Now’s the Day and Now’s the Hour!
Bringing Paisley’s History into the 21st Century
For many years, the town of Paisley has suffered from a steady decline. Many of the shops that once dominated the town’s high street and shopping centre have closed. This has left many of the town’s shop fronts empty and unused. In the process, Scotland’s largest town has become rundown and is now a shadow of its former self. Despite this, Paisley does have a proud history. It was home to one of the most powerful and influential monasteries in Scotland. It is said to have had connections with William Wallace. It was the birthplace of Robert II, the first of the Stewart kings, and it was also an industrial power house, which went on to produce the now world famous Paisley shawls.
Many do not realise that Paisley was also once a hot bed of radical activity. During the Industrial Revolution, the town’s weavers went on strike over the mill owner’s refusal to pay for the binding thread that was used in the shawls, as it could not be seen in the final product. The weavers won the dispute, and the local public holiday was renamed Sma’ Shot Day, after the binding, or sma’ shot thread that had been at the centre of the dispute. Sma’ Shot Day is still celebrated in the town as an annual event on the first Saturday in July.
Paisley was also hometown of William Gallacher, one of the leaders of Red Clydeside and the founder of the Communist Party of Great Britain. With such a diverse history, the people of Paisley have every right to be proud of their town’s past. Despite this, for many years the only aspect of the town’s history or archaeology that has been highlighted was the Paisley Abbey. The building itself is impressive and its importance to the history of the town cannot be denied, but there is so much more to Paisley and its history that has yet to be investigated.
This is where the Paisley’s Past Community Archaeology Project will step in. This project is planned to run for three years and will involve the surveying, excavation and recording of a number of sites throughout the town centre. With this being a community archaeology project, the people of Paisley will be encouraged to play an active role in the work that will be carried out. This will include the recording and conservation of Paisley’s heritage through volunteering on different aspects of the work that will be carried out.
As well as the fieldwork, there will also be a variety of other activities that volunteers will be able to get involved with, ranging from post-excavation work to interviewing people as part of the oral history aspect of the project. People from different ethnic and social backgrounds will also be encouraged to work together through this project, while people with different disabilities will also be allowed to play an active role in what will be taking place throughout Paisley. This in itself can allow for a development of communications between varieties of different groups that may not have come in contact with one another in other situations.
Public involvement will be essential for the success of this project and the role that it is hoped it will play in the redevelopment of Paisley. As well as involving as many of the people of Paisley, it is also planned that local businesses and schools will also take part in different areas and aspect of this project. Therefore, it is hoped that this project will provide different groups, organisations and business with a hub in which they can come together, communicate, network and work toward improving Paisley as a town where people can live, work and spend their spare time.
Through this project, a greater understanding of the town’s history and archaeology will be allowed to move forward and build on the achievements of the past. This project will also be used to emphasise skill development and encouraging people to learn new skills that can be applied to numerous of different situations and careers. These skills will include working as a team, as well as working towards strict deadlines and speaking confidently in public. This will be especially important for those who have been unemployed, or school leavers, who may be unsure of what routes to take with their lives, especially in the current economic climate.
This in itself will be essential for Paisley to move forward and to build on the town’s long and prestigious history. One of the main aims of this project will be turning Paisley into a hub of learning, history, archaeology and culture. To date, the Paisley’s Past Project has gained the interest of Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). The archaeology department from QUB are interested in having some of their students involved in the project. This highlights the fact that Paisley does have the potential to be a hub of archaeological and historical research and tourism, something that has yet to be tapped and developed.
Even though a small number of students from QUB will be allowed to take part in the Paisley’s Past Project, there will always be an emphasis on getting local people involved in different aspects of the project. I believe that it is important that local people are allowed to play their part in their town’s future, as well as helping to preserve and investigate the town’s history and archaeology.
There is more to Paisley than history and archaeology. But it’s a great place to start!
Contact Claire by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more on the Paisley’s Past Facebook website https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paisleys-Past-A-Community-Archaeology-Project/106890322710097