Author: Stephen Clancy

Remembrance 2023

Remembrance 2023

As we remember those who thought in past conflicts this weekend, this booklet from J & P Coats relating to those who served during the Second World War is available for one week from today. I recently came across it in a online bookshop and made a quick scan of it. Covering all of the UK Mills of the group it is a useful document for WW2 where records are not as accessible as WW1.

Annan to Paisley: The Carlile family of Paisley

Over the last 8 to 10 years a lot of my research has focused on the introduction of fine Linen Thread production into Scotland by Christian Millar or Shaw of Bargarran at Erskine in 1722.  Over the next 30 years Paisley had become home to many linen thread manufactures, all copying the techniques of Christian.  One of the most influential of these copycats was John Carlile, the eldest son of James Carlyle of Annan.  

John moved to Paisley during the mid to late 1730’s, with the one intention to enter the linen thread industry.   There is sufficient evidence to show that the success of Christian Millar’s Bargarran Linen Thread Company had been heard of throughout Scotland, with some of her main clients being in Bath, well known for its lace making; where the friends of Lady Blantyre of Erskine House (who had a town house there) all said that the Bargarran thread was far superior to anything they could acquire from England.

So let us focus on John Carlile now.    When John arrived in Paisley, he changed his surname from Carlyle to Carlile, forming the distinct Paisley branch of the family.   As already said, he was the eldest son of James Carlyle of Annan and was born in Annan in 1703.

In the History of The Carlile Family (Paisley Branch) published in 1909 by some of its members for private circulation it states that John “is considered to have been the founder of the Paisley family, for he left Annan and settled in Paisley, where he built the first Scottish thread manufactory (1752), particularly for the manufacture of twisting and bleaching linen yarn.”  In some ways this is not accurate; by the time John arrived in Paisley there were a growing number of linen thread manufacturers.    What can be said though is that John was the first to build a large-scale manufactory in 1752 on the banks of the White Cart Water on New Sneddon Street.  The Bankhead Mill as it was to become known grew over time, transitioning from linen to cotton in the first half of the 19th Century as the more well-known Clark and Coats families developed their fine cotton threads and yarns.   John’s Mill survived into the late 19th Century when the business was purchased by the Clark family who incorporated it into Clark & Co, who continued to run the business as a going concern.   I have seen an advert in the University of Glasgow Scottish Business Archives which states “Clark & Co: Seedhill, Bankhead & Cumberland Mills” showing their continued use of existing mills in addition to their own Seedhill Mill.  

Roy’s Military survey of the lowlands of Scotland mapped 1752-55 shows Carlile Lane and Carlile Place already in existence and the red buildings along Carlile Lane probably relate to the earliest incarnation of the Bankhead Mill established by John.

Location of the Bankhead Mill:

John was made a Free Burgess of Paisley in 1741, and married Janet, daughter of William Birkmyre, and became a Baillie of Paisley the following year.  Janet was born in 1722 and died on 2 June 1803.  John himself died on 11 October 1773, leaving five children surviving William Carlile of Paisley, James Carlile (the elder) of Paisley, Thomas Carlile of Houston, Edward Carlile of Hampstead and Mary Ferrier.   John and Janet had seven children who all died at an early age:  Margaret, 1744-5; Jean, 1748-9; Janet, 1749-55; John, 1754-5; George, 1756-7; Agnes, 1759-60; and Robert, 1761-2.

An interesting account of his home life has been preserved. We read that “The family religion consisted of worship twice each day, morning and evening, and on the Lord’s day thrice. After public worship at Church, it was …. his common practice to retire for prayer and meditation.”

After this the family convened for supper, the refreshment taken at the interval between public worship being slight; then family worship. When that was concluded, the questions in the Assemblie’s Catechism were put by him. On next Sabbath the children were examined in Willison’s Catechism. After this he generally addressed his familie, by recommending their duty and danger from sin, or on such religious topics as occurred to him: then each of the children and servants was called on to read a chapter {sic) of the Bible. Commonly after this a religious book was read ; familie worship commenced again about 9 o’clock —and thus ended the familie exercises of the Sabbath

Paisley Abbey Notebook

This 120 page, wide lined, notebook features a late 18th Century coloured line engraving of Paisley Abbey on the cover. The image is entitled “Pals” and was drawn by J Hooper on the 12th March 1791 and engraved by Sparrow. The image shows the damage done to the Abbey by the collapse of it’s tower shortly before the reformation in 1560.

