Coulter’s Candy

I guess that’s what stepping back in time does – it reminds you of all sorts of childhood memories.  This week the open air, Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore certainly achieved that for me, when we re-visited to catch up on the Croft and Village sections we missed on our last visit.

Aultarie Croft from Pavilion lowres

Aultarie Croft

This is a croft that still has animals on it. The three Highland Cattle were hiding – all we could see were the top of their horns but I’ve captured some of the other livestock.

The farmhouse area incorporates 3 different items.  Its main front room has been interpreted as a late 1930s living room.  The room across from it has been transformed into a wee sweetie shop, called Kirk’s Store.  And yes, you can buy sweets there.  They even had a tub of Coulter’s Candy – so of course, I had to buy some.  The Coulter’s Candy song (you may know it as Ally Bally, or Ally Bally Bee) then circulated in my head all day.  It was written by Robert Coltart (1832 – 1880), a Galashiels weaver, to help market his sweeties.  And there I was thinking marketing was a modern phenomenon.  There are many versions of the song but I’ve included a link below for the version by Donovan.

Farmhouse and Post Office lowres

Attached to the side of the farmhouse is the Glenlivet Post Office.  This was acquired by the museum and has been rebuilt as it was when it was operating. 

There are loads of things to see in this area:

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But don’t just look at the outside of the buildings, when you go inside it really is stepping back in time – but strangely familiar.

A tin cottage, interpreted as it would have been in the 1930s, which was originally used by farm workers.

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Balameanach Village

Once you get back to the Shepherd’s Bothy and Fank you then start picking up the buildings that make up the village – Balameanach.  Do spend some time going inside these as they are a real glimpse into the not too distant past.  Remember, if you were born in the 1950s or 1960s then you will have probably seen, if not used, some of the items in the interpretations.  Even if you were born more recently all the items will be really familiar.

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The Blackhouse was one of the first buildings that the museum acquired and it has been rebuilt here.  You will see scaffolding in this picture which is there as they are now re-thatching the roof.  If you look closely you will see turfs have been laid on the roof, and one of the other photos shows the marram grass which has been gathered into sheaves ready for thatching the roof.  I believe this was to be done the week after we visited.  Next to the Lewis Blackhouse is the Loom shed which contains a loom similar to those introduced to the Harris Tweed industry in the 1900s.

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Highland Cottage is one of the buildings I find most interesting.  At one end of the site there’s the 1700s township whereas at the other end of the site are buildings from the 20th century.  This wee cottage sits at the middle of the site, quite near the entrance, and represents the transition from turf dwellings to stone build houses.  This building represents buildings from the early 1800s.

Like many other villages of the time it wasn’t just made up of houses but would have had a wealth of other activities from industry, craftspeople, a school and church.  These have also been included in the museum by the restoration of buildings, and their contents, from all over the Highlands.

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 It’s just as I was writing this blog that I realised what it is that I really like about this museum.  It represents the life of ordinary Highlanders from the past which means that many of the items are really familiar – whether that’s an old tractor, or a kitchen storage unit, a 1950s clock or even a tub of Coulter’s Candy.  I never tasted Coulter’s Candy as a bairn but I knew the song and that’s the memory that was triggered.

Coulter’s Candy song – sung by Donovan


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