Category: Blog

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!

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.

New for 2022

Launching in late 2022 we have our first in person course since early 2020. We will be using a new venue – Paisley St George’s church on Causeyside Street in Paisley which is close to bus roots and has a car park at its rear.

The first course will start on Monday 24th January at 7pm we will start looking at “Beginners Genealogy” a 4 week course introducing you to researching your family history using Scottish Records. On the 7th March we will start a new 4 week course looking at ‘Renfrewshire’s Archaeology’.

Courses cost £60 each and will be available to book from Monday 22nd November 2021

More details will be published shortly.

New for autum & winter heritage walking tours

We now have specialised walking tour headsets available for our Heritage Walks starting from our Old Paisley Walk on the 16th October 2021. The receiver takes a standard set of earphones using a 3.5mm jack. We can provide a set of earphones or you are welcome to bring your own. Our earphones will be sanitised before and after use, along with the receiver.

Using the headsets allows more social distancing and allows you to hear the guide a lot clearer (and also help save the guides voice!) If you want to make use of the headset please let us know in advance or at the start of any of the walks you are booked on.

Autumn & Winter Heritage Walks 2021

Our autumn & winter heritage walks are back and now being slowly added to our website. We begin on the 14th October with a walk exploring old Paisley from the top of Causeyside Street down to Paisley Abbey. On the 30th October we have a new walk – Paisley & witches that will explore the true story behind Paisley’s connection to witch hunts and other myths connected to witches on the town. The timings of the walks change slightly for the winter meeting at 1pm and finishing around 3pm.

We aim to have all the events online this week, with the October walks up by tonight. The full schedule is shown below

A familiar building??

Image

So what is this building in the picture? It is on Paisley High Street, close to two Paisley landmarks, but today it is a lot different!

The two canons might just give it away. This is the original Volunteer Drill Hall, between Coats Memorial Church and Paisley Museum & Art Gallery.

I’m not sure when this building was constructed, but by 1896 it is described as being 130 feet long, 50 feet wide and more than a useful ornament! In 1896 plans were in place to replace it with a more commodious hall and office space for the volunteers.

The Commanding Officer was Sir Thomas Glen Coats and the local force consisted of 25 officers, 45 sergeants and 644 rank and file men.

October 2021 Dinner Talk

Following our successful dinner talk at Pendulum in August, we have now organised a follow-up Dinner Talk at Pendulum Scottish Kitchen & Bar for Tuesday 12th October at 6.30pm. The topic of the talk will be on the early linen thread making industry in Scotland, looking at Christian Shaw’s (of Bargarran witch-hunt fame) involvement in the industry and the establishment of the Scottish spinning schools.

Meeting in the private dining are we will enjoy a 2 course meal from the Market Menu (you’re responsible for any extras and drinks) followed by the talk.

All of this for £25 to reserve your place a deposit of £10 is due, with the remainder paid on the night.

Bookings have now closed

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

Code: UH-Pendulum-Oct12 Date: Tuesday 12th October 2021 Time 6.30pm. Meeting Point: Private Dinining Room, Pendulum, Gauze St, Paisley.

Cost £25.00 (£10 deposit due on booking – remainder on night. Includes standard 2 course meal from the Market Menu – you’re responsible for any extras and drinks)) By booking a ticket you accept that the Urban Historian cannot provide refunds if you are unable to attend the event as the circumstances are outwith the Urban Historian’s Control. If the event is cancelled by the Urban Historian a refund or opportunity to attend another event will be provided.

Theme: Elation by Kaira.
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