Paisley patterns

Anchor Mill, Paisley

During the current restrictions, one of the few reasons we are allowed to cross the city boundary is to visit Mum who lives in Paisley on Glasgow’s eastern border. It’s a historic town, and aspects of it have featured in posts before, but it’s never had a whole post to itself. Now, when I have no new travels to write about, is the time to pull together some of the photos we have taken there over the last few years.

Paisley became prominent in the 19th century as a centre of the weaving industry. By 1993 all the mills had closed, including the Anchor Mill, shown above, which is now housing.  However, the legacy lives on in street names such as Mill Street, Cotton Street, Thread Street, Shuttle Street, Lawn Street, Silk Street, and Gauze Street, and in the fact that the town gave its name to the Paisley shawl and the Paisley pattern from which I take my title. That’s the last you’ll hear from me about weaving though – I’m going to show you some patterns or themes that I found in the town.

The Abbey and around

Long before its weaving heyday, Paisley became prominent in the 12th century with the establishment of Paisley Abbey, an important religious hub. The smaller adjoining building is known as the Place of Paisley and is the sole remaining part of the extensive monastery associated with the Abbey.

Nearby is the Town Hall, seen here reflected in the White Cart Water, a tributary of the River Clyde. Still in the historic part of town, at the top of Church Hill is Oakshaw Trinity which, as a result of mergers, is part of both the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.

Overall, Paisley town centre has the highest concentration of listed buildings of anywhere in Scotland outside of Edinburgh – these have been just a few.

Memorials

I have driven past the first three memorials in this section hundreds, if not thousands, of times but have only recently investigated on foot. As I drive into Paisley, the first memorial I see is this cairn to Marjorie Bruce, eldest daughter of King Robert I, otherwise known as Robert the Bruce.

The caption tells that she was fatally injured by falling from her horse near this spot in 1316. Her son, born posthumously, became Robert II, first of the Stewart Kings of Scotland. Why was he a Stewart, not a Bruce? Paisley Abbey was founded by Walter FitzAlan, the first High Steward of Scotland (the officer who controlled the domestic affairs of the royal household). His descendants adopted the surname Steward, which became Stewart, and later still was changed to Stuart. Marjorie Bruce married the sixth High Steward, thus her son was the first king of the Stewart dynasty. All six High Stewards are buried in the Abbey, as is Marjorie herself. The title of High Steward was merged into the crown with Robert II and is still held by the current Prince of Wales.

Further towards town is this statue of St Mirin, next to St Mirin’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. St Mirin (c563-600) is the patron saint of Paisley, and his monument was erected in 2003. He also gave his name to the local football team, St Mirren.

Having driven past the town centre, I take a right turn to head up to Mum’s house. At the corner is this Hygienic Fountain with its inscription from the Gospel of St John “whosoever drinketh of this water” … etc.

In the centre of town is Dunn Square, an open space presented to Paisley in 1894 by Sir William Dunn, MP for the Burgh from 1891 to 1906. His monument is this scantily clad woman with her back to the ubiquitous Queen Victoria.

On the railings nearby is a memorial I find far more interesting and poignant. A tree was planted in 2010 by the Renfrewshire Women’s Association and dedicated to the memory of all Renfrewshire women who “live in fear of violence and abuse, or have been murdered by their violent partner”. Next to the tree and plaque hangs a garland and it is always updated. In the gallery below, the trailing white ribbons are from 2012 and the other two are from February and Christmas 2020. It’s nice to know that the memorial is so carefully tended.

Street art

The Paisley First Murals Project has been created to help breathe new life into the town centre and uses only local artists. The most concentrated area is Browns Lane where street artists Mark Worst and Danny McDermott created a tribute to some well-known Buddies (the name for people coming from Paisley) including Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan of Stealers Wheel, the Cup-winning St Mirren Team of 1987, singer Paolo Nutini and local historian Ellen Farmer. John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix are definitely NOT Paisley buddies, but appear on the side of nearby music venue, The Bungalow.

The Kingfisher, also by Mark Worst, is on Johnston Street. It highlights one of the town’s relatively unknown sons, Alexander Wilson, who is credited with establishing ornithology as a science.

