It is one of the most infamous witch trials in history which saw Paisley the last town in western Europe to conduct a mass execution in 1697.

Four women and three men were sentenced to death after series of events which started when the  11-year-old daughter of a local laird mysteriously fell ill.

Christian Shaw suffered fits, similar to demonic possession, and accused several people of bewitching her.  Witchcraft was against the law in Scotland and seven people were tried as witches and executed at Gallow Green.

But as Paisley gears up to stage its annual Halloween Festival inspired by Renfrewshire’s dark witch history, retired academic Hugh McLachlan says history has treated Christian Shaw unfairly.

Hugh, who researched the 1697 trials extensively and is editor of ‘The Kirk, Satan and Salem: A History of the Witches of Renfrewshire’, says that far from being a malicious accuser, she was unfairly maligned.

Hugh, who first became aware of the case as a young research assistant at Glasgow University, said: “Christian Shaw has had a very bad press with the notion that she was a particularly bad, evil child who was able to fool the courts and local dignitaries for malicious purposes.

“This seemed to me be not very plausible and grossly unfair so my interest was aroused at the potential injustice.

“The alternative view point that she was suffering from a hysterical malady or mental illness seemed to me to be even less likely, so I researched the case.”

Hugh says the case was different from other witchcraft trials in that a child was the main accuser.

He also believes the story was influenced by what happened in Salem in Massachusetts just a few years later.

He added: “The actual evidence didn’t suggest that Christian Shaw was either mentally ill or malicious, but rather she was actually peripheral to the case.

“If you look at the accusations against the people who were charged with witchcraft, if you removed what they were said to have done to Christian Shaw, they would still have been executed.

“It wasn’t crucial to the case and it’s not clear if she even gave evidence at the trial.”

He says that he believes the story was influenced by a book later written on the case by local minsters.

He said: “When people consider her role in all of this, they weren’t considering her evidence at the trial but this book.

“It was written be local ministers who were very well aware of Salem witch trial and wanted to make a theological point. Witches renounced Christ and the fear of witchcraft centred on that and the Devil.

“But if the Devil existed, so did God, and they were trying to encourage atheists to repent.

“It was 1697 and they were looking to the turn of the century and it was a period of great turmoil.

“The local ministers thought the world was coming to an end.”

After the trial Christian Shaw’s story took another sensational twist when she became a prominent businesswoman who founded the Bargarran Thread Company along with her mother.

It transformed into the cotton company on which Paisley’s fame and wealth was founded.

Hugh added: “I think even today her role in the witchcraft trials is misinterpreted. I don’t think Christian Shaw was a malicious child and that she should instead be celebrated as a successful entrepreneur.

“Women often get a rough deal in history and are written out. This is only one interpretation, but the one that I believe. But I think the other stories should still be told, they live in contradiction and conflict with each other.”

Paisley’s annual Halloween Festival ‘Something Wicked this Way Comes’ returns on Saturday 27 October, with a Friday Fright Night on 26 October, and features an animated parade, sound and light installations and performances.

The festival, supported by the Year of Young People 2018 event fund managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, has been developed with the help of young people. It is celebrating their talents both as performers, as well as contributors to the management of the event behind the scenes.

Part of this is a new production starring a 50-strong cast of young people who will take part in a breathtaking aerial show.

For more information please go to www.paisley.is

We always use our Facebook Page or Group to post images of old Paisley and up to date events as well as stunning photographs of Paisley today.

We thought we would post these four together on the website so you can see the difference side by side, we will also post to Facebook later on so people can always find them.

Paisley Cross before the Cenotaph was built and now from a similar viewpoint (not exact but close enough). Please click on the image for the larger version.


Old Photographs are taken from the book Recollections of Paisley by Donald Malcolm, you can find the book on the following link.


Anchor Mills when it was a working mill till today when it has been renovated and is part flats and part offices with a beautiful atrium at the centre of the main mill, next to the Hammills waterfall (not taken from the exact same place which would be the main bridge in today’s terms) Please click on the image for the larger version.

