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Paisley Thread Mill/ Heritage Walk

Paisley Thread Mill Museum is staying open over the winter on a Wednesday afternoon 12 to 4pm (focus is on the Stitching Group)  and anyone can visit the museum at any other time when the Abbey Mill business Centre is open.  Full details are on the facebook page www.fb.me/PaisleyThreadMillMuseum  and the website  www.paisleythreadmill.co.uk.
There is also a heritage walk on the 29th October (1pm)  looking at Paisley’s Textile Heritage starting at Sma’ Shot Cottages and ending at the Anchor Mill Complex.  You can find more details about this on  www.fb.me/theurnbanhistorian  and the website   www.theurbanhistorian.co.uk.
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Forestry Commission speaks at next Natural History meeting


Paisley Natural History Society is continuing its autumn programme of evening talks with an illustrated talk by Derek Shannan, Community Ranger, Forestry Commission Scotland on Thursday 6 October at 7.30pm in Paisley Museum.


Forestry Commission Scotland manages the National Forest Estate, some of Scotland’s greatest natural assets. They are responsible for harvesting trees, planting new ones and play a fundamental role in wildlife, environment and heritage conservation.

Forests form part of the unique character of our countryside and Forestry Commission Scotland undertakes research to ensure sustainable forest management, supporting a wealth of biodiversity as well as providing places for people to work and visit.

The talk is free to attend and open to all.
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The mighty William Wallace

Image Credit : http://imgkid.com/william-wallace.shtml

William Wallace was born in 1270 in Elderslie and was the son of Sir Malcolm Wallace of Elderslie, a Scottish landowner.

Image Credit : http://imgkid.com/william-wallace.shtml

Image Credit : http://imgkid.com/william-wallace.shtml

Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the wars of Scottish Independence.  Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297.  He was appointed Guardian of Scotland and served until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298.

On 23rd August 1305, William Wallace was captured at Robroyston, near Glasgow, and handed over to the King, Edward 1 of England who tried him in Westminster Hall for treason and atrocities against English civilians in war, “sparing neither age nor sex, monk nor nun.” He responded to the treason charge:
“I cannot be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance. He is not my Sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he never shall receive it. To the other points whereof I am accused, I freely confess them all. As Governor of my country, I have been an enemy to its enemies; I have slain the English; I have mortally opposed the English King; I have stormed and taken the towns and castles which he unjustly claimed as his own. If I or my soldiers have plundered or done injury to the houses or ministers of religion, I repent me of my sin; but it is not of Edward of England I shall ask pardon.”

Immediately after the show trial, Wallace was taken from the hall to the Tower of London, then stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was then strangled by hanging, but cut loose while he was still alive, emasculated and eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded and finally cut into four parts. His head was placed on a pike on London Bridge and his limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth as a warning to others who may have rebelled. It did not have the desired effect! Since his death, Wallace has obtained an iconic status far beyond his homeland. A plaque stands in a wall of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital near the site of Wallace’s execution at Smithfield. Six months after William’s death Robert the Bruce declared himself king of Scotland.

The Wallace monument was unveiled on 28th September 1912 by Sir Thomas Glen Coats.  It was designed by Mr.J.C.Murray of Westminister.  It is 37 feet high and the base is 20 feet above street level.

The monument is a memorial erected to Scotland’s national hero, famous for his battles as part of the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Every August the Wallace Day parade takes place, with a march from Johnstone town centre to the Monument at Elderslie, where a service takes place.


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Doors Open Day – Sat 3rd Sept and Sun 4th Sept

Paisley Doors Open Day 2012 by JMS

We’re ready to step inside and explore Renfrewshire’s historic and beautiful buildings as their doors open to the public for the weekend. Here’s what’s on over the weekend.

Paisley Doors Open Day 2012 by JMS




Anchor Mill, 7 Thread Street, Paisley, PA1 1JR, Sat: 10.00-16.00, Woodhouse and Morley, 1886

Brediland Allotment Association, Cardell Drive, Paisley, PA2 9AE, Sat: 11.00-16.00

Church of the New Jerusalem, 17 George Street, Paisley, PA1 2LB, Sat: 10.30-15.30

Diane Mitchell Music School, Brick Lane Studios, Forrester House, 7/9 Weir Street, Paisley, PA3 4DW, Sat & Sun: 10.00-16.00

