Paisley, the "Pearl of Scotland", is a town and former burgh located in the west central lowlands of Scotland approximately eight miles west-south-west of Glasgow. It is the administrative centre of the Renfrewshire council area. Straddling the White Cart Water, the settlement occupies the low land to the north of the Gleniffer Braes.
In 1163 an abbey was founded at Paisley around which a settlement soon grew. The town became famous during the 18th and 19th centuries for the production of cloth, especially cotton with the distinctive Paisley Pattern.
Paisley has monastic origins, due to a site near a waterfall, where a chapel is said to have been established by the 7th century Irish monk, Saint Mirin. It may have been a major religious centre of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, along with Glasgow and Govan. Though Paisley lacks contemporary documentation. A Cluniac priory was established in 1163 by Walter Fitz Alan (d. 1177), High Steward of Scotland. In 1245 this was raised to the status of an Abbey. The restored Abbey and adjacent 'Place' (palace), constructed out of part of the medieval claustral buildings, survive as a Church of Scotland parish church. One of Scotland's major religious houses, Paisley Abbey was much favoured by the Bruce and Stewart royal families. It is generally accepted that William Wallace the great hero of Scottish independence who inspired the film Braveheart was educated here and King Robert III (1390-1406) was buried in the Abbey. His tomb has not survived, but that of Princess Marjorie Bruce (1296-1316), ancestress of the Stewarts is one of Scotland's few royal monuments to survive the Reformation.
Paisley coalesced under James II's wish that the lands should become a single regality and, as a result, markets, trading and commerce began to flourish. In 1488 the town's status was raised by James IV to Burgh of barony.
Many trades sprang up, the first school was established in 1577 by the Town Council. By the mid-nineteenth century weaving had become the town's main industry. Paisley is still very well known for the Paisley Shawl and its distinctive Paisley Pattern which originated around this time.
Through its weaving fraternity, Paisley gained notoriety as being a literate and somewhat radical town, although it could be argued in a fiercely positive direction. By this time there was a real mixture of religious opinions and healthy drink-fuelled debate raged at night amongst the weavers, poets, merchants, masons and others. The poet Robert Tannahill lived in this setting, working as a weaver. The weavers of Paisley were also active in the Radical War of 1820.
Famous Residents - Past and Present
- Kenneth McKellar - tenor
- Tom Conti - actor
- John Byrne - painter and playwright
- Paul McGillion - actor (Stargate: Atlantis)
- Gerard Butler - actor
- David Tennant - actor (Doctor Who, Casanova)
- Alexander Wilson - ornithologist and poet
- Reverend John Witherspoon - signatory of the American Declaration of Independence
- Gerry Rafferty - singer, musician and songwriter
- David Hay - footballer