Category: History

History articles

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: 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.

A familiar building??


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.

The Parish of Neilston

Today not many people think of Neilston as being part of Renfrewshire. It sits in the modern day council area of East Renfrewshire, which was separated from the old county of Renfrew along with inverclyde at the last local government reform.

It is said that Neilston derrives its name for a person called Neil, who settled in the4 vicinity of the parish church in antiquity and called his settlement ‘Neils-toun’. One of the first written records for Neilston comes in 1227 when the church of Neilston is granted to Paisley Abbey by William de Hertford (any guesses as to where he was from?) in return for half of the corn tithes of Thornton. This grant was confirmed in 1227 by the Bishop of Glasgow and Pope Honorius. An agreement between the Paisley monks and the Bishop of Glasgow allowed the church to be used by the Abbey for its own purposes exempt any financial demands from the Bishop or See of Glasgow.

The Abbey held the church of Neilston until the reformation. They employed a curate to hold regular services and took the income from the church to help support the Abbey. The surviving rental books for Paisley Abbey show that the properties of the church of Neilston were leased out to the value of £66 13 shillings and 4 pence per year. From the reformation, until 1587 it was held by Claud Hamilton, the last Commendator (Lay Abbot) of Paisley Abbey. In 1587 the entire estate of Paisley Abbey was given to Claud Hamilton as a heritable Estate, and he took the title Lord Claud Hamilton. The estate of Paisley Abbey, including Neilston, was inherited by Claud’s grandson, James Earl of Abercorn who then sold the estate in 1652 to the Earl of Angus. Within a year the lands had been sold on again to William, Lord Cochran in 1653.. The patronage of the church at Neilston was acquired by Alexander Speirs of Elderslie in 1775.

The current Parish Church was built in 1762, with it’s spire and clock. The Village held four annual fairs and was home to 472 individuals in 1791, by 1821 the population had almost doubled to 800. Within the parish itself, there were other manufacturing villages, with the population of Parish in 1755 being 1299 individuals, rising to 6548 individuals in 1821.

 © Copyright John Allan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 © Copyright John Allan and licensed for reuse 
under this Creative Commons Licence.

Weavers of Kilbarchan Project

Weavers of Kilbarchan Project

The Weavers of Kilbarchan project aims to investigate the weavers of Kilbarchan Parish from the 17th Century through until the 1921 Census. In addition to the census information the project will also use contemporary 17th & 18th Century records such a Poll Tax, Hearth Tax and other Tax rolls to trace the rise and fall of the weaving industry within the parish.

As you can see from the map above Kilbarchan is  a fairly large parish.  The parish is enclosed by the red line.

Weaving became the main industry of Kilbarchan during late 18th and early 19th Centuries and many of the houses in Kilbarchan village today have ther origins as wavers cottages, though only one still survives witha working loom – the National Trust for Scotland’s Weavers Cottage on Church Street.

Entrance to the NTS Weavers cottage with a 1723 date stoneabove the door.

This is a smal window looking into the loom room at the weavers cottage, but it was originally a door into the wesving shop, with a marriage lintel for Robert King & Grizal Marshal above it.

The Weavers of Kibarchan historical research project aims to investigate everyone in the parish of Kilbarchan who worked as weavers and where they lived.   

Funds received will go directly to the research and support of project website.   To access the Scottish Census records at the ScotlandsPeople centre in Edinburgh costs £15 per day along with travelling expenses of around £25  (£40 in total per day)  It is hoped that once the pandemic restrictions are relaxed, and the ScotlandsPeeople centre reopens most of the research can be carried out there.

Research can be carried out online via at £40 or 160 Credits which allows 27 census records to be looked at, compared to unlimited views in the centre.

Funds will also be used to produce a final publication.

The start date for the project will be the 1st April 2021 with the intention to complete the project with 2 years.

Why we want to do this project
While preparing a talk on the weavers of Kilbarchan in 2019 it became very apparent that previous research has focused on the weaving processes and the buildings associated with the industry and not the people. Being a genealogist as well as a historian made me start thinking of the people themselves – who were they? Can we put names to properties in the parish/ village? Can we trace the family connections such as children following in their parent’s footsteps or did they move into different parts of the textile industry in the area?

Through the project I hope to answer these questions.