Holy Trinity & St Barnabas Scottish Episcopal Church, St James Place, Moss Street, Paisley, PA3 2AF, Sat: 10.00-16.00, Sun: 10.00-12.30 (including Service)

John Neilson Institute, Oakshaw Street West, Paisley, PA1 2DE, Sat: 10.00-14.00, Charles Wilson, 1852

Lagoon Leisure Centre, 13 Christie Street, Paisley, PA1 1NB, Sat & Sun: 10.00-13.00

Lapwing Lodge, Gleniffer Road, Paisley, PA2 8UL, Sat: 10:00-16:00,

Lodge Gleniffer 1219, 68 Maxwellton Road, Paisley, PA1 2RD, Sat: 9.00-17.00

Martyrs Sandyford Church, Broomlands Street, Paisley, PA1 2PP, Sat 10.00-13.00

Oakshaw Trinity Church, Oakshaw Street East, Paisley, PA1 2DD, Sat: 11.00-16.00

Paisley Abbey and the Place of Paisley, Abbey Close, PA1 1JG, Sat: Place of Paisley gift shop and café, 10.00-16.00. The Abbey (including the tower), 10.00-12.30 and 14.00-16.00

includes: Corsage workshop, 12:00pm – 2:00pm, Yarn Storming Public Workshop, 1:00pm – 4:00pm, Origami Workshop, 2:00pm – 3:00pm

Paisley Arts Centre, New Street, Paisley, PA1 1EZ, Sat: 11.00-16.00

Paisley Central Library, 68 High Street, PA1 2BB, Sat: 9:00-17:00

Paisley Central Methodist Hall, 2 Smithhills Street, Paisley, PA1 1EP, Sat: 11.00-16.00

Paisley Community Fire Station, 55 Canal Street, Paisley, PA1 2HQ, Sun: 10.00-16.00

Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, High Street, Paisley, PA1 2BA, Sat: 11.00-16.00, Sun: 14.00-17.00

Paisley Photographic Society, Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church, High Street, Paisley, PA1 2BA, Sat: 12.00-16.00

Paisley Sheriff Court, St James Street, Paisley, PA3 2HW, Sat: 10.00-16.00

Paisley Threadmill Museum, The Mile End Mill, Abbey Mill Business Centre, 12 Seedhill Road, PA1 1JS, Sat: 10.00-16.00

Paisley Town Hall, Abbey Close, Paisley, PA1 1JF, Sat: 11.00-16.00

Provost Charity Zip Slide (special event), East End Park, Paisley, PA1, Sat: 10.00-16.00

Renfrewshire House, Cotton Street, Paisley, PA1 1AN,  Sat: 10.00-14.00 (Customer Services Centre) 11.00-14.00 (Council Chambers)

Scottish Ambulance Service (new entry),  Paisley Ambulance Station, 15 Craw Road, Paisley, PA2 6AD, Sun: 12.00-15.00

Sma’ Shot Cottages, 2 Sma’ Shot Lane, Paisley, PA1 2HG, Sat: 10.00-16.00

St Matthew’s Church of the Nazarene, Gordon Street, Paisley, PA1 1XL, Sat: 10.30-15.30

St Mirin’s Cathedral, Incle Street, Paisley, PA1 1HR, Sat: 13.30-17.00

Tannahill’s Cottage, Queen Street, PA1 2TT, Sat: 11.00-15.00

The Bield, 40 Broomlands Street, Paisley, PA1 2NP (within Woodside Cemetery), Sat : 10.00-16.00

Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church, High Street Paisley, PA1 2BA, Sat: 12.00-16.00

Walking Tours on Wheels and Historical Paisley,  39 High Street, Paisley, PA1 2AF, Sat: tours at 11.00 and 13.00

Wallneuk North Church, Abercorn Street, Paisley, PA3 4AB, Sat:10.00-12.00



Inchinnan Bascule Bridge, A8 Inchinnan Road, Renfrew, Sat: 10.30-15.00, Bridge opening times – 11.00, 13.00 and 15.00

Renfrew Community Fire Station, Paisley Road, Renfrew, PA4 8LJ, Sun: 10.00-16.00

Renfrew Leisure Centre, Paisley Road, Renfrew, PA4 8JL, Sat & Sun: 9.00-17.30, Hourly tours run from 10.00-13.00

Renfrew Town Hall, Renfrew Cross, Renfrew, PA4 8PF, Sat: 11.00-16.00

Renfrew Victory Baths, Inchinnan Road, Renfrew, PA4 8ND, Sat: 9.00-13.30, Hourly tours from 10.00-13.00

