mural, installed in March 2021. Working with the Paterson family, the mural artwork was designed to reflect what Galashiels means to them and as a means of telling the story of the town itself.
Textiles provide a strong connection between family and town, a connection reflected in many households due to the dominance of the textile industry in Galashiels. Duncan Paterson, an ex-Scotland rugby internationalist, was a Galashiels mill owner, and all three of his sons had been in the trade, with one son still trading in textiles today, so the mural needed to incorporate a textile theme.
However, the family also wanted to capture the history of the building. To achieve this, they asked local people about their memories of The Royal Hotel; many recalled singing, dancing and drinking with friends.
In bringing together the two themes, the mural shows a couple dancing with the loom of threads swirling around them. The figures are in silhouette to subtly represent Duncan Paterson and his wife, Lucille, with the threads reflecting the weft threads which travel across the loom to make cloth.
Braw Lads’ Gathering
The mural depicts scenes from the Braw Lads’ Gathering, an event established in 1930 by then Provost John Hayward and ex-Provost JC Dalgleish, installed on the facade of number 48-50 Channel Street on March 2021.
Common Ridings and Civic Week events make up the fabric of Borders life, with the summer months peppered with week-long celebrations held in towns and villages throughout the region. The Braw Lads’ Gathering is held in the first week of July and is led by the town’s nominated Braw Lad and Braw Lass, who head the festivities and represent Galashiels at the other towns’ events.
The mural depicts the Braw Lad with the flag aloft in ceremony, an image that is a central scene during the week-long event. Then, a Braw Lad is holding a flag as if he were riding over Gala Hill, the main ride-out on the morning of The Gathering. Finally, there is an image of the Braw Lad ‘Dipping the Flag’ depicting the final Act of Homage at the War Memorial on Gala Day, an act of remembrance to commemorate the sacrifice made by those from Galashiels who lost their lives in World Wars I and II and subsequent conflicts.
The mural also shows the Mixing of the Roses ceremony at the Market Cross. This aspect of Braw Lads Week is in recognition of the marriage of James IV of Scotland to Margaret Tudor in 1503, which took place at or close to where the Market Cross has stood since the 1600s. This marriage is often referred to as ‘The Marriage of the Thistle and the Rose’, which led to the unification of the Crowns 100 years later.
The background colour is coincidentally like a ‘soor ploom’ – a reference to the earliest record of Galashiels in 1337, where an invading party of Englishmen stopped on retreat from Edinburgh before crossing the Tweed, scouting around for wild plums. A group of Gala lads learned of this party, rushed on them, and killed them all. The village people congratulated the lads, referring to them as the “Soor Plooms O’Galashiels.” The Soor Ploom became the badge and emblem of the Burgh.
The mural also includes the black and white Shepherd’s Plaid pattern.
Source: John Gray
Sir Walter Scott
Sir Walter Scott, the famous author, was a friend and neighbour to Galashiels and frequently visited both for business and social purposes.
Town Bailie, George Hope-Tait, a recognised scholar of Scott, erected many plagues relating to Scott throughout Galashiels.
Building on the connection further, a plaque of Sir Walter Scott graces the gable end of a building in Bank Street, located opposite a plaque in Bank Close, that commemorates the attendance of Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, at the Manufacturers Michaelmas Dinner in 1821. The dinner was held in the New Inn in what was then called Scott’s Place, which has since been renamed Bank Street.
In 1932, the Abbotsford Scott Fellowship, of which Bailie Tait was a founder member, was asked to come forward with a proposal to commemorate the centenary of Sir Walter Scott’s death. The Fellowship raised funds to finance a monument installed on Bank Street. The bronze bust of Sir Walter Scott is on a light grey granite plinth with an inset bronze panel depicting a bard and relief carving: `O Great and Gallant Scott’.
Source: John Gray
Shepherd’s Plaid Galashiels Heartland of the Borders
The Shepherd’s Plaid pattern was popularised by Sir Walter Scott, who chose it to show his support for the textile industry in the town. In reciprocal recognition of support, the people of Galashiels later adopted black and white as the town colours, and they are never more evident than during the Braw Lads’ Gathering when everyone is encouraged to wear or display black and white check ribbons and rosettes.
The bright and colourful mural interprets how humans, machines and materials combine to create wonderful textile designs. The abstract concept aims to encapsulate the highly skilled craft of textile production heritage, pulled together using Galashiels ‘Heartland of the Borders’ colours. From left to right, there are:
Areas of different tweed patterns
Mechanical detail from a Dobcross Loom
Architectural detail from the building which houses the Great Tapestry of Scotland,
Graphic representation shapes the design of Abbotsford
Illustration of the Tweed Mill in Galashiels taking style influence from the Great Tapestry of Scotland.