Thread Mills, Leisure, Music and the Mills

Music and the Mills

The first official leisure pastime that emerged from the Paisley thread mills was a musical one. This was the Ferguslie Brass and Reed Band, which was set up in 1856 by Coats. This was taken extremely seriously by all concerned, given that it performed at civic functions as well as for the entertainment of the mill workers. It was designed to accommodate thirty musicians, and practiced twice a week. In 1941 it temporarily disbanded due to the war, restarting again in 1949. It was an important part of mill identity, especially given that it accompanied workers on their annual outings, and performed at concerts that were put on by the Coats business. One respondent, David Goldie, remembered when, "years and years ago, the Ferguslie mills had an annual concert, up the Braes", and this would be popular in the local community. The Ferguslie site took their musical pastimes very seriously, and as well as the band, there was also a male choir, which had started in Ferguslie in 1880 and continued to perform well after the Second World War at local recitals and competitions. By the early 1970s, things were beginning to change in the thread industry, especially at the Ferguslie site, as orders began to diminish. This may help to explain why, by 1972, the musical side of leisure pastimes had been ended, with all instruments and music gifted to local charities.

 

The musical activities were important not only in terms of providing workers with a chance to meet up weekly, but they also had a practical function. They helped to garnish official occasions, especially whenever dignitaries visited the mills. They were also an important element of the annual mill trips that many workers saved up for and looked forward to. The mill trips used to take place on the first Saturday of July, and dated back to a successful strike in the nineteenth-century in Paisley. Trips would range from the west coast of Scotland, to countries in Europe. Sometimes they were organised by Coats, but sometimes, all of the work was done by the mill workers themselves. Remembering day trips to Troon, Alison Mareth said, "sometimes Coats organised them, sometimes they didn’t, but, when they didn’t, somebody else would maybe step in." This shows just how important these annual events were to the people who worked in the thread mills, and how people would take ownership of their leisure activities.

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Working with heritage professionals from the Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde, the Paisley People’s Archive is creating an accessible and user-friendly oral history archive of Paisley's rich industrial past.
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