This is the reason I (Brian McGuire) started this website up, my grandpa (papa bottom right of photograph) worked as a fireman in Ferguslie Mills as seen below with his fellow firemen, If you recognise anyone in the picture (I know some will) then please tag this post if you see this on Facebook.

So anyways the reason is my papa retired and the mills, unfortunately closed and were being demolished but my papa asked me to come to see the chimney being demolished as it meant a huge thing to him as his working history was literally being blown up not too far from his house on Broomlands Street. You could just about see the top of the chimney from his house.

I was just young not even a teenager and I didn’t think it was all that important and playing out with friends was much more important, I wish I realised now what I do now and the importance of buildings and peoples emotional attachment to them actually felt like. I understand now and have an emotional attachment to the likes of a few buildings in Paisley and outwith the town apart from my schools of course, I say that with some sarcasm of course.

One of Paisleys tallest landmarks was spectacularly felled 33 years ago today, on the 19th September, 1983. Ferguslie Mill Chimney was the second last tall chimneys in the town, leaving only the Category B listed Chimney at the former Mile End Mill in the East End as a reminder of these magnificent structures. (the following is from Paisley Oor Wee Toon on Facebook, a great resource for history buffs).

When I was a bit older and wiser I realised Paisley had lost its beating heart, the mills, Chrysler etc and was suffering and so were the people. I have since 1998 took it upon myself and with the help of some amazing volunteers strived to promote Paisley in a positive light giving justice to the town my Gran and Papa grew up and then worked and raised a family in. I must do it justice and also this is very important to me, my papa was a gentleman whilst I could never reach his standard I must try my best every day.

This website is my testament to my papa and me not turning up and feeling so guilty of him missing such an important date in the fate of the town.

So to my papa Black (an ancestor of the famous Black coal merchants), I hope I do him justice and he will never be forgotten just like the countless men and women who worked in the Paisley’s mill industry and supporting industries should never be forgotten.

Plans to bring new life to Paisley town centre by transforming key outdoor areas have been revealed, as the ongoing £100m investment in the town’s venues and infrastructure moves forward.

Renfrewshire Council is leading the investment as part of wider plans to transform the area’s future using its internationally-significant cultural and heritage story.

Work to turn key venues including Paisley Museum and Town Hall into 21st-century facilities hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year is well under way – and will be complemented by a £10m investment to improve the outdoor streetscape and transport links.

The plans – aimed at driving new footfall and boosting the evening economy by growing the area’s already-successful events programme and creating more attractive spaces to keep visitors, students and workers in the town – include:

– unlocking the enormous potential of the area around Abbey Close by creating a larger and more flexible events and gathering space around the Abbey, town hall and river, including improvements to the Abbey Green;

– a new and improved town gateway in County Square – creating a decluttered town square to welcome visitors and expand events capacity, and create a more attractive space for pavement cafes and people to dwell;

Details have also been revealed for major improvements to the town’s transport infrastructure, with upgrades to key road junctions at Mill St/Glasgow Rd, Mill St/Lonend, Canal St/Causeyside St and Renfrew Rd/Mill St/Incle St.

The aim is to improve traffic flow and road safety, while linking the town centre to its surroundings by making it easier to walk or cycle into the heart of the town and creating a better sense of arrival for people visiting Paisley’s attractions.

The projects will go to public consultation next year, followed by a detailed design phase. There will also be a feasibility study to look at further-reaching longer-term changes to the town’s road system.

The council last year set aside £10m for the above public realm projects but wants to top that up by applying to the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

Councillors on the leadership board will be asked to approve that application when they meet next Wednesday (19 Sept), where they will also be updated on other projects in the £100m investment.

That includes the £42m transformation of Paisley Museum into an international-class destination based around the town’s unique heritage and collections, and the £22m plans to preserve Paisley Town Hall’s place at the heart of life in the town by becoming a landmark performance venue.

The museum is planned to close later this month and reopen in 2022, and the town hall will close at the end of the year and reopen in 2021.