About The Urban Historian

Stephen, The Urban Historian, graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in History, and went on to complete a Masters in Multimedia from the then University of Paisley.  Stephen has worked as an archaeologist on many archaeological digs in Paisley, Renfrewshire and beyond, and has taught local history, archaeology and family history at the University of the West of Scotland and the University of Dundee.

Stephen is a former chair of Paisley Thread Mill Museum and former member of the Renfrewshire Local History Forum. In addition to this he has also advised the Renfrewshire Tapestry Group on historical aspects of the old County of Renfrew along with other historical projects for Renfrewshire Council.

 Stephen’s personal research interests include the rise of linen and cotton thread manufacturing industry in Renfrewshire & Paisley along with the history of the Anchor and Ferguslie Thread Mills in Paisley and their national & international domination.

Everyone who supports the fundraiser will receive the final report and updates on the project.

We appreciate the support of the community.

 The Urban Historian’s website is

Be one of the first to help

Ferguslie – A brief history of the medieval estate


A brief history of the medieval estate to the 20th Century

Ferguslie today is seen as a large housing scheme – totally unrecognisable from its medieval origins. The name Ferguslie is most likely derived from “the meadow of Fergus” but who was this Fergus? We will probably never know.

The lands that comprise Ferguslie were given to Paisley Abbey, possibly around 1220 when Walter, The Steward granted the lands of the Forrest of Paisley to the Abbey. The grant included the forest that lay between the Black Cart & White Cart.

The link below shows the area as it was in the mid 18th Century in General Roy’s Map of Scoland.

The earliest recorded name with Ferguslie comes from the Abbey Rental book in 1460 when a widow, Matilde de Craig pays the Abbey £3 along with Cart Service on lands worth £6. (As a widow she would have been given a discount). It is highly possible that area Craigielea takes its name from her family.

The next named tenant is a Ninian Wallace paying rent in 1522 and 1523. In 1544 the Registrum de Monasterii de Paslet records John Hamilton obtaining the grant of the lands from John Hamilton, Abbot of Paisley – possibly a relation. The John Hamilton who obtained the lands was a descendant of the Hamiltons of Orbieston. The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland records John renting the lands in 1547 and becoming the owner of the lands in 1551. John Hamilton, Laird of Ferguslie died in 1557.

On Johns death his granddaughter, Margaret Wallace, inherited the estate. Margaret was married to a John Wallace of Elderslie – son of William Wallace of Elderslie who was Chamberlain to James, Earl of Abercorn. A condition of the inheritance was that Margaret was to change her surname to Hamilton which she duly did in 1609. She became better known as ‘Margaret Hamilton, The Guidewife of Ferguslie‘

By 1710 the estate had been sold to William Cochran, son of Colonel Hugh Cochrane, a younger brother of the Earl of Dundonald. The last Cochrane to live in the Castle or house of Ferguslie was Mrs Grizel Cochrane, sister of the 6th Earl of Dundonald. Grizel died on the 12th September 1753 at Cardonald, but on the 6th July 1748 her brother-in-law, put the Ferguslie Estate up for auction in Edinburgh. John Hare and Robert Fulton bought the estate on behalf of the Town Council of Paisley for £33,000 Scots or £2,700 Sterling. The town council held the estate until around 1800 when they sold the estate along with that of Carriagehill for the grand sum of £12,000, giving a nice cash boost to the town.

Until this time the Castle or House of Ferguslie lay to the north of the estate, close to the site of the much later Ferguslie Park House (known later as the Glen-Coats Hospital) of which only the gatehouse still survives.

The new owner of the Estate was Thomas Bisland, a wealthy Paisley Merchant, and son of the Town Treasurer. Thomas constructed a new manor house to the extreme south of the estate, naming it Ferguslie House. In 1811 Thomas became bankrupt and the estate was divided into two, along the route of the later railway. The northern portion of the estate with the old castle or house was purchased by John Campbell of Edinburgh. The southern portion centered on Ferguslie House was purchased by Miss John Maxwell of Williamwood, who in 1818 sold it on to Lorrain Wilson another Paisley Merchant. Lorrain Wilson upgraded the house and it passed to his son and then grandson in sequence. James Wilson, the grandson, sold it in 1845 to Thomas Coats.

Ferguslie House from the book Cottage to the Castle by andrew Coats

Ferguslie House

The northern portion of the estate was passed to John Campbell’s widow – Elizabeth Barr in 1853 and when she died the property was sold to Thomas Coats on the 16th Feb 1872. The purchase by Thomas reunited the northern and southern estates of Ferguslie under one owner, but the northern estate was renamed Ferguslie Park, and in 1890 a new mansion was constructed for Thomas’ son, Sir Thomas Glen-Coats.

