21 fascinating things you didn’t know about Paisley

Fantastic news - Paisley has made the shortlist for the UK City of Culture 2021.

The bid aims to use the area’s outstanding cultural and heritage story to transform its future.

It’s important that we celebrate who we are and all that we have achieved, with the goal of creating a lasting legacy for the area.

Here, we have come up with 21 fascinating facts about the town which you may or may not have already known.

  1. The town centre has the highest concentration of listed buildings of anywhere in Scotland outside of Edinburgh - including the historic Anchor Mill.

  2. Did you know Paisley Abbey is more than 850 years old and contains the tomb of Marjory Bruce – daughter of Robert the Bruce? She died there while giving birth to the future Robert II of Scotland.

  3. There is also an alien gargoyle among the intricate statues on the outside of the Abbey? The design is believed to have been carved by a sci-fi –loving rogue stonemason in the early 1990s.

  4. In 1834 over one million pounds worth of shawls were produced locally, this is estimated to be around one billion pounds in today’s money.

  5. For a time The Bungalow Bar on Renfrew Road was the main punk venue in the Glasgow area – as punk bands were once banned in Glasgow. Top acts to play the venue included: The Rezillos, The Skids, The Clash, The Jam, Orange Juice, Echo and the Bunnymen and Souxsie and the Banshees.

  6. Paisley Gilmour Street is the fourth-busiest station in Scotland with more than five million passengers per year - more than Haymarket, Aberdeen or Dundee.

  7. Speaking of transport, Paisley is currently the only place in the UK to host the start leg of the world-famous Monte Carlo Rally.

  8. Did you know there were once Kangaroos in Brodie Park? In 1885, the Marquis of Bute presented two kangaroos to the town. Sadly they died within a month of arrival – Paisley winters were harsh then!

  9. Another gift! Paisley’s Grand Fountain, the centrepiece of Fountain Gardens, was gifted to the people of Paisley by mill owner, Thomas Coats. Standing at 10m tall, the unique design includes herons, walruses, cherubs and dolphins and is considered by Historic Scotland (HS) to be the best example of a Scottish made cast iron fountain in the country.

  10. Paisley Museum’s collections are described as ‘internationally-significant’ by experts. They include the world’s largest collection of Paisley Pattern shawls, artwork from the world-renowned Glasgow Boys, one of Scotland’s best collections of studio ceramics, and a unique offering of mediaeval manuscripts dating back to before the Reformation.

  11. One of the star items at Paisley Museum is a copy of one of the world’s most spectacular books – The Birds of America by John James Audubon, who illustrated every species of bird in the USA in the 19th century. Copies of the book have sold at auction in the US for between $4-5million.

  12. Speaking of old, the Coats Observatory is the oldest public observatory in Scotland. Any keen stargazers can go along to any of their twice-weekly winter viewing nights.

  13. Need help with a difficult problem? The wisdom of (King) Solomon is legendary (check your bible) and Paisley has a statue of King Solomon above the entry to 20 High Street – It always pays to look up.

  14. Did you know Paisley is home to the biggest beer festival in Scotland? The Paisley Beer Festival has been run every year by Renfrewshire CAMRA since 1987 – meaning it celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017.

  15. As well as the 30th anniversary of the Paisley Beer Festival, this year also marks the 30th anniversary of St Mirren’s Scottish Cup win. A mural to celebrate the 1987 cup triumph was recently unveiled in Paisley’s Brown Lane.

  16. The University of the West of Scotland offers Scotland’s only Masters course in songwriting and performance. Might the next Paolo Nutini be studying there?

  17. Paisley Burns Club was founded in 1805 and is the world's oldest formally constituted Burns Club. The club meets in its premises in Queen St Paisley - a cottage once owned by Paisley’s world-famous poet and songwriter Robert Tannahill. Tannahill was also the founder and first secretary of Paisley Burns Club.

  18. At the height of their powers in the mid 19th century, there were more than 7,000 weavers in the town. As the fashion for shawls declined so too did the weaver population. To be replaced by the town’s thriving thread mills which expanded globally to, at one point, produce 90 per cent of the world’s thread.

  19. The famous Robertson’s Jam originated in Paisley’s south side. Originally the marmalade was produced as a way to use up a glut of oranges in their grocer’s shop in Causeyside. However, the marmalade proved so popular that a factory was built in Thrushcraigs before moving to premises in Stevenson Street. The trade name “Golden Shred” was registered in 1883.

  20. Paisley was the location for the landmark ‘snail in a bottle’ legal case. A lady visited a local cafe, was served a bottle of ginger beer with a dead snail in it, fell ill and successfully sued the manufacturer, thus creating the modern concept of negligence.

  21. In 1922, St Mirren were invited to a tournament to mark the opening of Barcelona’s new stadium, Les Corts. The Buddies won it and brought home the Barcelona Cup – thought to be the first foreign trophy ever won by a Scottish side. St Mirren have been unbeaten against Barcelona ever since!