Glasgow & West Scotland

10 reasons why Paisley is already a city of culture

paisley logo Image copyright Renfrewshire Council

Paisley has launched its bid to be UK City of Culture 2021, even though it is actually a large town.

As 19th Century Tory prime minister Benjamin Disraeli once warned: "Keep your eye on Paisley."

Here are 10 reasons Paisley has made its mark on the culture of Scotland, the UK and the world.


Mhairi Black

After her remarkable victory at the general election, Mhairi Black is indisputably Paisley's most famous daughter at the moment.

The 21-year-old SNP politician became the UK's youngest MP and her first speech in the House of Commons went viral, being watched online more than 10 million times.

In that maiden speech, Mhairi Black referred to the history of her Paisley and Renfrewshire South constituency, pointing to the fact that Scottish national hero William Wallace, who fought against English rule, was born in Elderslie, just outside Paisley and was said to be educated by monks at the town's abbey.


Paolo Nutini

Multi-million selling singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini is the town's most successful current pop star.

In the decade since his first hit single, the 28-year-old has racked up three huge albums and success around the world.

His father runs a fish and chip shop on the town's New Street.

Nutini's talent was spotted when he played an impromptu set at a concert organised for David Sneddon, the Paisley-born winner of the BBC talent show Fame Academy.


Gerard Butler

Hollywood star Gerard Butler hit the big time with 300, a fictionalised retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae.

The Paisley actor has since starred in numerous big budget blockbusters such as Olympus Has Fallen and the Bounty Hunter, with Jennifer Aniston.

He is also the voice of Stoick the Vast, the great chieftain in the How to Train Your Dragon movies.


Archie Gemmill

Image copyright Getty Images

The man who scored Scotland's most-lauded goal was a Paisley buddy, starting his career at the town's football club St Mirren.

He played 43 times for Scotland and scored eight goals, including his fantastic solo effort against the Netherlands in the doomed 1978 campaign.

The following year Gemmill's team Nottingham Forest won the European Cup but he was dropped for the final.


Phyllis Logan

Phyllis Logan has played the housekeeper Mrs Hughes in all six seasons of the blockbuster period drama Downton Abbey.

She was born in Paisley and went to school in nearby Johnstone.

In the 80s she starred with Ian McShane in Lovejoy and appeared in the 1996 Mike Leigh film Secrets & Lies.


Paisley Pattern

Image copyright Renfrewshire Council

It all began with exotically patterned, delicate woollen shawls which were originally from Kashmir but European manufacturers began to produce cheaper versions to meet demand.

From roughly 1800 to 1850, the weavers of the town of Paisley became the foremost producers of these shawls.

Unique additions to their hand-looms and Jacquard looms allowed them to work in five colours when most weavers were producing paisley using only two.

The design became known as the Paisley pattern.

The shawl went out of fashion in the 1870s, but the pattern that had decorated them is still popular around the world today.


Gerry Rafferty

The late singer Gerry Rafferty is best remembered for his classic 1970s hit Baker Street but he also wrote songs about his home town Paisley.

Rafferty grew up on the town's Foxbar estate before bursting on to the folk scene with the Humblebums, whose line-up also included Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly.

With Stealer's Wheel, Rafferty wrote the huge hit Stuck in the Middle With You before later embarking on a successful solo career.

He also produced numerous hits including The Proclaimers' first single, Letter from America, in 1987.

Rafferty died in 2011 and the town now runs a festival in his honour.


John Byrne

Rafferty was a good friend and contemporary of artist and playwright John Byrne, who grew up in Paisley's Ferguslie Park area.

Byrne wrote the popular BBC TV series Tutti Frutti in 1987, which introduced the world to the talents of Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson and Richard Wilson.

And in the theatre, Byrne is best known for The Slab Boys Trilogy, which was based on his own experience of the "slab room" of a Paisley carpet manufacturer.

Byrne's list of other achievements is wide and varied, from designing a Beatles album cover to creating the sets for National Theatre productions.


David Tennant

Former Doctor Who star David Tennant moved to Paisley as a child, with his Church of Scotland minister father.

He made his professional acting debut while still at Paisley Grammar and appeared with the agitprop 7:84 Theatre Company.

Tennant also made an early television appearance in the Scottish TV sitcom Rab C Nesbitt as a transsexual barmaid called Davina.

After his success as the doctor and his appearance in Harry Potter, Tennant has continued to land big roles in shows such as Broadchurch.

The current Doctor Who showrunner and chief writer Steven Moffat, who is also responsible for TV's Sherlock, is also from Paisley.


Kenneth McKellar

Scottish tenor Kenneth McKellar was a mainstay of the BBC's Hogmanay celebration programme and the White Heather Club series in the 1960s.

In 1965, the BBC selected McKellar to represent the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg and he came ninth.

The song A Man Without Love became a hit single and he followed it up with successful albums.

Among his unlikely achievements was writing a sketch for Monty Python. It featured in the Secret Policeman's Ball and saw a blindfolded person trying to identify the star beating them up.


On a more serious note, Paisley has a rich and varied cultural heritage dating back hundreds of years.

It also has some of the finest architecture in the UK.

The Grand Fountain, the centrepiece of Fountain Gardens, was gifted to the people of Paisley by the wealthy mill owner, Thomas Coats of the world famous J&P Coats thread manufacturer.

Image copyright Lenny Warren
Image copyright Lenny Warren
Image copyright John Cooper
Image caption Paisley Abbey is a former monastery which dates back to the 12th century
Image copyright istockphoto
Image caption The category A-listed Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church has been a dominant feature of the Paisley skyline for more than 100 years

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites