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The Paisley Shawl and the People who made it
Chapter XI - Some well know Paisley Men


THE shawl warehouses were for the most part situated in Causeyside Street, called always the Causeyside, and reminiscent, no doubt, of the time when it would be the only street that was paved. The aspect of this Street in the palmy days of the shawl trade, in the forenoon of a busy day, was very interesting. The salesmen, always well dressed, might be seen in black surtout coats and shining satin hats, with a flower in the button-hole, lounging at the front doors on the look-out for buyers, expected by the trains from Glasgow. When they did find a customer, they smilingly took him in to inspect their stock, and the transaction among a certain class, often ended by a walk up to "Peter's," for a social glass.

In the intervals of trade, these important individuals had to content themselves with polishing the sides of the front door. Cigars were forbidden, and the era of the cigarette had not yet come. At such times it was rather an ordeal for a Paisley young lady to pass down the Causeyside through a double row of these observing and admiring gentlemen, although it has been recorded that some of them rather relished it. The street was lively with the dyers' little covered vans, taking away or delivering the yarn. Weavers with round Kilmarnock bonnets might be seen conveying away their webs, in clean white linen bags, and numbers of girls, with shawl over the head, bringing the shawls that they had been fringing or embroidering. The harness shawl manufacturers gave employment to a great many subsidiary occupations, and these men were constantly moving about the street, designers, dyers, croppers, calenderers, finishers, and many others.

We re-produce in .Plate 14 portraits of three of the more prominent shawl manufacturers, out of many that might be named, did space permit. Robert Kerr, John Morgan, and David Speirs, in their various lines, did much to extend the reputation of the shawl trade, and many of their productions, still carefully preserved, are among the finest specimens of this class of work. We have further been enabled by the kindness of Joseph Fulton, Esq., of Glenfield, to re-produce a photograph of a group of well-known Paisley men, the greater number of whom were connected more or less directly with the weaving trade. (Plate 1.)

Plate 14 - Eminent Paisley Shawl Manufacturers

It is characteristic of the homely manners of the time, that these men should have walked out (for cabs were scarce then in Paisley), to the classic Braes of Gleniffer, two miles south of the town, on the Queen's Birth Day, Thursday, 29th May, 1856, to enjoy the hospitality of the genial Laird of the Glen, the late William Fulton, Esq. Holidays were few in those days, and this was no doubt a great occasion. Photography was in its infancy, but Mr. Archibald Barr, son of one of the party, had some distinction as an amateur photographer, and to this fact we owe this interesting picture.

Mr. Fulton always took a great delight in the society of the old weavers, especially such as were "characters," or who attempted poetry, or at least rhyme, and there was generally a goodly number of both sorts. He would frequently send in his bleachfield carts, and bring out a happy company to spend a pleasant summer day at the Glen, and be regaled with curds and cream. The present group, however, were the "maisters," or "corks," as they were familiarly called. They were all men in active business life; some were men of strong individuality, and the poetical element was not wanting.

The chimney-pot hat was the regular headpiece then for holidays, and was of gigantic dimensions, and generally ornamented with a mourning band, so as to come in handy for funerals, which ornament being kept on for economical reasons, was considered no way out of place on festive occasions. The hat served for a generation, and during that time, as the shape in vogue changed, was certain to be in the height of fashion two or three times. It was the favourite receptacle for loose papers, samples of cloth or yarn, and for those who snuffed, a race long extinct, it carried the inevitable spotted Bandanna handkerchief. It will be observed that all these men are clean shaven. This was the universal custom at the time. Any person wearing a moustache was looked upon as of doubtful character, or as one of those foreigners who came over in such numbers as a consequence of the Revolutions of 1848. But after the return of the troops from the Crimean War, the wearing of the moustache and beard became general. The clergy were brought round by the example set by a popular minister of the Abbey.

The names counting from left to right are :-

1. James Balderston, Thread Manufacturer.
2, John Muir, Warper.
3. John Snodgrass, House Painter.
4. William MacKean, Starch Manufacturer, afterwards Provost.
5. William Fulton, of The Glen.
6. John Hair, Shawl Manufacturer.
7. William Philips, Yarn Merchant, Ex-Provost.
8. James Lang, Leather Merchant, afterwards Bailie.
9. John Neilson, Printer.
10. Bailie William Russell, Dyer, afterwards Town Treasurer.
11. John Smith, Shawl Manufacturer.
12. James Sharp, Manufacturer.
13. John Robertson, of J. & J. Robertson, Shawl Manufacturers.
14. William Anderson, Bookseller.
15. John Macgregor (Poet), Embroiderer, Kilbarchan.
16. William Robb, Manufacturer.
17. James Robertson, of J. & J. Robertson, Shawl Manufacturers.
18. John Barr, Manufacturer.
i 9. Matthew Tannahill, brother of the Poet. (Seated).
20. George H. Brown, Yarn Merchant.  (Reclining).
21. Robert Fulton, Finisher. (Reclining).
22. Robert Clark, Thread Manufacturer.  (Reclining).

The last-named gentleman is the sole survivor (1903), of this interesting group.


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