St Margaret’s Scottish Episcopal Church, Oxford Road, Renfrew, PA4 8LG, Sat: 10.00-16.00

Trinity Church, 13 Paisley Road, Renfrew, PA4 8JH, Sat: 10:00-14:00



Auld Simon,Johnshill, Lochwinnoch, PA12 4ET, Sun: 11.00-17.00

Castle Semple Country Park, Lochlip Road, Lochwinnoch, PA12 4EA, Sat & Sun: 10.00-16.00

RSPB Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve, Largs Road, Lochwinnoch, PA12 4JF, Sat & Sun: 10:00-16.00


Bridge of Weir and Kilbarchan

Kilbarchan Parish Church, Steeple Square, Kilbarchan, PA10 2JD, Sun: 12.00-16.00

St Machar’s Ranfurly Church of Scotland (new entry), Kilbarchan Road, Bridge of Weir, PA11 3EG, Sat: 10.00-16.00

St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Johnstone Road, Bridge of Weir, PA11 3EE, Sun: 12.30-16.30


Houston and Johnstone

Houston and Killellan Kirk, Kirk Road, Houston, PA6 7AR, Sat: 10.00-16.00

Johnstone Community Fire Station, Kings Road, Johnstone, PA5 9HW, Sat: 9.00-16.00

Johnstone Community Sports Hub, Beith Road, Johnstone, PA5 0JA, Sat & Sun: 10.00-16.30

Johnstone History Museum, Morrisons Supermarket, Napier Street, Johnstone, PA5 8SF, Sat & Sun: 10.30-16.00

Johnstone Town Hall, 25 Church Street, Johnstone, PA5 8FA, Sat: 11.00-16.00


Erskine and Inchinnan

Erskine Community Allotments (new entry), Barrhill Road, Erskine, PA8 6BU, Sat: 10.30-16.30

Erskine Swimming Pool, BridgewaterShopping Centre, Erskine, PA8 7AA, Sun :10.00-13.00

Inchinnan Parish Church, Old Greenock Road, Inchinnan, PA4 9PB, Sat: 10.00-16.00

Park Mains High School, Barrhill Road, Erskine, PA8 6EY,  Sat: 10.00-13.00, Hourly tours



On-X (Linwood Sport and Community Centre), Brediland Road, Linwood, PA3 3RA, Sat & Sun: 9.00-16.30

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James Logan Monument – Craigielea

Craigielea Drive, James Logan Monument
James Logan, son of an Ayrshire farmer arrived in Paisley at the end of the Eighteenth Century and set up a printing and Stationery business in Meetinghouse Lane, otherwise known as the ‘Dirty Steps’, off Moss Street.
The ‘Dirty Steps’: Meetinghouse Lane.
His business flourished and he acquired a piece of land at Westmarch. As time went on he expanded his portfolio of land by purchasing other plots as far as Underwood and, early in the Nineteenth Century and with his Westmarch estate now being of considerable size, he conceived the idea of becoming a Laird. On his Estate he built a Mansion, Westmarch House, and lived in it as a Bachelor until his death. He had set out in his Will that a monument should be built on the estate as well as a mausoleum in which he and his ‘Heirs of Entail’ should be buried.
Craigielea Drive - James Logan Monument Map wm 3
The Monument occupied a conspicuous site on the edge of the old Craigielee Wood (made famous by Robert Tannahills ” Thou Bonnie Wood O’ Craigielea”). On it was inscribed “In memory of James Logan Esq., of Westmarch who died 24th June, 1843. The Mausoleum was never built. His coffin containing a lead casket with his remains enclosed wasn’t interred in the grounds at Westmarch until some years later. By Mr Logans will it was directed that the monument and the ground on which it stood should be maintained for all time with access provided from the Roadway.
Craigielea Drive - James Logan Monument 1
In 1934 Westmarch Estate, all 12 Acres as well as Westmarch House, was purchased by Paisley Town Council to fulfil a need for good quality social housing and the streets of Craigielee Drive, Logan Drive, Drums and Tannahill were planned and developed. The Logan Monument stood side by side with the houses, tenements and tenants until about the mid-seventies when it was deemed to be unsafe and for health and Safety reason (yes, even back then) it was deconstructed, it’s whereabouts are unknown. By the years 2000’s the whole of Craigielea was cleared of housing and in 2008 a new Football Stadium was built for St Mirren F.C., directly on the land which had once been Craigielea House. What does remain however, is the small patch of land on which stood the James Logan Monument, seemingly sacrosanct for the past 170 years and in keeping with his will.
Craigielea Drive, James Logan Monument
Article courtesy of Roddy Boyd
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Brown & Polson, Paisley – From Boom to Bust


John Polson was born in Paisley in 1825.  He attended Paisley Grammar School and the Andersonian College in Glasgow before joining the family business.


Brown & Polson was established in 1840, when two muslin manufacturers (John Polson & Co and William Brown & son of Glasgow) collaborated and opened their first factory in Thrushcraigs, Paisley. Together they worked on the process of bleaching, scouring and scratching of muslin cloth.

It was here that John Polson discovered an ideal starch that could withstand bleaching.  After many experiments, he succeeded in making a starch for household use.  This was marketed in 1842 as ‘powder starch’ and was sold to housewives.

After the death of his father in 1843, John Polson Jnr took over the business.  He invented the process of making pure starch from maize. and in 1854 he took out a patent to market it as foodstuff.  It was to become a household name throughout the world as ‘Brown & Polson’s patent cornflour’ and made the company world famous. Even nowadays cornflour remains a standard store cupboard item.


Brown & Polson began producing starch and cornflour in the 1860’s.  They became the largest manufacturer of starch products in Britain and were granted the Royal Warrant.

It was around this time that the company moved premises to Falside Road, Paisley where it occupied almost 4 acres of land.  Business was thriving and it was known to have almost 1,200 workers.


John Polson was greatly concerned about the welfare of his workers.  In the 1870’s he began a profit-sharing scheme.  He also built a row of cottages and a recreational institute for the workers.  The building was used for the workers to meet and socialise.  Outside the building, the grounds had bowling greens and tennis courts.

John Polson Jnr died in 1900.  By then, Brown & Polson’s were the largest manufacturer of starch products in the UK.

In 1962 the factory became the home of Knorr, making soups, stock cubes, sauces and Hellmans mayonnaise.  Penicillin was also made for the pharmaceutical industry.  Baby food production also began production in 1964.

The blackest event in the history of Brown & Polson

The blackest event in the history of Brown & Polson took place at 6.40am on the 5th June, 1964, when the animal feed plant, a large building to the rear of the rear in Braids Road, was completely destroyed in a huge explosion.

Workers who had arrived for the 6.45am shift had to run for their lives. Local firemen, ambulance men and workers tore at the rubble in the search for casualties, while anxious relatives stood waiting for news. Four men were killed and four badly injured. A local policeman described the disaster, “I have seen terrible things during the war, but never anything like this”.

Over the years the company was greatly reduced.  In 1996, the company finally closed its doors and the Knorr soup factory was demolished.  All that remains of  the huge imprint of Paisley is the office block at the corner of Braids Road, housing has been built on the remaining land.  The old tennis courts were refurbished in 2011 and can still be used today.

I’m sure many of you will have your own memories of this iconic landmark.  Please share any experiences you may have of Brown and Polson below in the comments section..

One thing we will all agree on is that Brown & Polson has been a huge part of the people and the history of our great town.

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Unveiling of Paisley Cenotaph


On 27 June 1924, six years after the end of World War 1, the iconic Paisley cenotaph was unveiled at Paisley Cross, in remembrance to the 1,953 local men who had lost their lives during the war.



The monument was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, with a sculptural arrangement by Alice Meridith Williams.  Together they won a design competition which had over 200 other entrants.

The memorial was unveiled by Mrs McNab, a local lady who had lost three sons in the war.  A breathtaking crowd of 20,000 filled the square and it is reported that there was a continuous stream of visitors walking around the monument the following week.

On top of the mighty plinth stands a bronze statue “The Spirit Of The Crusades” which portrays soldiers from the western front accompanied by a medieval knight on horseback.


The plinth itself has an inscription which reads:

“To the glorious memory of the 1,953 men of Paisley who gave their lives in the Great War.”

As per an article from Paisley Daily Express on July 28th 1924 “The idea which the group is intended to convey is that our men in the great war in their splendid determination were animated by the same spirit as the Crusaders, and were striving towards an ideal similar to that which stimulated them.”



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St James ‘Racecourse’ – The race for the Silver Bell

st james park

St James park is still known locally as ‘The Racecourse’ even although Paisley’s last horse race was held here in 1907.IMG_7143

As far back as 1620, even before the racecourse had been built, horse racing had been prominent in Paisley.

The starting point for the first recorded annual race was a large boulder called St Conval’s Stone which can be found in the grounds of the Normandy Hotel in Renfrew.  From here, the riders raced to Renfrew Road.  The first to cross the finish line at the Wallneuk was the winner.  The esteemed prize, which the winner could keep for a year, was a ‘Silver Bell’, decorated with the Paisley Burgh Arms.  In addition to this prize, the winner received an attractive purse of gold ‘double angel’ coins.

By 1659, the race for the ‘Silver Bells’ was so popular that it was decided it would be held during the St James fair.

In 1663, the traditional course of the Paisley Races was changed.  It was now to run over the towns twenty-four acres.  This is an area bounded by what is now Inchinnan Road, Love Street and Caledonia Street.  The course was hazardous with rough roads and deep ditches.

Over the years, the race for the silver bells gathered larger and larger crowds of spectators. It became so popular that locals climbed to the balconies of the high church in Oakshaw to get better views.

In 1827 racing over the ‘twenty-four acres’ was stopped as a proper racecourse was made at St James park.  Crowds of between ten and fifteen thousand attended the first race and by 1835, this had increased to forty thousand.  The distinguished ‘silver bell’ race was the star attraction with the winning horse being paraded with silver bells proudly hung between its ears.

Racing at St James lasted until 1907 when the course was sadly condemned as it did not have a straight stretch of five furlongs.  Paisley lost one of their oldest traditions. The old silver bells first won in 1620 and one of the oldest horse racing prizes in Britain were then displayed at Paisley museum.



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Paisley’s famous son remembered with new museum display


One of Paisley’s most renowned sons was remembered with a commemorative ceremony in the town, hosted by Renfrewshire’s Provost Anne Hall.


L-R: Bob Carruth, President of Paisley Burns Club, Andrew McMillan, President of the Tannahill/McDonald Club, Provost Hall & Tom Nixon, Secretary of Tannahill/McDonald Club

To mark the 250th anniversary of Alexander Wilson’s birthday, the Provost accompanied a group of guests on a tour of the sites most associated with the famous poet and scientist- known as the Father of American Ornithology.

Led by Paisley historian, Les Fernie, the Provost and members of Tannahill-MacDonald Club and Paisley Burns Club began their tour at the statue of Wilson in Abbey Close. Here, a poem commemorating his life and achievements was read by Bob Carruth, President of Paisley Burns Club.

The group then laid a wreath at the commemorative plaque for Wilson at the Hamills Waterfall before proceeding to Paisley Museum. Here, Les revealed details about the significance of the parrot which rests in the statue’s hand in Abbey Close.

The Provost formally opened a new public display dedicated to Wilson and his works which will remain open until 4 September.

Provost Anne Hall said: “It is incredible to think that 250 years after his birth in Paisley, Alexander Wilson is still celebrated here, and across the world. For a man from such humble beginnings, he went on to have a significant impact on society and the scientific community which can still be felt today.

“The Alexander Wilson story is just one thread of the rich tapestry of history and culture which runs throughout our town and supports our bid for Paisley’s bid for UK City of Culture. I encourage local people to visit the new display at Paisley Museum to learn about the town’s heritage and consider how it can help shape our future prospects.”

Born in Paisley on 6th July 1766, Wilson is perhaps best known for his work in documenting the bird species of the USA. This work only took place after he emigrated to the Americas in 1794, but he had already made his presence felt in his home town long before then.

Forced to become an apprentice weaver at an early age, after the death of his father, Wilson quickly came to realise the weavers of Renfrewshire were often exploited by their employers. Wilson put his thoughts on social injustice to paper, often in poems, and it was not long before he came to the attention of the authorities.

Arrested in 1794 and charged with distributing radical propaganda, Wilson decided to leave the country to avoid further conflict with the law. He arrived in Delaware on the east coast of the USA on 14th July 1794.

Despite having only five years of formal education and little disposable income, Wilson dedicated his time to travelling the States to document 268 species of birds, including 26 new to science. A keen artist, he also completed colour illustrations of each species which were the most anatomically accurate of the time.

Wilson’s work was published in nine volumes, across five years, but, unfortunately, he did not see the final two volumes published. He died in 1813 but his legacy lives on, not only in Paisley but in museums, universities and homes across the globe.