You can order your new notebook right now on Amazon for £5 + postage Click this link to view on Amazon

New History Cafes / Workshops & Talks

We are pleased to reveal new History Cafe Sessions, Workshops and talks between the end of February and April 2023. We also have have a new venue!

We will be holding our new events at Restoration & Creation at 6 Browns Lane, Paisley, PA1 2JH. housed in historic buildings on one of Paisley’s last surviving pre 1900’s lanes, we look forward to working with the team there.

History Cafe’s: Our first History Cafe will be on monday 27th February, 1pm to 2.30pm – the topic will be Starting your family history research. the second Cafe will be on Monday 27th March, again 1pm to 2.30pm. The topic for this session will be Paisley Poorhouses.

History Talks/ Workshops: We restart our talks/ workshop sessions on Wednesday 22 March, 6.30 – 8.30pm with a Maps Workshop exploring Paisley’s Textile Heritage using Town plans from the 1850’s and later. On Wednesday 26th April our first talk will be on The buildings and archaeology of Paisley Abbey.

More sessions will be advertised at a later date.

History Cafe’s remain free, though donations are welcome, while our workshops and talks will cost £6 and heritage walks cost £5.50 per person. Refreshments will be available,

Please see our events schedule for full details.

Situation and Surrounding of Paisley Abbey

Let us recall the beautiful situation and surroundings of the abbey in the palmy days of the Abbots. The river Cart then ran clear and sparkling between green wooded banks. The monastic buildings: the great Gatehouse built by Abbot Tervas, about 9 meters north-west from the north-west turret of the Abbey, “a great pend most curiously built,” surmounted with a tower erected by Abbot George Shaw; the massive wall extending for a mile or so round the Abbey policies, adorned with statues and inscriptions; the Abbot’s house to the south-east; and some additional buildings sloping down to the river, were all in Existence. The old Cloisters were intact, the wall of the west walk being 7.3 meters from the west front of the Abbey.

Towards the end of the 15th century another wall was erected 2.7m beyond the west front of the Abbey, extending 25 meters southwards.  A roof was erected on this wall and the cloister wall, and the inside fitted out for Monastic purposes.  The south front of the Abbey became a gable for this building.

Close by were the pools or tanks, lined with ashlar work, in which the monks kept fish against in case fishing in the River Clyde failed to supply enough food for them.

The rich gardens of the monastery were also near, and a deer park; on the other bank of the river, beside the Falls, stood the Abbey mill, and, further down on the same side, the large orchard, extending over six acres. A columbarium or dovecot stood on the brink of the river opposite the Watergate at the Seedhill Mills.

Paisley Abbey after Slezers view of Paisley of 1693, published in a French atlas about 1720, note the deer in the foreground

An UNDERGROUND PASSAGE, dating from this period, still in part exists, apparently leading from the Abbey southwards towards the river white cart.  It is solidly built. During an exploration of the passage in 1888, 120 carts of rubbish were taken out, amongst which several articles were found, including fragments of stained glass.

There was an OLD CHURCHYARD of the Abbey at Seedhill while the present churchyard surrounding the abbey is post reformation. The burial place of the Priors, Abbots & Monks would have been south, or to the east, of the Abbey church.

Notabilities may have been buried in the choir and under the chapter house, where remains have been found. There were interments in the cloisters, but not in the garth.

Connected with the chapel of St. Roche, there was also a churchyard at the head of Castle Street. In later times, the weavers, when digging treadle holes for their looms, often found the bones of their Roman Catholic forbears.”

The Abbey during this period was distinguished as being ONE OF THE FIVE PLACES OF PILGRIMAGE in Scotland, the others being Melrose, where the first Steward had died as a monk: Scone, where the first Stewart king was buried; Dundee; and Whithorn. Crosses for the use of pilgrims were placed at intervals on the roads leading to the church. The local names with Corsebar and Crossflat reflect possible lost cross sites along with those we know existed at Hawkead, Stanely and Arthurie to name but a few.