Other projects coming in the next few years include a new learning and cultural hub offering library services on the heart of the High St, and a refurbishment of Paisley Arts Centre.

Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson said: “Our £100m investment in Paisley town centre is the backbone of everything which will happen in the next stage of our regeneration journey, the benefits of which will be felt around the whole Renfrewshire area.

“Over the next few years, we will transform our unique and much-loved venues into 21st-century facilities to host the expansion of events, visitors and activity the area will be at the centre of – we are also this week revealing plans to grow the capacity of Renfrewshire’s independent creative sector through a new fund.

“We have already seen investment in culture deliver results – with visitor numbers and attendees at our already-successful major events programme on the up, and the UK City of Culture bid boosting the town’s profile, reputation and self-confidence.

“And put simply – it’s the way we have to go. Changes in the way people shop mean town centres everywhere have to reinvent themselves. We cannot turn the clock back but we can create a vibrant destination around our unique culture, heritage and events, and that is what we are doing.

“The public realm projects we are revealing details of today are key to that – they will create key outdoor spaces allowing our already-successful major events to be even bigger and better.

“At the same time, Paisley already has large populations of students and workers, and a growing number of visitors – this investment will support traders by creating more attractive spaces which encourage them to spend more time and money here.

“And the improvements to the transport infrastructure will make the town easier to get around and through, while we look at a longer-term masterplan to improve the road system further.”

Ambitious £42m plans to transform Paisley Museum into an international-class destination have pulled off a major coup, with the appointment of AL_A – the award-winning architects behind some of the world’s most striking buildings.

The firm’s founder Amanda Levete – a former winner of UK architecture’s top honour, the RIBA Stirling Prize – says the Paisley Museum project is ‘one of the most radical briefs she has read’.

It will be the first Scottish commission for the London-based practice, who have designed landmark projects including the Victoria & Albert Museum Exhibition Road Quarter – for which they this week won the prestigious RIBA London Building of the Year 2018.

They were also this month shortlisted for the competition to redesign the visitor experience at Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower.

The Paisley Museum transformation is the flagship project in Renfrewshire Council’s planned £100m investment in cultural venues and infrastructure – key to Paisley’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid legacy, and the wider plans to use the town’s unique assets to transform its future.

The museum will close this autumn and re-open in 2022 as a revitalised home for Paisley’s internationally-significant textile heritage and outstanding natural history, art and science collections, expected to nearly quadruple current visitor numbers to 125,000 a year.

The project will include a contemporary addition to the existing Victorian-era building, creating a new entrance and museum spaces – including a cafe and shop – landscaping and significantly-improved access.

There will be major revamps to all four museum buildings including the Coats Observatory, while a complete internal redesign will reimagine the visitor experience and double the number of objects on public display.

Current AL_A projects include the revitalisation of the historic Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris; a new centre for the cancer care charity Maggie’s in Southampton; and two new buildings for Wadham College at the University of Oxford. Completed projects include Central Embassy, a 1.5m sq ft luxury shopping mall and hotel in Bangkok, and Sky TV’s new London media campus.

Levete was recently named the winner of the 2018 Jane Drew Prize, an annual lifetime achievement award for an architect who has furthered the progress of women in the industry.

She said: ““This is one of the most radical briefs I have read – it triggered in us a desire to tell the untold history of Paisley and search for a narrative thread that will drive the design. The project is bigger than the building itself and I am excited to re-imagine the relationship between the street and museum.

“This is not only about finding the way to best show the museum’s collection, it’s also about showing the world how an ambitious cultural project can have a profound impact on a community and its identity.”

Cllr Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure – which operates the museum – added: “For Paisley to have attracted a design team of such global reputation to come to Scotland for the first time shows we are being noticed around the UK and abroad.

“Being the first ever town on a UK City of Culture shortlist took our profile to new levels – but this appointment also says a lot about the scale and ambition of the museum project, and the worldwide importance of Paisley’s heritage and collections.

“The museum was gifted to the people of Paisley more than a century ago by Peter Coats, at the time his family were building a global thread empire headquartered right here.