Ferguslie Park House often hosted large parties. In 1926 when Lord Asquith stood as the Liberal candidate in a Paisley parliamentary election the house hosted a large party where Lord & Lady Asquith, David Lloyd George and his daughter Megan along with Lady Bonham Carter.


Fergusie Park House

Sir Thomas Glen-Coats died in 1922 to be succeeded by his son Sir Thomas Coats Glen Glen-Coats.

In 1931 Woodside House, the neighbouring estate to Ferguslie House, also in possession the Coats family was given to Paisley as a home for mothers and children. This was through the will of W H Coats, another of the Coats brothers. W H Coats died in 1928 and his will stated the house should be transferred to the town council on the death of his wife.


Woodside House

The donation of Woodside in 1931 led to an article in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette on the 23rd May 1931 calling on Ferguslie Park House to be given to Paisley as a replacement for the Barshaw Nursing Home (Maternity). It wasn’t until 1933 when Major A Harold Glen-Coats died that Ferguslie Park House was offered to the trustees of the Royal Alexandria Infirmary in memory of his parents, Sir Thomas & Lady Glen-Coats and Major Harold.

In 1934 the trustees of the Royal Alexandria Infirmary decided to convert the house into a 14 bed hospital with provision made for the number of beds to be increased or decreased as funds permitted. The Glen-Coats Auxiliary Hospital opened on the 19th July 1934 with 25 beds, due to a donation of £5,000 from Sir Thomas Glen Glen-Coats, his sister Mrs E H T Parsons and Major Harold’s widow. The hospital operated until 1973, and was demolished in 1982 after 9 years of dereliction and vandalism. Today the gatehouse and part of the garden survive.

Also during the 1930s the Ferguslie Houe Estate was given to the Town of Paisley by Miss Margaret & Miss Lily Coats, two of Thomas Coats’ daughters. The house was demolished and the estate was turned into the park we know today.

Based on work researched by Stephen Clancy & David Campbell in 1997 as part of the ‘Ferguslie Park History Project’ based in the former Fergulsie Park House / Glen Coats Lodge on Blackstone Rd, Fergusie Park, Paisley.

© 2021 Stephen Clancy

Paisley Canal Disaster 1810, list of those who died & survived

Paisley Canal Disaster 1810, list of those who died & survived

On the 10th November 1810, 10 days afte the canal opened, the duchess of Eglington, skippered by Thomas Rhodes was returning from Johnstone with an excursion.


Awaiting the arrival of the boat from Johnstone, there was, in the forenoon, a large assemblage of people, mainly youths and children, who, in the enjoyment of their holiday, had been drawn to the Canal Basin, either from curiosity or with the intention to take a passage in the fly boat to Johnstone. As those desirous to go in the boat far exceeded in number its capacity to carry them, the crowd got excited and unruly, and to secure a passage pressed forward towards the banks of the Canal. No sooner did the boat touch the bank than attempts were made by many, before the Johnstone passengers were landed, to force their way into the boat; and in a few minutes every part of it was filled, and particularly the top deck, where, reckless of all consequences and not for a moment dreading danger, a number far in excess of what the boat could safely carry, were densely packed together, while other parts of the boat were equally overcrowded. The crowd on the banks seeing that the boat was in danger of being overturned from an excess of top-weight, shouted to the crowd of young persons to keep back, and to the boatmen to push the boat away from the warff; but some time before this could be done the boatmen found that they were quite unable to control those already on board, or to prevent others from forcing there way into it. But, alas, it was too late for the safety of those on board, the ropes fastening the boat to the bank were unloosed, and, being pushed a few feet off, the boat instantly capsized, and all the passengers who were on the top deck were thrown into the water, and the cabin was filled with water through the windows, those who were in there were thus also put in great danger, and some were drowned.

The list presented below shows those who died, occupation, address and age. The 2nd table shows those who survived with notes about those who escaped by swimming, and those who were seriously ill follwing the accident. (note s. is son of & d. is daughter of)

1Thomas CrawfordweaverCorse st.47
2Jean  Craig,  wife of Robert Andrew,do.46
3Helen Andrew,  d. of Robert  tambourerdo.15
4Janet  Andrew, d. of Robertdo.4
5Ann Andrew, d. of Robertdo.1
6Jean  Hill, d. of John,do.17
7Janet  Hill, d. of John4
8John Warnock, s. of Andrew,  drawerdo.11
9Agnes Warnock, d. of Andrewdo.16 months
10John Baird, step-sisters. of Wm. Nish drawerCotton St.11
11William  ParkerweaverGauze st.22
12James  BaillieweaverWilliamsburgh24
13Catherine Wright, d. of Duncan, Pollockshaws14
14John Finlaysonweaver and florist seedsmanSeedhills63
15William Smith, s. of Robert, weaverNew st.12
16James Devatt, s. of Widow, drawer New st.10
17James Craig Barr,  s. of Allan, weaverShuttle st.13
18Jas.  Pinkerton,   s. of James,drawerCanal st. 13
19Matthew Morris, s. of Alexander,   weaver  do.13
20Duncan Keith, or McGee,  s. of Duncan, weaverdo.12
21Jean Ronald, d. of John, manufacturerdo.11
22Agnes Ronald, d. of
23Andrew Brown,  s. of Thomas, weaverStorie st.13
24John Fisher,  s. of Hugh, weaverdo.12¾
25John Shedden,  s. of Robert, weaverdo.13½
26Jean Colquhoun, d. of James, clipper do.14
27Betty Ewing, d. of Robert, do.5
28Janet Thomson, step-d. of Robert Ewing,clipper do.14
29Isabella Boag, d. of George,clipper do.12
30Jean Boag, d. of George, clipper do.10
31Jean Whitehill, d. of James, clipper High st.16
32John Anderson, s. of James,drawerdo.
33Alexander Calder,  s. of Davd, drawerdo.12
34James Campbell, s. of Widow, drawerdo.9
35Alexander Brown,  s. of Widow, weaverWellmeadow14
36Mary McKegg,  d. of John, darnerLady Lane21
37James Lochhead, s. of Widow, do.13
38Jean Robertson,  d. of Robert, clipperWellmeadow 14
39Barbara Mitchell,  d. of William, tambourerWestbrae15
40Archibald Combe, an orphan, Lonewells10
41William Smith, s. of Thomas, drawer do. 11
42Michael Houston, Backrow, weaver Sandholes 60
43Margaret Turnbull, d. of James, Broomland st. 14
44George Turnbull, s. of James, do. 10
45Robert Stevenson, s. of Robert,cooper do.15
46Margaret Elliot, d. of William, clipper King st. 14
47Margaret Russell, d. of Malcolm, Broomlands 13
48Eliz. Neil,  d. of John, tambourerdo. 14
49Joseph Wilson, s. of Joseph, weaver Millerston 12
50William Hamilton,  s. of William, weaverdo. 13½
51Peter Burgess, weaver Maxwellton24
52Janet Beith, wife of J. Hopkins, weaver Maxwellton 22
53Margaret McGregor,  d. of Walter,clipperdo. 10
54William Beith, weaver do. 50
55John Beith, s. of William, drawer do. 11
56Agnes Beith,  d. of William, drawerdo. 9
57Peter Livingstone, orphan, weaver do. 15
58John Tunks, weaver Newton st.20
59Thomas Tudhope, s. of William, weaver do. 16
60James Gibb,  s. of Widow, weaverWest st.16
61David Kirkwood,  s. of Wm., weaverMaxwellton st.18
62Ann Niven,  step d. of D. McIntyre, clipperQueen st.17
63Mrs. Peacock, wife of Allan, Castle st. 50
64Allan Peacock, s. of Allan, drawer do. 11
65William Peacock, s. of Allan, do. 6
66Robert Watson, s. of Robert, do. 13
67John Rowand, weaver Ralston square29
68Agnes Rowand, d. of John 6 months.
69Elizabeth Downie,  d. of William, clipperGeorge st.15
70John Douglas, s. of Hugh, drawer Carriagehill10
71David Gilmour,  s. of William,weaverdo. 20
72James Kennedy,  s. of George, weaverLylesland16
73Robert Sproul,  s. of John, weaverLylesland16
74James King, s. of James, do.13
75William Dunn, s. of Alexander, drawer do.10
76Maxwell Cunningham, d. of Robert, Causeyside14
77Thomas Watson, s. of Thomas, soldier in the Argyleshire Militia.drawer Causeyside9
78John Allison,  s. of John, weaverGordon’s lone14
79Janet Morrison, d. of widow,clipper Prussia st.30
80John McDonald, s. of widow, weaver do.23
81John Blair, s. of John, manufacturer, Orchard st.5
82Walter Carswell, s. of Robert, merchant, Moss st 12
83Alexander Biggar,  s. of John, stocking makerdo.13
84John McLachlan, s. of Peter, weaver do 14
85Margaret Craig, d. of James. Uplay Muir, Neilston22

Additional list of people who were on the deck of the COUNTESS OF EGLINTON when she capsized, on the 10th November, 1810, and were saved.