And Breathe by Duncan Wilson and Reborn by Kevin Cantwell are on Lawn Street and Lady Lane respectively.

The trail has inspired some of the businesses around town to create their own art, such as these murals on Japan Street Food on Renfrew Road.

Pub signs and ghost signs

I do love a good sign! The Tea Gardens Tavern sounds a lot more genteel to me than it actually looks.

The Belhaven Brewery is particularly good at designing attractive signs – The Tea Gardens and all but one of the signs below are by Belhaven.

And finally to ghost signs. I can’t remember exactly where these are from, but I think they are all around the Espedair Street / Neilston Road area. Wm Semple Son & Co. Ltd, Engineers and Smiths, is a definite ghost sign. I’m not sure if Alison Stuart, Florist, counts as she still seems to be in business, but it’s certainly a very old sign. I’m also not sure what the initials and date on a gable signify, but they look attractive.

And that’s the end of my whistle stop tour of Paisley, which is by no means definitive. Other posts which have featured Paisley include:

The Great Tapestry of Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, both of which took place in Anchor Mill, as shown in this post’s header, and have interior shots of its central atrium.

Glasgow Gallivanting March 2019 features Thomas Coats Memorial Church with one of the most fabulous loos ever, February 2020 includes another stroll round the town centre with a different selection of historic buildings, and June 2020 has the tale of Mrs Donoghue and the snail in the ginger beer.

Now to see what else I can recycle a post from …

Glasgow Gallivanting: November 2019

Glasgow from Cathkin Braes. The Gothic tower, centre right, is the main building of the University of Glasgow. The mountain in the background is Ben Lomond.

I can hardly believe we are now hurtling towards Christmas! November turned out much busier than expected, and December is much the same, hence the lateness of this post.

Out and about

The introductory image is taken from Cathkin Braes on the southern edge of Glasgow, and shows how close we are to the Highlands. This was Remembrance Sunday, and our walk that day took us through the village of Carmunnock at the foot of the Braes. We admired the War Memorial with its hand-crafted poppies from the service earlier in the day.

We managed to get a few more walks in November, despite the wintry weather. The late afternoon light on the Carron Valley Reservoir provided some beautiful reflections.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve at Loch Ardinning has featured before, so just merits a couple of shots this time.

I’ve featured many Scottish castles in beautiful locations – Newark Castle is rather different: it stands next to a shipyard. From here, we followed the Port Glasgow Heritage Walk, which might sound unlikely to those who know the area, but which was interesting enough to merit its own post at some (much) later date.

We gallivanted up to Dundee! I had a day on my own while John was at a meeting, then we stayed on for a couple of nights. Again, a full post will follow, but here’s a couple of tasters. I climbed Dundee Law where, as you can see, the weather was dreich. Outside the McManus Art Gallery, Oor Wullie was keeping warm in his Christmas jumper / sweater – but I bet he got wet!

Happy talk

The guided walk season ended in October, and what was supposed to be my last talk of the year, What about the women?, took place in Maryhill in November, billed as follows:

When Maryhill Burgh Halls opened in 1878, stained glass artist Stephen Adam was commissioned to produce twenty windows representing local trades of which eighteen showed men and only two showed women. Adam was representing what he saw at the time, but what about the women of Maryhill? What are their stories? This talk seeks to redress the balance of history by looking at how we commemorate women in Glasgow generally before telling some historic tales about Maryhill’s women – from factory worker to heiress, and everything in between.

Well – I thought that was going to be my last talk, until I was invited to do another one in December! And, gulp, it’s tonight! More about that next time.

Ghost Signs

We went to a really interesting talk at Glasgow City Heritage Trust on their current project to document as many of the city’s ghost signs as possible. What is a ghost sign? Well, my definition would be a faded old sign from times gone by, which has never been completely obliterated or which reappears when newer signs are removed. I was surprised to find how many Glasgow examples I had in my files.

This project’s remit is wider than that, and includes signs which are integral to the building. Some examples from my collection include the former Sorn Dairy, now a block of flats in Maryhill, with its name picked out in brickwork on the front (though still quite ghostly).

