Author: Stephen Clancy

The Urban Historian > Articles by: Stephen Clancy

It’s Sma’ Shot Day – 2nd July

Well tomorrow is Sma’ Shot Day. We are all prepared. Are you coming to visit and discover our summer walks, find out about the September conference on 10th Sept and explore our merchandise? We will also have a raffle to win 2 walk tickets and a goodie bag…

Parade leave Brodie Park at 12noon and arrives at Abbey Close, Paisley about 1pm and is followed by burning of the Cork. All the stalls will be officially open at 12 noon.

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 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/linen-walk-by-design-paisley-tickets-358566099857 to book this free walk. For the other Paisley events see https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/journeys-in-design-6652164461 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 https://www.theurbanhistorian.co.uk/product/renfrewshire-archaeology-an-introduction/ 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!

The Paisley Notebook

We are launching our new 120 page, lined Paisley Notebook range. The first two versions are now available to purchase on Amazon.co.uk

This first notebook has a purple cover and features an image looking down church Hill towards New Street and Saucel Hill. Inside the pages are white with black lines.

You can order a note book right now for £5 plus postage direct from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09RFWSG35

Paisley to Sarasota, Florida: The Browning’s – Part 1

It’s late November 1885, around one 100 Scots are gathering at the docks in Glasgow to board Anchor Lines SS Furnessia with the intention of forming a new Scots Colony in Sarasota, Florida.  Amongst the 100 are two Paisley families the Lawrie’s and the Browning’s who have sold their possessions at auction and are heading to Sarasota to begin a new life.

The Lawrie’s and Browning’s were related. Ellen Lawrie, wife of John Lawrie, was the sister of John Browning and both descended from an old Paisley family. The first recorded Browning in Paisley is Gavin, who operated a drug store at No 1 the High Street, part of the tollbooth on the corner of Moss Street.  In the 1783 trade directory he is recorded as a ‘Druggust’ an occupation repeated on a headstone in the graveyard at Oakshaw Trinity Church which states Lair 199 “The Property of Gavin Browning Druggist 1800”. Gavin’s oldest son, another Gavin went on to study at Glasgow University and became a surgeon in Paisley.

If we move on to 1885, the Browning’s had become timber merchants and Cartwrights in the Paisley with successful businesses established in Orchard Street.  Alexander, John and Ellen’s father had run the businesses for many years, but Paisley Burgh Council were planning to redevelop Gordon’s Loan, the area we know today as Gordon Street with the old fire station dividing the road.  The Browning’s who were operating their timber mill, and a cartwright building business from two connected properties on Orchard Street had to decide what to do?

According to John Browning’s memoirs there had been some talk within the family of moving to South Africa to take advantage of the gold diamond mining happening there, but at the same time a leaflet about a proposed Scots Colony in Florida came into the possession of the Lawrie family.  Named the Ormiston Colony of Scotland after the estate of Sir John Gillespie near Edinburgh, for the sum of £100 a family could purchase a town residence and 40 acres of land outwith the town.  With the purchase of the properties in orchard Street, and the Lawrie business in the Sneddon had recently been destroyed by fire, this new venture in Sarasota was very appealing to both families.

John’s father sold the land on Orchard Street, while his eldest son, Alexander set up a new Cartwright and Timber merchants shop elsewhere in town, and John Browning and Ellen Lawrie’s families moved to Florida arriving on the 10 Dec 1885.

There is little to show where the timber & cartwright business was on Orchard Street today, but the site of the Timber Yard & Cartwright shop partly survives as the small carpark bounded by Gordon Street.

The late 19th Century Browning family was large.   Alexander Browning had 6 children and 24 grand-children.  Of the two families who emigrated in 1885, 12 grand-children moved to Florida, with the others remaining in Paisley and the local area with their respective families.  

Are you descended from the Browning family?  The hunt is now on to track down descendants of the Browning family who remained in Paisley.  Megan and her family,  descendants of John Browning’s oldest son Alexander who was 19 when he left Paisley plans to visit the town at some point in 2022 when restrictions allow and would like to know if there are any living relatives in the area.  

If you are related and would like to connect, please contact us using our contact form.

The featured image of John Brownings family taken in America. It is dated 1885, but I believe it is a few years later, as Johns youngest daughters were 12 and 4 when they arrived in New York, and they appear to be older in this image. Image source: https://www.visitsarasota.com/sites/default/files/Browning%20Family%201885%20%28Henry%20B.%20Plant%20Museum%29.jpg from the Henry B. Plant Museum.

This is the first of several blog posts on the browning family which will follow what happened to them when they arrived in America.

Year of Stories – blog 1

Today, 10th January 2022, I should have been delivering a zoom talk to the Ontario Genealogical Societies Scottish Interest Group on Paisley Weavers. Unfortunately, I have had no voice for the last 5 days and the talk has been rescheduled for late February. Hopefully the voice returns soon, but it hasn’t stopped me reading or preparing notes and materials for walks, talks and blogs.

2022 is the Scottish Year of Stories, and throughout the year I plan on posting new blog posts on a regular basis looking at aspects of Paisley & Renfrewshire’s history that have never been told, based on local families & businesses away from the usual textile history of the area.

The first blog post will be published later this week and will introduce you to a Paisley family that had a a successful business in town and made a big impact in America, yet remain unrecorded in Paisleys history

If you a story about your ancestors that you would like to share and maybe find out a bit more about them, please contact us via our contact us page.

17th Century Rentals for the Burgh of Paisley

17th Century Rentals for the Burgh of Paisley

By Stephen Clancy

This volume is split into four sections, the first two deal with rentals dated between 1605 and 1619 while the final two are dated 1685. Between them they cover those paying duties or rental to the Burgh of Paisley. In general, they contain the name of the person paying the rental and where their property was. Occasionally you also get relationship information contained within the entry such as father and son when a property has been passed on. Former owners are also mentioned.

Paperback on Amazon £7 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B089CVHMZD

Gordons’ Loan

Gordons’ Loan is now know as the area around Gordon Street – essentially the junction of Causeyside, Gordon Street, and Canal Street. In earlier days the residents of the area considered themselves as being out with the Burgh of Paisley.This book by David is Gilmour is about the area as he remembers it, with stories about the locals of the day. This is a full reprint of the 1881 edition which was limited to 100 copies.

Paperback on Amazon £10 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1093872683

Taits Directory of Renfrewshire 1783

Taits Directory of Renfrewshire 1783

Tait’s Directory of Renfrewshire was originally published in 1783 by John Tait, Stationer in the High Street of Glasgow. This was the very first directory for Paisley and parts of Renfrewshire containing names and places of work of the gentry, clergy, merchants, mechanics and many others. It was reprinted in 1871 by Robert Forrester of Glasgow, from the only copy in existence owned by the estate of Adam Sim, Esq of Cultermains who recognised its significance. Even today the volume is scarce but of use to historians and genealogists. For Paisley and Greenock the name, nature of business and the address of each person is given. For Port-Glasgow only name and nature of business was provided.

Paperback £12.99 on Amazon

Ebook £9.99 on Amazon or Free with Kindle Unlimited

Paperback https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1093257997

Ebook https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QGXC1TN

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