NameOccupationAddressRelated to Person No.
86ɤ Mrs Crawford, wife of Thomas,1
87Robert Andrew, husband of Jean Craig,2
88Jean Andrew, daughter of Robert,87
89John Hill, wife (90), and d. Margaret (91),6
92Andrew Warnock, wife (93), and d. Elizabeth (94),8
95Robert Finlayson, s. of William, Lawn st.
96Ϯ Robert Lang, weaver Cotton st.
97Ϯ Mrs. Robert Lang and Ϯ child (98),96
99Robert Boyd, weaver Cotton st.
100James Robertson, weaver Thread st.
101֍ John Sclater, starcherAbbey st.
102Allan Clark, do.
103Ϯ John While, weaver Croft st.
104James Reid, s. of James, do.
105Ϯ Christian Thomson, Sneddon.
106Daniel McKellar, weaver Love st.
107James Parker, s. of James, Glen st.
108Rachel Wright, d. of Peter, Canal st.
109James and Robert Barrie (110), sons of John, do.
111Alexander McIntyre, weaver Storie st.
112Hugh Boyd, do., 
113Alexander Monro, do., 
114James Thomson, do., 
115Robert Fulton, do., 
116Robert Ross, drawerdo.
117Peter M’ Alpine, do.
118Allan McFarlane, s. of Dugald, do.
119Andrew Sheddan, s. of Andrew, High st.
120Ϯ Lydia Lang, d. of Robert,do.
121Humphry Wilson, s. of Mrs. W., do.
122William, Robert (123), and Adam (124) McGibbon, do.
125Jean Cleland, d. of John, do.
126Margaret Wilkie, do.
127Edward Graham, drawer do.
128David and John Fisher (129), s. of David,do.
130Alexander Smith, s. of William, Lady-lane.
131Ϯ James Adam, weaver do.
132Robert Adam, s. of James,129
133֍ Robert Erskine, s. of James, Lady-lane.
134John Auld, s. of Thomas, do.
135AlexanDer Kerr, s. of John, Ferguslie.
136֍ Thomas Rhodes, captain of the boat.
137֍ Archibald Storie, assistant do.
138Rt. and Wm. (139) McMillan, s. of James.,Lonewells.
140Daniel Young, weaver do.
141James Millar, s. of John, weaver Sandholes.
142Ϯ Janet Henderson, d. of Mrs H., do.
143John Wright, s. of Walter, Broomland st.
144Peter Milton, s. of Peter, do.
145Andrew Chirrey, s. of James, do.
146Alexander McMath, s. of James, do.
147John Remy, s. of John, do.
148Ϯ Peter McAlpin, s. of Alexander, John st.
149James, Ann (150), and Helen (151) Hamilton, King st.
152Janet Thomson, d. of James, do.
153Ϯ Mary Leckie, d. of John, John st.
154William Wallace, s. of William, Broomlands.
155Mary Crawford, d. of James, Ferguslie.
156Wm. Mitchel, weaver burnlip, Millerstone.
157John Smith, s. of John, do.
158John Millar, s. of John, do.
159James Beith, s. of John, Maxwellton.
160Ϯ Elizabeth Boag, do.
161Mary and Ϯ Helen (162) McFarlane, do.
163Janet Chalmers, d. of Tarbet, do.
164Agnes McGregor, wife of Peter Burgess.
165John Hopkins, husband of Janet Beith.
166James Wood, grandson of David Gordon.
167Andrew Cochran, s. of John,Maxwellton st.
168Jean Gibson, d. of John, do.
169֍ Allan Peacock, weaver Castle st.63
170Ϯ Jean Peacock, d. of Allan, do.63
171Ann Whiteford, d. of Mrs. W., do.
172Mrs. Rowand, wife of John,67
173Ϯ John Rowand, s. of John,67
174Ϯ James Morrison, s. of Wm., Ralston sq.
175֍ David Patterson, weaver do.
176֍ Alexander Laird, s. of Alex., George st.
177֍ Finlay Kerr,weaver do.
178Ϯ James Tannahill, s. of Matthew, do.
179William Grierson, weaver Carriagehill.
180John Lambie, s. of William, Causeyside.
181Isabel Brown, d. of Archibald, do.
182Ϯ Andrew McAlpin, s. of Mrs. McA., do.
183William Pullar, s. of William, do.
184֍ William Rowand, weaverCauseyside.
185John Bryson, drawer do.
186John Fyfe, s. of the late Archd. do.
187Jean Allison, d. of John, 78
188Mrs. Murdoch M’Donald, Prussia st.
189Jean and Margaret (190) Swan, d. of Robert.
191Ϯ John Murray,  TaylorMoss st.
192֍Robert Walker, , reed-makerMoss st.
193John Stevenson, Moss st.
194֍ Alexander Whitehill, weaver Sclates.
195John Clark, weaver do.
196Hugh Aitken, weaverJohnstone.
197John Rowand, do. do.
198Margaret Craig, do.
199John Robertson, drawer Canal st.
200John Rowand, weaver Johnstone.