The former Tobacco Warehouse and the Children’s Hospital Dispensary (now part of the Art School) have solidly carved signs which I would probably not count as ghost signs at all, but they feature in the project because they advertise businesses or institutions which are no longer there.

Former tobacco warehouse, James Watt Street
Children’s Hospital Dispensary, West Graham Street

I definitely wouldn’t count the Jacobite Corsetry sign which could easily be removed, and remains by choice of the current owners. Not ghostly at all in my book! But definition disagreements apart, it was a fascinating talk and I now have something else to look out for on my walks around Glasgow.

Jacobite Corsetry, Virginia Street

The last bit

So many other things! Of course, there’s been a bit of political stuff going on – as if you hadn’t noticed. By Friday we should know the worst. In better news, we’ve had lots of family and friends stuff happening.

The main family news is the first baby of a new generation. Tommy was born in October, and Mum and I met him for the first time in November. He’s my cousin’s daughter’s son, which I think makes him my first cousin twice removed, but I’m prepared to be corrected. Here he is being held by his Great-Great Aunt (my mum) with his proud Great-Granny (my aunt) alongside.

As for friends, one of the most notable events was the visit to Glasgow of the lovely Becky of  The life of B. It was our second “real-life” meeting, the first being on her home turf of Winchester last year. She hadn’t been to Glasgow before, so I took her on a tour of the city centre.

Left to right above, a unicorn in the Cathedral, the dome of the Gallery of Modern Art which started life as an 18th century mansion house, and the Argyll Arcade, one of Europe’s oldest covered shopping arcades (1827) and Scotland’s first ever indoor shopping mall. We got wet, because it was – guess what? – dreich.

That’s twice I’ve mentioned dreich in connection with the weather! We had Book Week Scotland in November, which this year included a vote for the most iconic Scots word, and dreich was the winner. Originally meaning enduring or slow, tedious, over time these definitions gave way to dreary, hard to bear and from there to dull, gloomy. Dreich has been one of my Scottish words of the month before, as have many of the rest of the top ten: glaikit, scunnered, shoogle, wheesht, fankle, outwith, braw, beastie and bumfle. Maybe I’ll feature some in later months – in the meantime, if any intrigue you, you can ask me about them in the comments.

Finally, I’m never one to turn down a chance to rootle around in someone else’s library. Three of us from the Women’s Library visited the Goethe Institut and Alliance Française which share a 19th century terraced house in the Park District of Glasgow. Library staff were very welcoming (and served lovely cake and biscuits / cookies) and we came away with several ideas for future collaborations.

So that’s it for my November roundup, and I’m not anticipating posting again until December’s Glasgow Gallivanting. I hope we will meet elsewhere in the blogosphere before then, but if we don’t I wish you all the very best for the festive season. See you in the New Year!

Gallus Glasgow P: the Panopticon

Britannia Panoptican

The Britannia Panopticon on Trongate is the world’s oldest surviving music hall. It’s on the first floor above Mitchell’s Amusements, with an entrance down the lane to the side. The music hall functioned from the 1850s through to 1938 when it was no longer possible to compete with modern entertainments such as the cinema. It was then sold to a tailoring business, converted to a workshop, and not rediscovered until 1997. The Panopticon is currently being conserved by a trust which produces traditional shows in the auditorium and is raising money to rescue the historic stage which was buried beneath a 1960s toilet.

Panopticon interior

When 16-year-old Arthur Stanley Jefferson gave his first stage performance here in 1906, who could have predicted how successful he would turn out to be? You know him better as Stan Laurel, who is commemorated by a blue plaque in the alley next to the Panopticon – with a bonus of some beautiful ghost signs.

Panopticon plaque for Stan Laurel

A talented friend of mine, Colin Hough, wrote a radio play about Laurel’s debut a few years ago. It’s no longer available to listen to, but this very favourable review gives a flavour and speculates what the play might be like if it was filmed in the Panopticon itself.

Something I didn’t know until I was wandering up High Street taking photographs for another post, is that the Panopticon also has a charity shop. I might go back for a rummage when I have more time.

Panopticon shop
Panopticon shop

Tomorrow, Q takes us to a Mackintosh building.