Paisley’s Past, Part II: Building the team, organizational support and funding

As I mentioned in my first post for Voices of the Past, the Paisley’s Past Project is a community archaeology project that I am in the process of organising. The focus will be on the town centre of Paisley, Scotland’s largest town. It is planned that this project will highlight the importance of the town to Scotland’s long and illustrious history. Paisley’s historical importance has been something that has been ignored and downplayed for far too long.

Claire Casey & Dr Anders Ingram investigating a damaged gravestone in the graveyard of Paisley’s High Kirk (Church)

Since the start of 2011, I have welcomed two colleagues to the project. Firstly, there is Ellie McCulloch, who is a fellow archaeologist, and like myself, Ellie studied archaeology at the University of Glasgow. Secondly, there is Dr. Anders Ingram, a history graduate from the University of Edinburgh who has come on board as the projects historian. Anders will be working to uncover as much of Paisley’s history as is humanly possible. This will add to our understanding of the town’s development, as well as shedding light on the archaeology that will be uncovered during this project. So far, both Ellie and Anders have proven to be invaluable assets to the Paisley’s Past Project.

A successful reconnaissance mission was carried out in the January of 2011. This involved the three members of the Paisley’s Past team exploring much of Paisley’s town centre and discussing the project in depth. This allowed for both Ellie and Anders to get up to speed with the project, as well as for the both of them to bring fresh ideas to be brought to the table, all of which can only lead to an even better project.

Gaining Community Support

To date, the project has been offered support by a number of local organisations that have played major roles in Paisley in recent years. These organisations include Reid Kerr College, the Renfrewshire Local History Forum and the University of the West of Scotland. The support that has been offered so far will include getting students from both the college and the university involved in the project. Archaeology Scotland, which is one of the leading archaeology charities in the country, has also offered their support to the project.

Ellie McCulloch & Dr Anders Ingram outside the Sma’ Shot Cottages, which are a couple of weavers cottages that are now used as a restaurant

Volunteers from throughout the town will be encouraged to take part in the project, as this will be Paisley’s project. A number of queries have already come into the project’s Facebook page about volunteering on the project, or taking part in some shape of form. Everyone who has already contacted us about volunteering are being kept up-to-date on a regular basis about the project. The support that has already been pledge and the amount of interest that has been shown so far in relation to the project is highly encouraging and shows that there is already interest in the history and archaeology of the Paisley area.

Publicity and Funding

So far, the project has been featured in local newspapers, including the Paisley’s People. An article on the project has also been featured in History Scotland, which is the magazine for Historic Scotland, which is one of the leading conservation bodies in the country. There are also plans that an article that on the project will also be featured in the Evening Times, which is one of Glasgow’s most popular papers. It is hoped that these will be the first steps in getting the project national coverage.

At the moment, the Paisley’s Past team are working hard towards getting funding. This funding will go towards supporting the field and post-excavation work that will be carried out during this project. Even though a date still has to be set for when the fieldwork will be starting, one thing that we can be certain of, is that there is still plenty of work to be done before even the first piece of turf is lifted.

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  1. One of Paisley most significant contrbutions to humanity is the development of safe drinking water free of bacteria eliminating cholera outbreaks, generally raising life expectancy from 45 to 60 years of age. This was first done by John Gibbs 1804 who filtered of water through carbon filters, called Auchenlodman filters, to supply the Clark Mill with clean water to bleach cotton so it appeared like silk. Silk supply had been cut off from China during the Napoleanic wars. The tanks are clearly marked on early maps of Paisley and it would be fitting to unearth them and build some from of memorial as billions of people owe their lives to this great discovery and that 200 years later far too many of the worlds children still dont have a clean water supply.

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