“Now, AL_A will honour that legacy by designing a striking 21st-century facility to open up our unique heritage to future generations and be a valuable educational resource for our young people.

“At the same time, the new museum will be the centrepiece of the work to transform the area’s fortunes by using our unique selling points to make us a destination and drive huge volumes of new footfall into the town centre.”

AL_A were among more than 120 firms to tender for the Paisley Museum project and will lead an Anglo-Scottish multi-disciplinary design team including conservation consultants Giles Quarme and Associates, landscape architects GROSS.MAX, and engineers Arup.

They will also provide a wide range of benefits to the Renfrewshire community, including further education and school visits, work experience placements and careers events.

The £100m investment in Paisley town centre over the next four years also includes projects to transform Paisley Town Hall and Arts Centre into 21st-century venues, a new learning and cultural hub on the High Street, major investment in outdoor spaces and the town’s transport links, and new sporting facilities and events space at St James Playing Fields.

The plans build on the investment already made in the publicly-accessible museum store Paisley: The Secret Collection, opened last year on the town’s High Street, and the launch of the new destination brand and website at www.paisley.is

The museum project is also being funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

Renfrewshire councillors have refused a planning application from a developer to demolish the iconic Half Time School in Paisley, which was due to be replaced by 40 flats.
The School opened in 1887 to provide education to children who worked in Ferguslie Mills, this building is a key link to Paisley’s former mill town past.  However, once the mills had gone it was later used as a nightclub but suffered damage from a fire in 1998 and has seen further deterioration of the building over the following years.
There have been a few applications to build on that site over the years and retain some of the building but the plans have not got passed the Council planning department.
Councillor John McNaughtan – seconded by Councillor Kenny MacLaren – moved against the council officers recommendations to demolish the building and found widespread support among all councillors in the council’s Communities, Housing and Planning Policy Board.  Councillor McNaughtan highlighted the importance of protecting Paisley’s architectural and social history and also called for the council to use its full powers to protect not just the Half Time School but also all historic buildings within Paisley and Renfrewshire.
Councillor Kenny MacLaren, SNP – Paisley Northwest, said: “I was happy to second Cllr McNaughtan in his opposition to the demolition of this iconic building.
“We have to look at how the council can use all its powers to protect and preserve such buildings across Paisley and Renfrewshire.”
Thanks to Ricky Kelly of Renfrewshire News 24 for this article.

Photography fans are being encouraged to share their favourite snaps of Paisley’s unique architecture for a Story Map that tells the story of the town through its rich built heritage.

The Story Map will capture a visual record of historic properties within Paisley Town Centre Conservation Area. Pupils and community groups are being asked to share their photos, memories and comments on buildings in the town they either have links with or simply admire and have a chance to have them added to the Story Map. The map will also share knowledge about local heritage.

The Story Map will go on to be used as a public online resource where people can view and continue to contribute to the story capturing the town’s built environment as time goes on.

Local primary school pupils and community groups will attend the Story Map launch on Friday 16 March in the UWS atrium, and bring along a digital copy of their image and a comment to accompany it in order to contribute to the map.

The event will also launch a new photography competition which will first be trialled with the groups who attend on the day.

Two winners will be announced (under 16 year-olds and over 16 year-olds) at the event and the winning photographs will be printed on banners displayed around Paisley Town Centre promoting the TH.CARS2 project. Following the event the competition will then be opened up to the general public to enter. All details about the competition can be found on the TH.CARS2 website.

Renfrewshire Council Leader, Cllr Iain Nicolson, said: “Paisley is home to some beautiful buildings and boasts the second highest concentration of listed buildings in Scotland and it’s great to celebrate this.

“People living in and around Paisley are uniquely able to see our most iconic buildings in a new way as well as highlight some of our hidden gems. By contributing to the Story Map people can share their own stories of why these stunning buildings matter to the town.”

This forms a key part of the Paisley Townscape Heritage and Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme 2 (TH.CARS2) which is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and Renfrewshire Council and will deliver grant opportunities to property owners in a defined area of the town centre for high quality building repairs and shopfront improvements.

