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Multicolored Paisley

Multicolored Paisley

Long before Paisley was known for weaving, it was a powerful religious center, and a tour around town reveals the beautiful legacies of both.

BY CANDACE LESLIE

Like so many travelers who fly into Glasgow Airport, we had usually spent some time in that wonderful city or immediately set out for the Highlands or for Edinburgh and beyond. Only once had my husband and I made the short drive westward to Paisley. On Sunday, March 31, 2002, we went to the magnificent Abbey to celebrate Easter and hear the famous choir and organ. It turned out to be an especially memorable occasion. Great Britain's beloved Queen Mother Elizabeth had died the previous afternoon at age 101. Tributes were spoken, and when the emotional singing of "God Save the Queen" resounded through the soaring, ancient building, few could hold back tears. What a tremendous introduction to a place about which we knew very little and where we would one day return.

If "paisley" brings to mind a piece of fabric or a shawl, that is as it should be, for here rumbling mills produced the cloth with the famous motif loved by Queen Victoria and commoners alike. Today the mills are gone and paisley shawls passé, but the teardrop pattern with the turned-over top is still popular, decorating t-shirts and wallpaper, coffee mugs and silk blouses.

A dictionary defines paisley as "a design having an intricate, multicolored pattern." As we discovered during our extended visit to the town, the definition could well apply to Paisley itself.

The full text of this article is available in the Summer 2009 issue of Scottish Life Magazine.

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Abbey photo: © D. Cowrie/Scottish Viewpoint; Tile: VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint