Singing Scottish songs to a new tune

Some Scottish songs have been loved for generations. Burns’ “A Red, Red Rose” as a classic love song. “Coulter’s Candy” as a sweet rhyme passed down from a grandparent. “The Skye Boat Song” as a stirring, but ultimately dusty waltz.

Scottish Songs blog 1At DiscoverKelpies HQ, we think differently. We love bringing Scottish songs and stories to new audiences. Sometimes that means putting a new spin on traditional words.

Where better to start than one of Scotland’s most famous exports? Robert Burns’ “A Red, Red Rose” – based on an even older traditional song – is recognised around the world as a love letter. At an early age, the strongest love a child knows is their bond with a parent. Ruchi Mhasane’s heart-warming illustrations in My Luve’s like a Red, Red Rose turn the song into a love letter from mother to daughter, making Burns relevant to a whole new generation.

Not many people know that “Coulter’s Candy” started life as an advertising jingle for the sweeties mentioned in the song. Robert Coltard wrote the song in the early 1800s, to help sell his homemade sweeties. To most Scottish bairns, it’s a sing-along associated with sitting on their own granny’s (rather than mammy’s) knee. But what if Ally was a name, rather than part of a nonsense rhyme? Ally Bally Bee creates the story of wee boy Ally and his mission to get his hands on a “bawbee” (the Scots term for a ‘halfpenny’) for some sweeties. Ally’s pursuit of treats – and his wish to be just like his big sister – transforms an often-inaccessible rhyme into a relatable story for wee ones.

Scottish songs blog 2When you think of picture books, Bonnie Prince Charlie probably isn’t the first things to come to mind. But loyalty, friendship, battles and a dramatic journey make the Young Pretender’s escape a great children’s story. Scotland has so much fascinating history to choose from, but the beautiful repeating verse of “The Skye Boat Song” made it a stand-out choice to bring to life in Speed Bonnie Boat. Learn more about Alfredo Belli’s spectacular illustrations in our blog post. Or, you can watch our sing-along video for Speed Bonnie Boat here.

Whether we create our own story, or just add some Kelpies magic, we hope that a new generation can fall in love with traditional Scottish rhymes and tales. Older readers might rediscover some of their old favourites too!

What are your favourite Scottish songs and stories? Are there any other rhymes you’d love us to adapt? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!


Scottish songs blog 4About the books

Ally Bally Bee is a playful re-imagining of the traditional Scottish rhyme — perfect for sharing with very young children. Toddlers can discover the bright, colourful illustrations and explore the durable flaps, perfet for wee hands. You might also be interested in Ye Cannae Shove Yer Granny off a Bus and Three Craws.

With delightful, heart-warming illustrations, My Luve’s like a Red, Red Rose is the perfect way to share Burns’ with very young children.

In Speeed Bonnie Boat, join heroic Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald on their dramatic journey, in a book inspired by the much-loved Skye Boat Song.