To find out more about the TH.CARS2 project please visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/THCars2 or to find out more about the Story Map please visit:www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/THcars2StoryMap.

Plans to use the momentum of Paisley’s UK City of Culture 2021 bid to help drive a long-term cultural, social and economic transformation of the area are to go before councillors next week.

Renfrewshire Council and its partners have been planning how the town’s bid journey will continue, by building on the positive platform the bid created, and the widespread community support that drove Paisley’s campaign.

Paisley was the only Scottish place and first-ever town to make the shortlist for the prestigious competition, run by the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Feedback from DCMS says Paisley was viewed as ‘a very strong contender’ and the decision to shortlist the bid was ‘an easy one’, while praising the town’s passion and commitment to using culture to tackle social problems, and describing the Paisley bid’s community engagement as ‘exemplary’.

The Paisley 2021 Partnership Board – set up to oversee the bid and bringing together business, cultural, educational, community, health and political representatives – has already confirmed it will continue and will deliver and drive a legacy plan, with some partners intending to maintain their original financial pledges.

That detailed legacy plan will be finalised by the Partnership Board in March – but a report outlining the key points of the local authority’s contribution towards the plan is now going before the council’s Leadership Board

It will continue the ambition to achieve the bid’s original long-term aims to significantly grow Paisley’s creative economy, transform its reputation, see the town recognised for its cultural excellence, lift communities out of poverty, and turn Paisley town centre into a vibrant destination.

And the council will continue to lead on delivering the following:

– the planned £100m-plus investment in venues and infrastructure, including the project under way to turn Paisley Museum into an international-class visitor destination, major internal revamps to transform Paisley Town Hall and Arts Centre, upgrading the sporting facilities at St James Playing Fields and creating new space for outdoor events and festivals, a new library on the High Street, and improvements to the town centre streetscape and road system;

– a new Paisley destination brand and website will also be unveiled in the next few weeks to build on the national and international profile created by the bid and promote the area as an attractive place to visit, live and invest;

– an enhanced cultural events and festivals programme over the next four years to deliver the best of what was planned for 2021, attract visitors to Paisley, and strengthen the local cultural sector;

Plans will also be developed to grow the area’s creative economy through a new apprenticeship programme, support for creative businesses and a new volunteer strategy.

Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson said: “We must do everything to build on the impact of bidding for UK City of Culture and the momentum it created.

“The campaign took the town’s profile to new levels – with hundreds of millions of people around the world getting the chance to see or hear something positive about Paisley – transformed our reputation, raised awareness of our unique story, and brought self-confidence back to the town.

“It also generated a town-wide discussion about Paisley’s future – with more than 36,000 people engaging with the bid by the time the final submission was made, and new partnerships and relationships developed locally and nationally which will continue to work in Paisley’s interest.

“And it also firmly established the idea that Paisley’s unique cultural and heritage assets can be used to transform its future – and not just in an economic sense, but also through social impact, by harnessing the power of culture to boost health and well-being, and help people out of poverty.

“We may not have won the title – but the important point is we are still going to deliver our vision and many of the aspirations that informed our bid.

“The report going to the leadership board offers an initial outline of those next steps, and as chair of the Paisley Partnership Board I look forward to revealing the detailed action plan with our partners.

“With major investment in our cultural venues, a new destination brand and website set to launch, an enhanced events and festivals programme in the years ahead, and new funding to support local artists and help the local cultural sector grow, there is lots ahead to be excited by.”

The council’s leadership board will meet on Wednesday 21 February.

They were remarkable women whose achievements were all too often overlooked by the history books.

Now the life and times of some of Renfrewshire’s exceptional ‘silent’ women from the Victorian and Edwardian eras will be explored in a new heritage project.

‘The Ladies A,B and C’ will investigate the contributions of Mrs Jane Arthur, Mrs Mary Barbour and three of the Mrs Coats from the famous textiles manufacturing family.