Those marked Ϯ were extremely ill; those marked ֍ made their own way out by swimming; and those marked ɤ later died.

The information presented her was originally published in Vanduara, or Odds and Ends published by William Hector in 1880.

Please feel free to share the page, but please do not extract or copy the information in this format.

© 10 November 2020 in this format.

Dark Events at Bargarran in 1676

Dark Events at Bargarran in 1676

Today when the name Bargarran is mentioned, we always turn our mind to 1696 and the last mass witch hunt in Scotland that led to the execution of 7 people in Paisley on the 10th October 1697.  But the events that unfolded there in 1696 were preceded by a mysterious death in 1676.

Bargarran House, Erskine

In the Winter of 1676, John Shaw (Christian Shaw’s grandfather) died in mysterious circumstances, with his body being discovered the following spring, as though he had died the day before.

The account was described by Robert Law the son of the minister of Inchinnan Church, the neighbouring parish to Erskine. 

There was a gentleman, John Shaw of Bargarran, in Erskine Parish. He always used to ride across the water of Gryfe, which was between his house and Paisley.  The River Gryfe was often deep late at night. Being at Paisley one night, he came late out of the town to go home, something ordinary to him, and it being very dark, he came to the water side at the ford, (Allan’s ford). He called to his servant that was riding with him to cross the water first. The servant told him it was deep, due to high tide, and that it was also very dark.  John Shaw believed he could cross and set his horse to begin crossing the river.

The servant thinking Shaw was too adventurous stayed behind, waiting to see what would become of him.  When Shaw was halfway across, the other man heard him groan heavily, and then nothing more.  Suspecting Shaw might have been thrown from the horse the servant then went to the nearest house and stayed all night.

Meanwhile, ‘Bargarran’, Shaws horse returned home, alone with bridle and saddle still intact but without his master around 11 or 12pm. Shaws Lady and children were amazed at this and concluded that he had perished crossing the water.

Early the next morning his family and neighbours began to look for him, and not only seek him between the house and the river, but  also by boat searching all the river to the Clyde and along the Clyde along the Bargarran Estates River Bank.  He was not found, and they gave up searching for him.

Four months later, in the spring, his body was found near two miles of the water, and a mile from Bargarran House, in a ditch at the end of a moor. (Those gentlemen who had searched the area in the winter declared that in their searching during the winter they had searched that area “and found nothing like him in it).

What was remarkable, was that his right hand had been cut off; his private members were cut off; his cloths and boots not wet, nor in anyway spoiled.  Papers in his pocket were bone dry, his gold that wore was found on him. (Among which papers there was a discharge of an account he had just received from a Paisley merchant, who, ‘believing that his payment had been lost with John Shaw in the river, had again paid his son for the same count already payed).  Shaw’s hat Iay beside him, and his leather-cap was in place on his head with the string of his hat around his collar, which was normal for him when he was riding in dark nights or on windy nights. Shaw’s body found, fresh, as if he were newly deceased. When his boots were taken off, one of his heels bled.

All men were sensible that he was brought to that untimely death by the hidden works of darkness (witchcraft) but how to investigate this, his relations knew not.

