Do not try that at home.
At work, last Saturday we stood outside to take some pictures of Sma shot day. As usual, it was raining. As usual, our clinics all ran late due to the parade and closed roads. Here are the pics pictures. The words are from my receptionist, Kirsty Lusk who will have her own blog on this site on day. She is a PhD student, published in her own right and becoming a wee regular on the book circuit herself.
Here she tells us the history of the Sma Shot.
Sma’shot Day (pronounced smaw-shot in your best Scottish accent) is celebrated on the first Saturday of July in the historic weaving centre of Paisley. It was first held in 1856, to celebrate the positive culmination of a 19th century dispute between weavers and manufacturers.
Weaving was the primary trade in Paisley at the time, beginning in small cottages before moving to large mills with the industrial revolution. With changes to the textile industry, the town’s best known product became the ‘Paisley shawls’ which bore the ‘Paisley pattern’. Though the shawls were Kashmir in origin and the pattern Persian, the shawls and pattern remain associated with the town to this day. From 1800-1850, the patterns were designed with five colours of thread, and by 1860, fifteen were used, more than anywhere else in Britain. Yet while Paisley became the foremost producers of the shawls, tensions between workers and manufacturers came to the fore.
The sma’shot was a cotton thread used to hold together the other, brighter threads in the pattern design. Without the sma’shot, the design would fall apart but because it was invisible in the finished design, manufacturers refused to pay for it and the weavers were forced to buy the thread themselves. The Charleston drum was pounded to rally the weavers to protest marches and after many years of dispute, the weavers had their victory.
Now, on the first Saturday of July, the Charleston drum puts out the call again to begin the traditional weaver’s march, though the textile industry has long since left Paisley.
traditional meeting place for weavers and beginning point for the sma’shot parade today.
The parade begins at the Dooslan Stone, now placed in Brodie Park. It was a traditional meeting point for weavers and is still used as a gathering point for the march. It then proceeds down to the centre of Paisley, and the site of several of the original cottages. The procession is led by the ‘cork’, an effigy of the mill owners, which is burned at the end of the parade.
Sma’shot day is now a celebration of culture as well as worker’s rights. Amongst signs for trade unions and local workers’ parties, there is music and pipes and drums, children dancing – be it hip-hop or traditional music – there is a man balancing on a giant rolling bobbin and this year’s parade drew to an end with the interweaving sound of pipes and Jamaican steel drums, playing in time.
It’s a celebration but it is also a reminder, not just of the mix of cultures that formed Paisley through history or of its achievements, but also of the continued importance of the message that Sma’shot day is symbolic of – an injustice righted by the coming together of people to work alongside each other.
In Paisley town centre there are further events over the weekend. The Sma’shot cottages are now a weaving museum open to the public. There is street-theatre and food stalls, music and poetry. At the Paisley Arts theatre, two plays are being performed ‘The Silver Threads’, a comedy about the dispute, and ‘From Calton to Catalonia’ about Glaswegians fighting for the international brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Sma’shot day is one of the oldest workers’ holidays in the world, and it remembers it international links as well as its close local history.
The influence of the weaving industry on Paisley is still felt today. It can be seen in the street names – Gauze Street, Cotton Street, Shuttle Street – in the Renfrewshire Council’s paisley patterned symbol, in the Anchor Mill – now flats – and the various charitable works and architecture that were created by the mill owners. Though the latter spent money on these charitable works – particularly education – they paid their staff, primarily female and non-union members, poorly which led to further battles at the beginning of the 20th century between workers and owners.
a photo from one year when the sun shone!
Paisley weavers were radical in their politics and religion but many were also given to composing poetry or song. Paisley’s Sma’shot day also brings to mind the famous weaver poets such as Robert Tannahill or Alexander Wilson. Wilson’s poetry more overtly harked back to his weaving roots, with one collection entitled ‘Groans from the Loom’.
Caro and Kirsty. 08 07 2016