Their stories will be explored as a way of inspiring their modern day counterparts as part of a project with Social Historian Lil Brookes.

She is running a series of workshops with women from Paisley’s Disability Resource Centre.

The eight weeks project is supported by Renfrewshire Council’s Culture, Heritage and Events (CHE) Fund, and will also incorporate a tribute to the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8.

The workshops are due to start in early February and Lil said: “The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the women’s often forgotten contribution to their community and how their stories are still relevant and interesting to women in the Paisley and Renfrewshire community today.

“A lot of the time when we talk about the famous Coats family you would never even know there were any Mrs Coats. They become silent people and don’t seem to have a voice.

“But Margaret Glen, the wife of Thomas Coats, set up the Paisley branch of the Ladies Sanitary Association, while Mrs Archibald Coats was interested in the work of the Scottish Girl’s Friendly Society. Following her death the Mrs Archibald Coats Memorial Hall was opened in Weighhouse Close. Bertha Coats was interested in many areas of welfare in the community but particularly with the wellbeing of children and she was recognised for this becoming  a Freewoman of Paisley.

“I started thinking about other women I would like to explore a little better, and one is Jane Arthur, the sister-in-law of Thomas Coats.”

The feminist and activist became the first Scottish woman to stand for a school board and was elected to the Paisley school board in 1873. She also became vice-president of the Paisley Ladies’ Sanitary Association, which promoted public baths.

Lil added: “She was a woman of privilege but seemed to use her position to have a voice. But today nobody talks about her so it’s maybe a case of giving her and the others a voice again after all these years.”

The project will also learn about Kilbarchan-born Mary Barbour, who was a key player in fighting rent increases imposed by Glasgow landlords during World War One.

In 2015 a stone cairn was erected in the village where she was born in 1875 to mark her achievements.

From the retold stories, themes relevant to women today like equality in the workplace, education, healthcare, housing issues, and sexual politics can be discussed and explored by the women taking part in the workshops.

For more information on the CHE Fund which is still accepting applications, please go to www.paisley2021.co.uk

Two designers are helping to continue Paisley’s rich textile story by delivering weaving workshops to school pupils.

Heather Shields and Shielagh Tacey have been appointed as weavers in residence to the Sma’ Shot Cottages as part of Renfrewshire Council’s Townscape Heritage Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme 2 (TH.CARS 2) which aims to celebrate Paisley’s rich built heritage.

As part of the residency Heather and Shielagh will be delivering a series of workshops every Tuesday throughout November to more than 240 pupils from St Fergus PS, Glencoats PS, Lochwinnoch PS, St Mary’s PS, West PS, St Catherine’s PS, Johnstone HS and St Columba’s HS in Paisley Museum.

During these sessions the pupils will learn about linen, silk and cotton – the fibres which were historically woven in Paisley, explore the Museum’s shawl gallery and watch a loom in action. They will also discover how a weaver creates a motif design using point paper and work collaboratively to weave part of a colourful large scale artwork using a range of hand weaving techniques.

The residency aims to encourage people to get involved in weaving in addition to conducting a research project into Paisley’s rich textile heritage. The ethos of this project ties with Paisley’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021.

The £4 million TH.CARS 2 project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and Renfrewshire Council aims to make the area around the High Street a more attractive place to visit and invest while highlighting the significant role Paisley has played in the weaving and textile industry.

Commenting on the residency Heather said: “Paisley has such a rich heritage to explore and through this residency it would be a great chance to team up and learn more about a subject we are very interested in.

“This project will allow us to share our skills and knowledge with the local community and we are hoping that the school workshops will inspire young people in the town to consider opportunities in textiles and design.”

Renfrewshire Council Depute Leader, Cllr Jim Paterson, said: “The weaving workshops will not only help share the story of Paisley’s unique textile and design heritage that helped make it a globally recognised name, but will also help our young people build new skills and open them up to creative career opportunities.”

At the end of the project the weavers will deliver an exhibition and talk around the residency. The weaving residency will run until the end of 2018.

To find out more about TH.CARS 2 visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/THCars2.