Text sourced and updated from A R Howell’s Paisley Abbey published 1929.

Halloween & Witches of Renfrewshire 1629 -1650 Online Talk

Halloween is coming on us fast this year. At the end of September our window display at Allan’s Fish & Chip Restaurant on Storie Street will be getting replaced with a display on the Witches of Renfrewshire. To accompany this we are launching a pre recorded history cafe session for anyone interested in the subject to watch whenever you wish.

see: witches-of-renfrewshire-1629-1650 for more details

June/ July Update

June has been a busy month which incorporated a short break on Bute exploring some of the archaeological and historical sites on the island. over the next few weeks you may spot a few posts about places visited and connections to Paisley and Renfrewshire.

On the 24th June we are leading a heritage walk “Linen Walk by Design Paisley” – part of the The Scottish Refugee Festival and joins a creative cluster of events from Journeys in Design in collaboration with Sewing2gether All Nations. (Date: Fri, Jun 24 • 14:30 BST meeting at Paisley Central Library, Mill Street and finishing at Sma’ Shot Cottages at 4pm with the chance of a cuppa and look around the weavers cottage & looms.) see to book this free walk. For the other Paisley events see Events include: One Millie All Nations Exhibition at Central Library & Creative Journeys for New Scots | Twilight Talk,

Fri, Jun 24 • 14:30 BST

Sma’ Shot Day – 2nd July – We will have our first stall on Abbey Close as part of the Sma’ Shot festival. We will have a selection of our merchandise for sale including local history books, maps, pictures, Paisley Notebooks, Mugs and Keyrings. Try your hand at a classic fete game and learn more about our summer programme of walks and talks.

In mid July we have our Renfrewshire Archaeology course scheduled to start in The Art Department on Causeyside Street where we will look at some of the early settlements of the area, through to the medieval era. See for more details and booking.

The end of June and July is looking like a busy time. Why not take some time for yourself and see the history around you!

There was a jovial beggar

I’ve just been reading the THE DIARY AND GENERAL EXPENDITURE BOOK OF WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM OF CRAIGENDS, Commissioner to the Convention of Estates and Member of Parliament for Renfrewshire which was kept between 1673 and 1680. The time period falls directly into the Covenanting time period, which was also subjected to harsh harvests leading to impoverished times. The diary and account book of Wiliam Cunningham frequently indicates donations to the poor and beggars of the area amongst other things.

The following song is attributed to Richard Brome appears in a black-letter copy of the Bagford Collection, where it is entitled The Beggars’ Chorus in the ‘Jovial Crew, published in ANCIENT POEMS BALLADS AND SONGS OF THE PEASANTRY OF ENGLAND edited by ROBERT BELL in 1857. It really describes the life of a beggar in the late 17th Century.

 There was a jovial beggar,
      He had a wooden leg,
   Lame from his cradle,
      And forced for to beg.
And a begging we will go, we’ll go, we’ll go;
And a begging we will go!

   A bag for his oatmeal,
      Another for his salt;
   And a pair of crutches,
      To show that he can halt.
            And a begging, &c.

   A bag for his wheat,
      Another for his rye;
   A little bottle by his side,
      To drink when he’s a-dry.
            And a begging, &c.

   Seven years I begged
      For my old Master Wild,
   He taught me to beg
      When I was but a child.
            And a begging, &c.

   I begged for my master,
      And got him store of pelf;
   But now, Jove be praised!
      I’m begging for myself.
            And a begging, &c.

   In a hollow tree
      I live, and pay no rent;
   Providence provides for me,
      And I am well content.
            And a begging, &c.

   Of all the occupations,
      A beggar’s life’s the best;
   For whene’er he’s weary,
      He’ll lay him down and rest.
            And a begging, &c.

   I fear no plots against me,
      I live in open cell;
   Then who would be a king
      When beggars live so well?
And a begging we will go, we’ll go, we’ll go;
And a begging we will go!

Theme: Elation by Kaira.
Translate »