Where did the event take place? 

In the early part of the story it is said that Shaw crossed the River Gryffe at Allans Ford.  Alans Farmstead is shown on Roy’s Military Survey Map on what we now know as the Black Cart Water, below the confluence of the River Gryffe with the Black Cart.  It is assumed the Ford named after the farm, would be in close proximity to the property.   See   If you look at the Ordnance Survey 6 inch map of 1843 – 1882 there is a track running from Easter Yonderton Farm toward the Black Cart Water and terminates on the river bank beside a small island.  On the opposite bank there appears to be the remains of a track running along the land boundary between Allans Farm and Townhead of Inchinnan.  It is very possible this is the route Shaw had taken, and the site of Allans Ford. See

Today the site of Allans Farm is off Inchinnan Drive, with the Rolls Royce factory sitting on the norther end of the farmstead.  The present open farmland between Inchinnan Drive and the Black Cart Water would be part of the original farm.  See,-4.4325068,1082m/data=!3m1!1e3. If you zoom in on the island at the centre of this satellite image, you can see possible remains of two fords on either side of the island.

The site of the location of Shaw’s remains, remains a mystery.  Described as “near two miles of the water, and a mile from Bargarran House, in a ditch at the end of a moor” would imply to me that his remains were found along the banks of the River Clyde, having been washed down river as the tide went out.   Allans Ford/ Farm is 2.5 miles from Bargarran House, and if you go upriver from the ford, you are further away from the house.  To be around a mile from the house means the only possible water he could have been found in is the Clyde, somewhere around Newshot Island or in front of Erskine House. 

I will leave it to you to decide what really happened.

The information presented in this blog is (c) Stephen Clancy, The Urban Historian – 20 October 2020

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Improvements around Abbey Close, Paisley

Improvements around Abbey Close, 1860 – 1933 is a short book talking about the removal of post reformation housing around Paisley Abbey and is accompanied by many before and after pictures. This volume (aIT-RH3) is currently out of print, and has been made available for consultation for a few weeks.

If you download please make a donation through Buy Me a Coffee on the right hand side of the page. This book normaly sells for £6 in print.

The “Tomb” of Marjory Bruce

The “Tomb” of Marjory Bruce

Today withing the Choir of Paisley Abbey sits the “Tomb” of Marjory Bruce, daughter of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland and wife of Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland.

While researching a Walter Stewart for a chapter in ‘Conquered by No One’ on the Declaration of Arbroath, my attention was once again drawn to Marjory.

Marjory was Robert Bruce’s only daughter of Robert Bruce and Isabella of Mar. She was born around 1296. In 1306, Robert sent his wife, daughter and other female members of his family to the North of Scotland for safety. Unfortunatly they were captured and sent South to Edward of England, who was then at Lanercost Priory in Cumberland.    Elizabeth de Burgh , Bruce’s second wife, was placed under house arrest in a manor house in Yorkshire along and Marjory was sent to the Gilbertine Nunnery at Watton.

Following the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Walter Stewart was sent to England to negotiate for the released of Elizabeth de Burgh, Marjory, and others including the Bishop of Glasgow. Walter was successful, and he escorted the group back to Scotland.

Within a year Marjory had married Walter, gaining her hand no doubt due to his actions at the Battle of Bannockburn and in the successful release of the prisoners from England.

Spending a lot of time with Walter in the Castle of Renfrew, Marjory fell pregnant. At this point in time in Medieval Europe it would be common for a lady of her status to be confined to here rooms within the Castle, or within quarters at the local Monastery for her own safety during pregnancy. So the story I’m about to tell must be taken as local folklore –

It is said that while out hunting or riding near the ‘Knock’ what was a low hill between Paisley and Renfrew, (now the site of Gallowhill Housing Estate) Marjory fell from her horse, possibly breaking bones in her neck. It is said that Monks from Paisley Abbey tended her, and seeing that her life was in danger, performed a cesarean birth, bringing her son Robert Stewart, later to be King Robert II of Scotland, into the world. Within a few hours, Marjory had died of her injuries. Her body was buried within the Monastery of Paisley along with the remains of all of the other High Stewards of Scotland and their families.

Burials of the Fitz Alans

All of the High Stewards of Scotland from the founder of Abbey were buried withing the Monastery of Paisley. Today we have two memorials within the Choir of the Abbey, one for Marjory Bruce and one for King Robert III, her grandson. But it is most likely that they were not buried within the Priory/ Abbey building at all.

The earliest burial recorded for the family is c.1177, 15 years after the foundation charter was signed at Fotheringhay Castle. By 1177 the initial monastic buildings (built of timber) would have been constructed. these would most likely have included a chapel, hospital, dormitory and kitchens – enough to keep the community of 13 monks sheltered while construction of the main Priory buildings proceeded.

A charter of 1177 by Eschina, Walter Fitz Alan, 1st High Steward of Scotland’s wife says :

… Margaret, the daughter to my soul, and such as they Paisley in the chapter lies, and was buried…

Register of the Monastery of Paisley, p74 forgive my crude translation. See end for the full charter in Latin

It would appear that Walter & Eschina’s daughter, Margaret had died at a young age and was buried within the Monastery of Paisley. The charter refers to the Chapter of Paisley. This could refer to the Chapter House, roughly where the shop is today within the Abbey. It is more likely though the early Chapter House would have been elsewhere, maybe not even constructed by then. It is fairly possible that Margaret’s burial may have taken place in the Lady Chapel which would have been close to the Hospital. I’ve included a map produced by the late Philip Edward McWilliams in 1988 as part of his PhD, and highlighted the position of the Hospital and Lady Chapel below. Today the location of the Lady Chapel would be under Cotton St., close to the entrance of the Council Offices car park.

Hospital is G – Lady chapel is N (Purple)

The monument in the choir to Marjory, as pictured below, has had a chequered history. Rev Cameron Lees in his definative history of the Abbey in 1878 states:

There has been considerable controversy as to the credibility of the
tradition which assigns this tomb to Marjory Bruce

Lees, Abbey of Paisley, p221

a lot has been written about the ‘tomb’ in the Society of Antiqaries ‘Archaeologia Scotica’ published in 1822 (see link below)

The tomb was said to reside in the St Mirin Chapel but sometime after the reformation it was dismantled and placed within the cloister garden. The Rev Boag, then found the architectural fragments and proceeded to ‘restore’ Marjory’s tomb. It is most likely that he found fragments of architectural stonework deemed to be important that had been discovered post collapse of the tower of the Abbey, creating the tomb we know today.

In 1956 the ‘tomb’ was moved from the St Mirin chapel to the Choir of the Abbey. Images taken at the time show the scale of the stones used to create the tomb. The effigy which sits on top of the tomb, is later than the 14th Century, and probably is of another person of note in Paisley.

The surrounding stones are very reminiscent of the timber rood screen of Glasgow Cathedral the screen is shown below. In Marjory’s tomb at Paisley are we actually seeing the remains of a stone rood screen that would have divided the Nave from the Choir? I believe this may well be the case. The images below that of Glasgow Cathedral are of the tomb being De-Constructed in 1956 – the stones are more than decorative from their size – They are more structural, and would have made an impressive rood screen within Paisley Abbey.

Glasgow Cathedral. Choir, looking West (Interior) (3611637698)
De-construction of the Tomb in 1956
De-construction of the Tomb in 1956
De-construction of the Tomb in 1956
De-construction of the Tomb in 1956

1177 Charter

Register of the Monastery of Paisley, p74-75

John Stevenson & Sons

John Stevenson & Sons

Have you ever walked down Weighhouse Close in Paisley and wondered what the old single story building and yard between the Private Car park and the Mrs Coats Home for Girls used to be?

Weighhouse Close, Paisley

After doing some investigation, i have realised that this and the associated buildings probably make up one of the last complete mid 19th Century industrial works in Paisley that are still in existence today.

The property is fronted on New Street by number 12 – now the ‘Gantry’ Restaurant and the former Pend which used to run through to the yard is now a body builders shop. This building was most likely the offices and outlet for for the works.

No 12 (40) New Street, Paisley
No 12 (40) New Street, Paisley

In the 1862 Trade Directory the occupier of the site is John Stevenson & Sons – Soap & Candle Makers. The owners lived at No. 37 on the corner of New Street/ Weighhouse close and is long gone..

To view the 1850’s OS Town Plan of the site – click the link The Candle works is marked on the map and you can clearly see the Pend shown as dotted lines running through the building at No 12 New Street.

Entry to the Yard from Weighhouse Close
Entry to the Yard from Weighhouse Close
Theme: Elation by Kaira.
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